Washington Spirit CEO Steve Baldwin resigns amid allegations

·2 min read

Washington Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin resigns as CEO originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Washington Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin announced he will be stepping down from his position as CEO and managing partner of the franchise Tuesday. 

The Spirit have faced allegations of a toxic workplace and abuse allegations against former coach Richie Buke, who was fired last week. The NWSL commissioned an independent investigation into the Spirit organization after The Washington Post reported allegations that players were verbally and emotionally abused.

"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," Baldwin said in a statement. "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 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 take over all of club operations moving forward. Olsen spent 22 years playing for D.C. United, a run that included two MLS Cup titles, Rookie of the Year, and MLS Cup MVP in 1999.

Baldwin's decision to step down comes at a time when the NWSL is being called on to address and change abusive team cultures throughout the league. Amid allegations brought against individuals from multiple teams, the NWSL decided to cancel all of its weekend games from the first week of October. In addition, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned last week. 

The NWSL Players Association also released a statement calling for league-wide changes and establishing a hotline where players can report future cases of misconduct.

The Post cited two sources Tuesday when reporting that Baldwin had received a letter from 27 Spirit players asking he resign. There is an ongoing ownership dispute between Baldwin and co-owner Y. Michelle Kang, who has demanded that Baldwin also sell his shares in the team. 

The Spirit are scheduled to take the pitch again on Wednesday against Gotham FC at 7 p.m.