U.S. Curling Chief Resigns in Furor Over Handling of Past Abuse Complaints

Jeff Plush, the chief executive of U.S.A. Curling, resigned on Friday, weeks after athletes and clubs began calling for him to step down because they no longer trusted him to keep players safe.

This month, an investigative report from U.S. Soccer found that Plush, who was the chief executive of the National Women’s Soccer League from 2015 to 2017, did not cooperate with an inquiry into widespread abuse within that league. The report said that Plush had mishandled abuse accusations while he was head of the soccer league, allowing coaches to keep their jobs or transfer teams after they had been accused of sexual and verbal harassment, as well as sexual coercion.

“Inaction and not speaking out against abuse has no place in our sport, and we hope Jeff realizes the damage that he has done to our community,” JayCee Cooper, a member of U.S.A. Curling’s diversity task force, said in a video call this week. “We have to get to a place where we can trust our leaders again.”

Still, even after the release of the report, Plush had the support of U.S.A. Curling’s board of directors, prompting dozens of athletes and clubs to speak out against him on social media. On Friday, the board said in a statement that it had unanimously accepted Plush’s resignation.

“Our priority is to rebuild trust,” the board said. “To start that process, today we lead with action.”

Dean Gemmell, a former national curling champion based in New Jersey, was named interim chief executive.

“I’m convinced curling can be a force for good,” he said in a statement, “and when the people in this sport work together, we can make great things happen.”

Plush’s resignation came hours before the women’s soccer league’s national championship game on Saturday, pitting the Portland Thorns against the Kansas City Current. The Thorns, one of the most successful teams in the league, were a focus of the report, which found that the club had shielded a coach accused of abuse and sought to thwart investigators in the inquiry, led by Sally Q. Yates, a former high-ranking Justice Department official.

Merritt Paulson, the owner of the Thorns, agreed to step down as chief executive of the club, although he did not indicate whether he would sell the team, as many players called on him to do. The team said in a statement that he would not attend the championship game.