NWSL names Jessica Berman as new commissioner
Jessica Berman was announced as the new commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League on Wednesday morning, ending a five-month search involving both players and NWSL executives.
Berman, who has over 15 years of sports league experience, comes to the NWSL from the National Lacrosse League. She spent two and a half years at the NLL as Deputy Commissioner and Executive Vice President of Business Affairs. Prior to that, she served the NHL for 13 years in various positions, first as vice president and assistant general counsel, then as vice president of community development, culture and growth, and as executive director of the NHL Foundation.
“I’m honored to be the next commissioner of the NWSL and grateful to the owners for their faith in me,” Berman said in a statement via The Athletic. “Working on behalf of and in partnership with our players is my top priority. Having been involved in professional sport for many years, I know the importance of genuine partnership with players so that we can all thrive and continue to grow.”
Berman will serve a four-year term beginning April 20.
Why the NWSL needed a new commissioner
Lisa Baird, who had served as NWSL commissioner since 2017, resigned in October following shocking revelations. The Athletic reported that Paul Riley, former Portland Thorns head coach and now former North Carolina Courage head coach, had been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by several of his former players.
Riley was fired, but it was also revealed that players had filed complaints against Riley for years. Alex Morgan was able to prove that emails about Riley’s behavior sent by at least one player were ignored by the league. Just a day after The Athletic’s report, Baird resigned.
Games were canceled over the weekend after Riley’s behavior came to light, but players were not happy with the NWSL’s actions. They organized protests during the game to let the league know how they felt and released a list of demands, one of which was involvement in future commissioner searches. The players were involved in finding a replacement for Baird and hiring Berman.