Paul Riley’s dismissal is the first step in a league that needs to be proactive and not reactive.
Sexual harassment and abuse are rampant in sports. However, more light is shed on the array of the offenses and perpetrators are being weeded out.
With the revelation that harassment can be systemic in professional sports organizations, the National Women’s Soccer League is now the latest to add voice to its failures.
Rampant In The Women’s Ranks
Last Thursday, the North Carolina Courage fired coach Paul Riley, accused of sexual coercion and inappropriate comments about players’ weight and sexual orientation.
The complaints span over a decade. Riley has denied the allegations.
On Tuesday, Alex Morgan, an Orlando Pride striker, called for the National Women’s Soccer League to end the systemic failures. Morgan pointed to the decade of sexual harassment allegations by players about league coaches.
“I’m here to support Mana and Sinead and to continue to amplify their voices, and just show the systemic failure from the league and how wrong they did in handling Mana’s case and complaint and investigation and where they failed Mana and Sinead, and probably many other women,” Morgan said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show.
Former players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim spoke out against coach Riley. In addition, Kaiya McCullough, who was a defender for the Washington Spirit, took part in an investigation by The Washington Post into former Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke.
“When I look back, I tried to be as good a friend and teammate as possible to Mana in helping her file a complaint, when at the time there was no anti-harassment policy in place, there was no league HR, there was no anonymous hotline, there was no way to report,” said Morgan.
“We’ve now started to put these things in place, by demand of players, not by the league being proactive. Something we ask is for the league to start being proactive, not reactive. We’re asking for transparency.”
— Angel City FC (@weareangelcity) September 30, 2021
The Strength Of A Union
The players’ union has expressed its support via a statement released last Thursday on social media.
SYSTEMIC ABUSE PLAGUING THE NWSL MUST NOT BE IGNORED pic.twitter.com/WlhcWW7R8m
— NWSLPA (@nwsl_players) September 30, 2021
“We, the players of the NWSL, stand with Sinead Farrelly, Mana Shim, Kaiya McCullough, and each of the players who have brought their stories into the light — both known and unknown. Words cannot adequately capture our anger, pain, sadness, and disappointment.”
In addition, the union called for the suspension of anyone in the league who violates its anti-harassment policy for a safe work environment.
The union called for an investigation into how Riley was rehired after the first allegations against him surfaced in 2015.
Responsibility Starts At The Top
The fallout has been widespread as NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird resigned from her post on Friday. Last week, Morgan tweeted screenshots of an email exchange with Baird about reopening an investigation into Riley.
NWSL is such a joke.
League wants to see themselves as the best in the world but with this shit that keeps coming we won’t be more than just a massive joke for the rest of the world. The rest of the world is laughing. We’re nothing but a joke..
The players deserve more.
— Nadia Nadim (@nadia_nadim) September 30, 2021
League-wide there was a swath of managerial pink slips. Racing Louisville’s Christy Holly, OL Reign’s Farid Benstiti, and Richie Burke from were all fired. NWSL general counsel Lisa Levine was also let go.
Additionally, the NWSLPA announced the creation of an anonymous hotline for players to report abuse. In addition, the union will make a sports psychologist available for current, former, or future players who need confidential consultation.
The last few years exposed revelations of rampant abuse in United States Gymnastics by Larry Nasser. Additionally, gymnasts displayed the negligence of the FBI to follow up on allegations. However, with more attention placed on professional athletics failures will shine a light on a widespread problem.