The National Women’s Soccer League has named Marla Messing as its interim chief executive officer as the league contends with the fallout from allegations of player abuse and harassment.

Messing was president and CEO of the 1999 Women’s World Cup and helped land the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic bid. Most recently she has served as CEO of USTA Southern California.

Messing will oversee operations of the league and work with the board of governors. She will replace the three-woman executive committee which was appointed to run the league after Commissioner Lisa Baird resigned a little more than two weeks ago.

Baird’s resignation came in the wake of allegations of harassment and sexual coercion leveled by two former players against North Carolina coach Paul Riley, who was fired.

Richie Burke, coach of the Washington Spirit, was fired late last month for violating the league’s antiharassment policy. OL Reign coach Farid Benstiti was let go this summer following inappropriate behavior at practice.

Messing said in a statement Monday that player welfare must be “central to every discussion and decision.”

“I also want to commend the bravery and strength of each and every player in the league to demand the change that should be at the core of every organization,” she said. “Gaining the trust of our players and uniting players and owners is central to my approach so that we can most effectively create systemic change.”

The league continues its search for a permanent commissioner.


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