Washington Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin announced his resignation as CEO and managing partner of the NWSL club. The news comes after the conclusion of league investigations into the Washington Spirit and the termination of the team's former head coach Richie Burke, relating to allegations of violations of the league's anti-harassment policy.
Further sanctions from the third-party investigation along with the termination of Burke included a ban on all league governance matters, effective immediately -- and a 14-day deadline to respond to the violations. Baldwin's resignation comes on Day 7 of the 14-day period.
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Baldwin announced that club president Ben Olsen, who served as a manager for Major League Soccer's D.C. United from 2010-2020, will have authority over all team operations. Olsen was just hired by the club and announced to the role last month. Here's Baldwin's resignation letter, published on the team's official Twitter account on Tuesday:
"Dear Spirit Family,
"In recent days, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the future of the Washington Spirit and the vision I laid out just three years ago. I have also listened-to team leadership and staff, investors, fans and players-to concerns about the Spirit's workplace culture and our prior coach's conduct. While there is a range of opinions on how we got here, and how to move forward, everyone -- none more so than me -- is committed to improving the club's culture, removing distractions and returning the focus to the players and the pursuit of a championship. With that goal in mind, and at the recent request of our players, I have decided to resign as CEO and Managing Partner of the Washington Spirit, effective immediately. Club President Ben Olsen will have full authority over all club operations.
"This was an extremely difficult decision for me. I have poured everything into building this club and care deeply for the players, staff and fan base. I have no doubt made some mistakes, but my efforts and focus were always on building a professional experience for our players, the club's profile and the beautiful game in the OMV. I hope that stepping back removes me as a distraction and allows the club to thrive.
The investigation that led to Burke's dismissal was sparked by a Washington Post investigative report that highlighted a hostile, toxic workplace environment and allegations of abuse made by the former coach. On Tuesday, the Washington Post obtained a letter signed by all 27 players asking Baldwin to step down from his post:
"We do not feel like we can recover from all that has been revealed in 2021. Under your leadership, the trust and the faith in the organization has broken."
Baldwin's resignation is just the latest news surrounding a turbulent period for the league, especially after last week's bombshell report detailing sexual misconduct from North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley stemming from the power imbalance between him and his players. As a result, the league did not play out last weekend's games and Lisa Baird resigned as commisioner of the league. A committee featuring Amanda Duffy of the Orlando Pride, Angie Long of Kansas City NWSL and Sophie Sauvage of OL Reign was formed to help conduct a search for Baird's replacement. As for the Spirit, you can find a full timeline of the multiple controversies surrounding the club here.