US footballers stop games to protest allegations of abuse in the National Women’s Football League

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The players stopped on the pitch in the sixth minute of their National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) games in the United States and tied their arms in a circle to show solidarity with two former players who raised allegations sexual harassment and misconduct against a top trainer.

The actions took place in matches between Gotham FC and Washington Spirit in Philadelphia and between North Carolina Courage and Racing Louisville in Cary, NC.

“Tonight we are back on the pitch because we will not let our joy be taken away from us,” the NWSL Players’ Association said in a statement on Wednesday evening. “But it’s not business as usual.”

The league had just returned to the field after canceling games last weekend as it accepted allegations made last week against former Courage coach Paul Riley, who was later fired.

Earlier today, the owner of Courage apologized for the franchise’s “failure” to create an environment in which players felt safe to come forward.

Courage owner Steve Malik’s statement in an open letter was the team’s first public comment following the news of Riley’s sacking last Thursday. The allegations rocked the league and led to the resignation of National Women’s Football League commissioner Lisa Baird.

Malik said in his letter that Courage “did their due diligence” in retaining Riley and the coaching staff after Malik bought the team in 2017.

“We were made aware of an investigation into Mr. Riley’s behavior in 2015 and were subsequently assured that he was in good standing,” said Malik.

Fans hold up placards during the first half of an NWSL football game between North Carolina Courage and Racing Louisville FC. (

AP: Gerry Broome

)

“During her employment with Courage, we had no knowledge of any allegations of sexual harassment or coercion. When we learned of the horrific allegations in last week’s report, we took them seriously and immediately heard about them. fired Mr. Riley. “

Two former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim have presented allegations of abuse, including sexual coercion, dating back over a decade. The allegations were detailed last week in an article in The Athletic.

Riley has denied any inappropriate behavior.

He coached the Portland Thorns in the NWSL in 2014 and 2015 when he was fired by the team, who had investigated him and shared his findings with the league. Riley then went on to coach the Western New York Flash for a season before the team was sold and moved to North Carolina in 2017.

Riley’s sacking was the latest in a string of recent scandals involving the NWSL, the top women’s professional football league in the United States.

Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke was fired last week for violating the NWSL’s anti-harassment policy detailed in the Washington Post.

OL coach Reign Farid Benstiti was ordered to resign in July after inappropriate comments made during training. Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly was sacked last month for reasons that were not made public, and Gotham FC general manager Alyse LaHue was sacked for violating the anti-harassment policy of the league. She denied the allegations.

US Soccer and FIFA have announced investigations into the league’s handling of the Riley case.


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