The Spirit’s Final Season: The Story of a Victim

Probe finds emotional abuse, sexual misconduct in NWSL were systemic

Former Washington Spirit player Briann January looks at her knee after she was injured during the NWSL Final. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

As a sports fan, I was happy to learn that soccer’s WPSL Women’s Premier Soccer League was shutting down this season. For the last two seasons, the Spirit had been part of that league, winning the championship the last two years.

They were, however, not the only women in the league to win titles. In fact, of the eight teams in the WPSL, five won championships—a record for women in the second-highest level of women’s professional American soccer.

In the Spirit’s last season, for example, the Spirit won the championship. Just as shocking was my discovery that one of the key players for the Spirit that season, Briann January, had been sexually abused.

I am grateful that I was brought to this story as a victim myself in the Spirit’s final season.

In late September of 2013, I received a phone call from the Spirit’s general manager, Jeff Tomsic. He asked me if I was interested in being part of the NWSL’s inaugural training camp in Phoenix, Arizona. I said yes, and he gave me the contact information of NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush, the woman who would be my voice coach. I also had the opportunity to visit a few times with the Spirit’s director of marketing, Nicole Haeger.

As soon as I received Plush’s phone call, I knew I had to report the abusive behavior of her husband, Mike Plush, for what surely was abusive. He was at the time still married to her.

The NWSL training camp I was asked to attend was for the two-week period of September 30 through October 2. I had to leave the Washington area at the end of September for a training camp with an NWSL club in Atlanta. In addition, to practice this training camp, the Spirit had invited the Houston Dash, the NWSL’s best team at the time, as well as the Washington Freedom, the franchise that was

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