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Spirit Suspend Richie Burke After Abuse Allegations Surfaced

On Wednesday, a second statement from the club confirmed an investigation was taking place into Burke’s conduct and said he was suspended pending the results of the investigation.

He reportedly “made racially insensitive jokes,” toward Black players, and Burke was described by former players as being “unbelievably volatile.” He is accused of referring to players as “dog s—” and “a waste of space,” in addition to the racist comments, according to a news report by The Washington Post.

Former Spirit player Kaiya McCullough and the other former players described Burke as belligerent and aggressive, screaming at them inches from their faces. One player called him “unbelievably volatile,” saying he targeted certain players with “personal attacks” and the constant threat of losing their jobs. 

Two former Spirit players told The Post they left the team because of what they said was Burke’s “abusive” treatment. A fourth former player declined to comment, but her reason for leaving was confirmed by two people with knowledge of the situation.

Burke’s departure comes as NWSL players are fighting for their first union contract, speaking up for labor rights and employment security in a young league that so far has offered little of either. They are part of a wave of athletes, especially women, raising concerns about mental health, fair pay and equitable treatment in sports.

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