The North Carolina Courage fired coach Paul Riley in the wake of a report by Atletico detailing the sexual coercion allegations of former players spanning multiple teams and leagues and lasting more than a decade.
Courage said in a statement that following “very serious misconduct allegations” against Riley, the club terminated his contract. The team said “support[s] the players who have stepped forward and we commend them for courageously sharing their stories. ”
NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement who was “shocked and disgusted” to read the new allegations reported by Atletico Thursday, and that in addition to the team that fired Riley, the league is reporting the allegations to the US Center for SafeSport for investigation.
One of the former players, Sinead Farrelly, explained to Atletico a 2011 incident in which he claims that Riley forced her to have sex with him and spend the night in his room. The sexual coercion towards Farrelly, who is now retired, also continued throughout the offseason as he played for a semi-pro team that Riley coached on Long Island in ’12, he said.
Both Farrelly and another player, Mana Shim, described another incident in 2015 when Riley took both Portland Thorns teammates to her hotel room after a night of drinking and prompted them to kiss while she watched. He also sent an unsolicited horrific photo of himself to both of them, players said. Other unnamed Thorns players from the 2014-15 season have claimed that Riley also made inappropriate comments about their weight and sexual orientation.
Following Atleticothe publication of the story, the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association has requested an investigation in the allegations against Riley and an investigation into how Riley was rehearsed in the NWSL by the Western New York Flash in 2016, just months after misconduct allegations were leveled against him in ’15.
Riley was head coach of the Portland Thorns between 2014 and ’15. The team said in a statement Thursday that it was there “a lot in the article we’re hearing about for the first time now.”
Football players from around the world have expressed their support for Farrelly, Shim, Kaiya McCullough (who was part of a Washington Post investigation in former Spirit coach Richie Burke) and others who spoke on the record or otherwise to detail harassment issues within the sport.
The players union has also called for the suspension of anyone working within the league who violated its anti-harassment policy for a safe work environment, regardless of whether the conduct occurred before or after the policy was implemented. in 2021, and claimed it was setting up an anonymous hotline for players to report abuse.
The league said in its statement that it is also “implementing a new anonymous reporting process” as a means of trying to make the league a “safe, positive and respectful environment for our players, clubs, staff and fans”.
Riley, 58, had been in the North Carolina organization since 2016 (the club, formerly known as Western New York Flash, moved in ’17) and has been a football manager at various levels for more than two decades.
He answered a list of nearly two dozen questions from Atletico saying that most of the allegations are “completely false”.
Courage will play next Friday against Spirit. Assistant Sean Nahas has been named interim head coach for the remainder of the season, the club said.
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