Washington Spirit owner Steve Baldwin selling team after calls from players, scandal

Washington Spirit players got their wish.

Steve Baldwin told team investors in an email Thursday that he plans to sell the Spirit, according to The Washington Post.

The announcement comes days after Spirit players called on Baldwin to resign and sell his stake in the team amid the sexual harassment and abuse scandal that hit the league this month.

“I have heard the calls for change,” Baldwin wrote, per The Washington Post. “I understand that many of our fans, players, and investors feel that the club requires new leadership, direction, and energy. And I agree.”

It’s unclear who Baldwin will sell the team to, as he said that “a sale process for the club has commenced in earnest” and he expects it to be finished by the end of the year. Spirit players had called for Baldwin to sell the team to his female co-owner Y. Michele Kang.

Spirit, NWSL hit with scandal

A recent report from The Athletic detailed some horrific sexual harassment and coercion allegations made against former North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley.

Riley, among other things, allegedly made a player sit on his lap during a car ride before later coercing her into having sex with him. He also allegedly made two players kiss to prevent the team from running extra laps.

Riley was fired from the Courage hours after that report dropped. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned the following day, and multiple investigations were launched into the allegations that dated back to at least 2010.

The NWSL postponed all games in the days that followed, and players all held a coordinated protest in their first games back while issuing demands for the investigation. They mainly called for full league-wide cooperation and transparency.

Though Baldwin wasn’t directly implicated in this scandal, he and the Spirit were involved in a similar one. Baldwin, who took over the Spirit in 2019, oversaw the hiring of coach Richie Burke. Burke, who had allegations of abusing youth players in the past, was accused of verbal and emotional abuse by Spirit players earlier this year, per The Washington Post. He was fired after an investigation, and Baldwin stepped down from his CEO and managing partner role earlier this month.

Players called for Baldwin to sell the team to Kang.

“The person we trust is Michele,” they wrote, in part. “She continuously puts players’ needs and interests first. She listens. She believes that this can be a profitable business and you have always said you intend to hand the team over to female ownership. That moment is now.

“Please sell to Michele at a reasonable price and uphold your stated intention, in 2019, of donating any profit you see to the Maryland Soccer Foundation.”