Truth Be Told – The Fight For Women’s Professional Soccer Debuts Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, ESPN+
A timely new edition of ESPN E60 investigates allegations of abuse, sexual coercion and a toxic work environment in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The 90-minute program includes interviews with current and former NWSL and U.S. Soccer executives, as well as coaches and players. Many are speaking on camera about the league crisis for the first time.
Truth Be Told – The Fight For Women’s Professional Soccer will debut on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, streaming afterward on ESPN+.
In the Fall of 2021, the entire league was in crisis. Coaches and executives had been fired or let go in alarming numbers. The commissioner resigned. The owner of one of the marquee franchises, the reigning titleholder, was forced to sell controlling interest of the team. Games were cancelled. Players had no collective bargaining agreement and the specter of a cancelled season loomed, all while governing bodies opened investigations into misconduct and toxic work environments.
This was the reality of the NWSL after explosive allegations of abuse, sexual harassment, and unrelenting coercion by one of the NWSL’s most successful head coaches set off a reckoning for the entire league. And that was just the beginning.
In its investigation, E60 looks at the roots of those allegations, the crises they sparked for the NWSL, and the future of the league. Through a series of in-depth interviews, reporter Lisa Salters presents an unflinching look at one of the most sobering episodes of abuse and mismanagement in recent sports history.
As players around the league push for unprecedented change, Truth Be Told asks if the current crises will serve as a major turning point, altering the landscape of women’s professional soccer. There is hope. But will there be accountability?
Interviewed for her first extensive sit-down interview is former NWSL player Mana Shim, whose sexual harassment complaints against former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley grabbed national attention and helped spark the reckoning in the NWSL. Shim speaks openly in Truth Be Told about her interactions with Riley, what led to her complaints and her frustration at official responses. Alex Morgan, a renowned member of the US Women’s National Team who was a teammate of Shim’s in Portland, discusses her efforts to help Shim and to push for change in the league.
Also interviewed is former Washington Spirit player Kaiya McCullough, whose complaints against Spirit coach Richie Burke’s behavior sparked an investigation and multiple resignations. McCullough speaks candidly about her allegations of abuse and racism against Burke in the program as do several current Spirit players.
Through it all, players questioned the lack of action taken by then-commissioner Lisa Baird. For the first time since resigning from the NWSL, Baird opens up to address these issues in an interview with Salters. And for the first time on the record and on camera, Burke answers questions on camera about allegations against him that led to his firing in September of 2021.
Others interviewed include:
- Cindy Parlow Cone – President, U.S. Soccer Federation; former USWNT and WUSA player, former NWSL coach.
- Meghann Burke – Executive Director, NWSL Players Association and former WUSA and WPS player.
- Sunil Gulati – former President, U.S. Soccer Federation.
- Billie Jean King – Tennis Hall of Famer, social activist and investor in Angel City FC.
- Julie Foudy – ESPN analyst; former USWNT and WUSA player; investor in Angel City FC.
- Brandi Chastain – former USWNT and WUSA player.
- Jessica Berman – current NWSL Commissioner.
- Meg Linehan – senior writer, The Athletic, author of extensive investigation into NWSL.
- Molly Hensley-Clancy – sports investigative reporter, The Washington Post; reported on verbal and emotional abuse allegations against Burke.
- Tori Huster – Washington Spirit player; President, NWSL Players Association.
Other current and former NWSL players interviewed include Simone Charley (Angel City FC); Julia Roddar, Andi Sullivan, Gaby Vincent and Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit); and Meredith Speck and Merritt Mathias (North Carolina Courage).
Truth Be Told was produced and directed by Jennifer Karson-Strauss.
Other ESPN platforms will contribute to the presentation: excerpts from Truth Be Told will be featured in segments on Outside the Lines in the noon ET edition of SportsCenter, on ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ and on ESPN.com, espnW and ESPN social channels. The story also will be the subject of an upcoming edition of the ESPN Daily Podcast.
After the premiere on ESPN, the program will be available on ESPN+ and will re-air multiple times across ESPN networks.