Respect

World Cup champs attack women’s soccer league after alleged sexual abuse by winning coach

Story at a glance

  • A story published by The Athletic Thursday included statements from former players who accused North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley of sexual misconduct. Riley denied the allegations.
  • Riley was fired over the report.
  • But the league came under fire as players claimed the National Women’s Soccer League was previously made aware of the allegations and failed to act appropriately.

Several prominent professional soccer players are criticizing the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) following a report detailing accusations of sexual coercion against a top head coach.

A story published by The Athletic Thursday included statements from former players who accused North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley of sexual harassment and misconduct over several years. Riley denied the allegations to the publication. 

The Courage on Thursday abruptly fired Riley over the allegations of misconduct and NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird issued a statement saying she was “shocked and disgusted” by the story.

“We are reporting these new allegations to the US Center for SafeSport for investigation. A safe and secure work environment is a top priority for the league and its collective ownership. The league has in place a comprehensive anti-harassment/anti-discrimination policy,” Baird said in a statement

But the league came under fire as players claimed the NWSL was previously made aware of the allegations and failed to act appropriately. 

The National Women’s Soccer League Players’ Association demanded the league initiate an independent investigation into the allegations published by The Athletic. 


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“The very lack of basic and fundamental protections that ensure dignity at work are part of what has led to stories like those that have come out this season. NWSL and its Clubs must act swiftly to implement changes that would protect current and future players,” the association said in a statement

World Cup winners Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe were just a few of the players to speak out against the league. 

“The league was informed of these allegations multiple times and refused multiple times to investigate the allegations. The league must accept responsibility for a process that failed to protect its own players from this abuse,” Morgan tweeted. She also tweeted emails from former soccer player Sinead Farrelly to Baird alleging inappropriate conduct against Riley in April. Farrelly was one of the former players who recounted her experiences with Riley in The Athletic report. 

“Never once during this whole time was the right person protected. Not Mana, not Sinead, not us not the players not the little girls who will become us not the big girls who already are us not any of US. This statement is beyond disrespectful,” Rapinoe tweeted Thursday in response to the league’s statement to The Athletic report. 

The NWSL did not immediately respond to Changing America’s request for comment. 

The league called off weekend games amid the allegations of abuse. 


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