Richie Burke scandal: NWSL probes Washington Spirit coach after he resigns amid abuse claims

'Credible press report' sparks league investigation, after Spirit opens its own into Burke, whose behavior forced four players to quit

                            Richie Burke scandal: NWSL probes Washington Spirit coach after he resigns amid abuse claims
Richie Burke (@washingtonspirit/Instagram) with an insert of the Washington Spirit logo (Wikimedia Commons)

Washington Spirit head coach Richie Burke may have resigned on August 10, but his woes appear to be far from over. The soccer coach is now being investigated by the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and the Washington team after a "credible press report" indicated abusive behavior. The NWSL confirmed that investigations were underway on August 11, while Burke is on leave.

Allegations of abuse and harassment have overwhelmed American sport this year, with several high-profile names being accused. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer is currently on administrative leave after he was accused of sexual assault by a San Diego woman. Washington Nationals analyst FP Santangelo was removed from broadcasting duties in May 2021, after he was accused of sexual assault. Earlier in March, Mickey Callaway's sexual harassment scandal broke the MLB when it came to light. 


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The accusations against Burke are equally severe, which is why the NWSL and Spirit management have been forced to act. On August 10, he was reassigned to the front office, but just a day later the Washington Post put out an explosive report that hinted "health concerns" may not have been behind the shift. Instead, it indicated abusive behavior may have been the reason for Birke's change of jobs.

Washington Spirit player Sam Staab (L) enjoys a light moment with coach Richie Burke (R). (@washingtonspirit/Instagram)



Why is Richie Burke being investigated?

While announcing his resignation as a coach on August 10, Washington Spirit said, "It was in the best interests of him and of the club for him to step down as our coach. Once Richie’s health improves, he will join the sporting operations staff." At the time, the team made no reference to any allegations against Burke's behavior. On August 11, the Washington Post reported that at least four players left the club because of his abusive behavior. At the forefront of those allegations was former Spirit defender Kaiya McCullough, who quit playing last season.

"I was 100 percent in a situation where I was being emotionally abused by Richie. 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," she told the publication. McCullough added that Burke made her "very uncomfortable" with racially insensitive jokes off the field. Another two players confirmed those allegations, but did not want to be named citing fears of retaliation. They alleged Burke was "unbelievably volatile" and that he targeted certain players with "personal attacks." 


McCullough makes several damning allegations against Burke, including that he once used the n-word in front of her, and that he once joked about the death of George Floyd. After that report was published, Spirit managing partner Steve Baldwin issued a detailed public statement. "We take these allegations very seriously and are undertaking an immediate investigation," he said. Baldwin also confirmed Burke would be placed on leave and is "prohibited from contacting players and staff" during the course of the investigation. 

The NWSL has also decided to weigh in and opened an investigation under its anti-harassment policy. A league spokesperson told Fox5 that the investigation was prompted by a "credible press report," likely to be the Post's report. Further details are not available at the moment. Burke is yet to respond to the allegations or offer a statement. The NWSL has also not offered a detailed statement on the allegations.