Women’s Soccer May Have To Do More Than Kick Its Problems Down The Road


John Maniace, Staff Writer

An opinion piece

The National Women’s Soccer League has been hit hard within the past week after two former players accused North Carolina Courage head coach, Paul Riley, of sexual misconduct. First reported by “The Athletic” sports news website, former players, Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, made claims of sexual misconduct against their former coach. Both reported experiences occurring over the past decade.

Farrelly, who played for the Philadelphia Independence in the league former to the NWSL, claims that Riley committed acts of sexual coercion and harassment through verbal abuse during her time under his tenure with the team in 2011. Shim, on the other hand, played for
Riley on the Portland Thorns and made further claims about Riley’s verbal abuse of the players on that club.

Both Farrelly and Shim recently appeared on “The Today Show,” discussing their experiences. “He sexually harassed me. He sexually coerced Sinead, and he took away our careers,” Shim said on the show Tuesday.

What Riley did greatly affected the livelihood of these two athletes. Furthermore, it puts a spotlight on the league’s reactions, or lack thereof, to such instances in the past.

Shim made these claims known to the Portland organization back in 2015, yet the Thorns and the league failed to follow up and investigate. After the claims were made public last week, Riley was immediately fired from his position on the North Carolina Courage. He
has denied the allegations, stating “I have never had sex with, or made sexual advances toward these players.”

Also resulting from the allegations was the resignation of NWSL commissioner, Lisa Baird. She apologized for how she handled the situation. However, no apology will fix the pain that many players have felt over the years in a league that is supposed to be a symbol
of female empowerment.

According to ESPN, claims that former Washington Spirit coach, Richie Burke, was verbally abusing his players leading to his resignation came to light this past August. All coming after Burke was hired by the Spirit’s owners in 2018, who were informed about complaints
made against Burke in his past positions. OL Reign Coach, Farid Bensiti, was fired this past summer due to poor performance by the team. However, it was also revealed that multiple complaints were made about him, including body shaming and verbal abuse.

Situations such as these are becoming more of a pattern in the NWSL, and has led notable athletes to call out the league. According to a report by ESPN, Alex Morgan, a player in the league and U.S national team star, complained last week about a lack of league policies.
“There was no anti-harassment policy in place. There was no league HR. There was no anonymous hotline. There was no way to report.” Morgan told ESPN. The league simply never had any tools for players to utilize in situations of abuse or harassment.

After the allegations were made this past week, it definitely seems that awareness of the situation has been made clear. Both FIFA and U.S soccer have launched investigations into the matter, hoping to weed out any other instances of failed assistance in relation
to misconduct issues.

More players may come forward with stories of their own over the next couple months as the league has now set up hotlines, which players can report anonymously to relieve the current situation taking place. Although this will never heal the wounds created by the
league’s failure to correctly handle these situations, it is a step in the right direction for an organization tattered by mistakes when it comes to handling the safety of its players.