National Women’s Soccer League: Crystal Dunn says it is ‘hard to find joy in playing’ after report

National Women's Soccer League: Crystal Dunn says it is 'hard to find joy in playing' after report

United States winger Crystal Dunn has told BBC Sport it is “hard to find the joy in playing” after findings of “systemic” abuse and misconduct in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Dunn described the report as a “huge moment” for the NWSL.

“One of the hardest things as players that we are facing now is feeling a sense of pride in playing,” Dunn said.

National captain Becky Sauerbrunn spoke on Wednesday about the horror the players felt at the experiences described in the report.

“The jerseys that we’re wearing, it’s hard to be happy in them, it’s hard to find joy in it,” Dunn said.

“I’d be lying if I said we were doing well. The only thing that gives me comfort is knowing that I have incredible team-mates and leaning on each other has allowed us to find some comfort in this situation.”

An investigation into the abuse was launched last year following allegations made against North Carolina Courage’s English head coach Paul Riley, who was sacked.

Dunn played for North Carolina Courage between 2018 and 2020.

Riley, who has coached women’s teams since 2006, has denied the accusations.

After the alleged offenses against Riley came to light, a round of NWSL games was suspended before players halted matches in their own displays of unity, while league commissioner Lisa Baird resigned.

Dunn, who has recently returned to football after the birth of her son in May, said she was hopeful that the “healing process” could now start to take place for the players.

“I do think change is on the horizon. I think this report coming out was kind of the nail in the coffin and it will allow for the accountability that hasn’t really happened,” she said.

Club president apologizes for hiring ‘mistake’

In addition to Riley, Tuesday’s report also looked into allegations against other coaches, including Northern Irishman Christy Holly.

Holly was sacked by Racing Louisville last year for sexual misconduct after groping a player. Holly has admitted to a relationship with the player but denies there was any sexual conduct while at the club, the report said.

On Wednesday, Racing Louisville president James O’Connor said hiring Holly was “a mistake” and, in an open letterexternal linkapologized to the player involved, as well as players past and present, for “creating a space where this behavior could occur”.

“The US Soccer-released Sally Yates report which was published earlier this week served as a harsh reminder that appointing Christy Holly as Racing Louisville FC’s first coach was a mistake. We have learned from that mistake,” he said.

“While our former coach was terminated within 24 hours of us being alerted to the behavior, we know that wasn’t enough and that we failed our locker room by creating a space where this behavior could occur.

“We have worked hard every day since then to ensure a safe environment that puts players in a position to succeed.”

‘Women around the world have these problems’

Lindsey Horan currently plays for Lyon but has also previously represented PSG in women’s European football

Dunn’s USA team-mate Lindsey Horan, who currently plays for Lyon but has also represented Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), echoed the feelings of frustration and said that the report did not mark the end of the problem facing women.

“This is not just in the NWSL, this is women’s football, this is women in general, we have these problems all over the world,” said Horan.

“It is a global problem so I don’t want this to be the end point. This investigation came forward and we’re obviously thankful for that, but the whole thing took way too long.

“I sit here and I’m like it’s not done. This is all over the world, and being a player in Europe right now, I know that.”

In September, Spain’s football federation claimed that 15 players said they would resign from the women’s national team unless head coach Jorge Vilda is sacked. was sacked – but the players later denied the claims.

In a statement, the players said they asked not to be called up because of “situations that affect our emotional and personal state, our performance, and consequently the results of the national team”.

Horan added that she hoped the NWSL report would be an “eye-opener”.

“I hope that things can be made better in a more timely manner and not let things continue like they did.

“I am part of an organization that I have always felt so proud to play for, a team that I will fight on the field for and a club that I will fight on the field for. So it’s hard to read this and still feel proud to play for an organization like that.

“We’re here in England preparing for such a cool experience against one of the best teams in the world and that’s something we’re so excited for. Dealing with this on the outside is hard, but we can cope with this.”

England defender Lucy Bronze echoed Horan’s call for change to happen.

“Women’s sport in general tends to have these issues and I think they probably have been going on for a long time, but people have never been brave enough to speak out,” Bronze said.

“So it’s not necessarily a new thing – the new thing is that we’re finally fighting back against it.

“We’ve said for a long time, a lot of things need to change in women’s sport and this is top of the list to change.”

World champions USA will face England at a sold-out Wembley on Friday.