The National Women’s Soccer League is in an uproar this week after a bomb investigation report exhaustively documented numerous allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against a former coach who won the league’s two-time coaching awards.
The North Carolina Courage coach, Paul Riley, was released by the team after the Report in The Athletic It detailed the alleged wrongdoing, which included allegations of sexual assault by two former gamblers.
The league then announced that games would not take place that weekend. On Friday, The Athletic reported that the league commissioner Lisa Baird and a top lawyer had been removed from the NWSL’s board of directors. The Associated Press reported that FIFA, the international football association, had opened an investigation into the allegations.
The NWSL did not state on Friday whether the games were canceled or postponed.
The Portland Thorns were scheduled to host rival OL Reign at Providence Park on Saturday at 7 p.m. Two more games were scheduled for Saturday (Chicago versus Orlando and Kansas City versus Houston) and two on Friday (North Carolina versus Washington and Louisville versus NJ / NY Gotham FC).
The Thorns play a huge role in Athletic history, where two former players claim a toxic environment in which Riley not only made inappropriate sexual advances or behaviors – all involving alcohol – but made inappropriate comments about weight during his coaching and the sexual orientation of the player has given tenure in Portland.
In a statement just hours before her reported dismissal, Commissioner Baird said the decision to cancel games this weekend was made with the NWSL players’ association.
“This week and much of this season has been incredibly traumatic for our players and staff, and I take full responsibility for the role I’ve played. I am so sorry for the pain so many are feeling, ”said Baird, who joined the NWSL in early 2020. “We recognized this trauma and decided not to go out into the field this weekend to give everyone some space to think. Business as usual is not our concern at the moment. Our entire league has a lot to heal and our players deserve so much better. “
Riley told The Athletic that the allegations were “totally untrue”.
US Soccer suspended Riley’s coaching license following The Athletic report in which former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, both former Portland Thorns players, shared their experiences with Riley.
Farrelly’s alleged harassment began in 2011 while she was a player for the Philadelphia Independence in the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer League.
She told the website that the abuse continued while Farrelly was with the Thorns. Shim is also said to have experienced harassment. The Thorns said Thursday that the team was investigating allegations about Riley and relaying them to the league when he was fired.
In a statement Thursday, the Thorns described the story as “difficult to read” and noted that “there have been some terrible revelations”.
The franchise stated that some of the revelations were new. “We take all harassment complaints very seriously. Immediately after receiving a complaint from a player in 2015, we conducted a thorough investigation, advised by an outside law firm, and put Riley on administrative leave, ”the Thorns leader said in a statement. “The results showed no illegal activity, but clear violations of our company guidelines. Based on this, we decided to cut ties with Riley. The results of the investigation were fully shared with the NWSL league office. “
But Riley was already in the hot seat before being fired for the team’s performance on the field.
In early September 2015, just eight days before Shim filed a complaint with the Thorns front office about Riley’s alleged behavior, general manager Gavin Wilkinson told the media that the team had a lot of “respect” for Riley, but he was alluding to the high expectations for him Team playoff success. The team had a record of 16-17-11 during his tenure.
In the official statement on the day of his dismissal, Wilkinson thanked Riley “for his service to the club over the past two seasons”.
In an email to an Oregon reporter following his resignation, Riley thanks owners Merritt Paulson and Wilkinson for their “amazing” support. “Portland Thorns is the best club in the world and the fans deserve to see the best players in the world,” he wrote.
After being fired from the Thorns, he became head coach of the Western New York Flash for a season before the team was sold and relocated to North Carolina.
Riley was WPS Trainer of the Year in 2011 and received the same awards in the NWSL in 2017 and 2018. The Courage won the NWSL championship in 2018 and 2019.
The NWSL Players’ Association has called for an independent investigation into the allegations made against Riley. The union also called for the suspension of league or club employees who are accused of violating the league’s anti-harassment policy or of failing to report misconduct, regardless of when it occurred.
The union also wanted to know how Riley was hired by another club after allegations of misconduct surfaced while he was with the Thorns.
The union is currently negotiating its first contract with the league.
“We refuse to remain silent any longer. Our obligation as players is to tell the truth to power, ”the union said. “We will no longer participate in a culture of silence that has enabled abuse and exploitation in our league and in our sport.”
The league did not immediately respond to these demands.
In its ninth season, the NWSL was rocked by several scandals involving team officials.
Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke was fired after a Washington Post report extensively covered verbal and emotional insults against players. The league officially fired Burke and sanctioned the Spirit Tuesday after an independent investigation.
Alyse LaHue, general manager of Gotham FC, was sacked in July following an investigation into the league’s anti-harassment policy. She has denied any wrongdoing.
Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly was fired in September, but the reasons for his firing have not been made public.
OL Reign coach Farid Benstiti abruptly resigned in July. On Friday, Bill Predmore, chief executive officer and minority owner of OL Reign, said Benstiti had been asked to resign following an undisclosed incident during training.
Benstiti had previously been accused of sexist behavior by US national team midfielder Lindsay Horan while coaching Paris Saint-Germain. Horan said she was cursed by Benstiti for her weight.
The next games on the NWSL schedule are Wednesday, including a home game for the Thorns against the Houston Dash.
– The associated press and employee reports