NWSL names new commissioner: Jessica Berman, former National Lacrosse League deputy

Jessica Berman was announced as the National Women's Soccer League's new commissioner on Wednesday morning, ending a five-month search that involved both players and NWSL executives.

Berman, who has over 15 years of experience in sports league business affairs, comes to the NWSL from the National Lacrosse League. She spent two and a half years with the NLL as its deputy commissioner and executive vice president of business affairs. Before that, she worked for the NHL for 13 years in several positions, starting as vice president and deputy general counsel and then moving to vice president of community development, culture and growth, and executive director of the NHL Foundation.

"I'm honored to be the next commissioner of the NWSL and grateful to the owners for their confidence in me," Berman said in a statement via The Athletic. "Working on behalf of, and in partnership with, our players is my number one priority. Having been involved in professional sports for many years, I know how critically important a genuine partnership with players is for us all to be successful and continue to grow."

Berman will serve a four-year term starting April 20.

Why the NWSL needed a new commissioner

Lisa Baird, who had served as NWSL commissioner since 2017, stepped down in October after shocking revelations came to light. The Athletic reported that Paul Riley, former Portland Thorns head coach and the now-former head coach of the North Carolina Courage, had been accused of sexual coercion and misconduct by several of his former players.

Riley was fired, but it was also revealed that players had been filing complaints against Riley for years. Alex Morgan was able to provide proof that emails about Riley's behavior sent by at least one player were ignored by the league. Just a day after The Athletic's report, Baird resigned.

Games were canceled the weekend after Riley's conduct came to light, but players weren't happy with the action the NWSL was taking. They organized mid-match protests to let the league know how they felt and issued a list of demands, one of which was involvement in future commissioner searches. The players were involved in the search to replace Baird and the hiring of Berman.

HERRIMAN, UTAH - JULY 17: An NWSL logo sign before the quarterfinal match of the NWSL Challenge Cup between the Houston Dash and the Utah Royals FC at Zions Bank Stadium on July 17, 2020 in Herriman, Utah.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
The NWSL named Jessica Berman as its new commissioner on Wednesday. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)