The NWSL’s Washington Spirit suspended coach Richie Burke on Wednesday following allegations of verbal and emotional abuse.
Wednesday’s announcement comes just one day after the team announced Burke was resigning due to “health concerns.” Burke’s resignation was followed by an article from the Washington Post, which detailed Burke’s inappropriate conduct as the Spirit’s head coach.
Four players have left the Spirit over the last two years due to their treatment from Burke, per the Post. He reportedly “made racially insensitive jokes,” toward Black players, and Burke was described by former players as being “unbelievably volatile.” He is accused of referring to players as “dog s—” and “a waste of space,” in addition to the racist comments.
“I was 100% in a situation where I was being emotionally abused by Richie,” former Spirit player Kaiya McCullough told the Post. “He created this environment where I knew I wasn’t playing as well, because I was so, so scared to mess up and be yelled at. It crippled my performance, and it made me super anxious.”
The Spirit issued a statement following their dismissal of Burke on Wednesday.
“On the heels of our announcement yesterday that Coach Burke was resigning, a Washington Post reporter contacted the Spirit with allegations of mistreatment—verbal and emotional abuse leveled at players—by Coach Burke,” team owner Steve Baldwin said. “We take these allegations very seriously and are undertaking an immediate investigation.”
“Burke has been suspended pending the investigation and is prohibited from contacting players and staff and our facilities. We, as a team, will not tolerate any situation for our players and staff that is less than professional. Our athletes, and all of those who support them, deserve the absolute best.”
The NWSL said Wednesday it will investigate the allegations against Burke.
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