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New NWSL Commissioner addresses equity in women's soccer

Jessica Berman discussed her hope for the future while also addressing that she has seen the challenges within the league firsthand.

SEATTLE — It was a different tone Sunday on the Lumen Field pitch. 

"I feel an immense amount of gratitude and also responsibility to really unlock the potential of this league," said Jessica Berman, National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) Commissioner,

As opposed to last fall when accounts of alleged abuse from Coach Paul Riley gripped the world of women's soccer. Riley had previously coached the Portland Thorns. 

"All of the challenges that I've heard about and even observed first hand in my first three months here are frankly exactly what I expected," Berman said.

Berman took up the post in April and is already addressing equity disparities in all forms.

"Right now our approach is to figure out how to make sure their health and reproductive rights are available," Berman said.

Of the 12 teams in the NWSL, a handful are in states with some kind of abortion ban, like Texas who has a full ban and Florida which has a gestational limit in effect. 

"At a league level, we're trying to explore national solutions that will accommodate that," Berman said.

The NWSL is also factoring states with abortion bans into their future expansion.

This comes as one of the leagues largest partnerships, Voyager, files for bankruptcy. 

"We're currently in a legal proceeding so there's not much to say about the status of players," Berman said.

There have been questions about the amount of money the crypto-currency company paid to the league versus the players before filing for Chapter 13. 

"At the end of that process, if in fact there is an inequity between how the league is positioned as compared to the players, we will reevaluate the entire scope and ensure we will do the right thing for our players," Berman said.

For the first time, there will be a dedicated executive charged with diversity equity inclusion for the entire league.

"It feels like all the ingredients are there to take this league to the next level and deliver for the players and the owners," Berman said. 

As far as that expansion goes, the NWSL has seen huge success with their last two teams in San Diego and Los Angeles. The league plans to continue that expansion in the coming years, which Berman said is an indication of where the league is headed. 

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