Women's Football

NWSL Players Association calls for inquiry into Paul Riley investigation

Lizzy Becherano
NWSL answers the players' desperate calls for attention following Paul Riley incident
NWSL answers the players' desperate calls for attention following Paul Riley incident / Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The National Women's Soccer League Players Association have called for an investigation into allegations spanning a decade of sexual coercion and inappropriate comments, about players' weight and sexual orientation, made by North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley.

The push comes after The Athletic published an article that captured the experiences of more than a dozen players from every team Riley has coached since 2010, including two named athletes who went on the record with allegations against him.

The union showed support for former players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, and backed Kaiya McCullough, who was part of a Washington Post investigation into former Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke.

"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," the statement released Thursday on Twitter said.

"To the players who suffer in silence, know that the Players Association holds a safe space for you. We stand ready to confidentially offer you resources and support. You are not alone."

Riley responded to the allegations via an email to The Athletic, claiming the majority of the statements are "completely untrue."

"I have never had sex with or made sexual advances towards these players," he said. Riley also said he doesn't "belittle" his players by commenting on their weight or personal relationships.”

Several other NWSL players have come out in support of their teammates and voiced their concerns about the league’s management. 

Racing Louisville and Denmark striker Nadia Nadim took to twitter to express her concern. 

"NWSL is such a joke. League wants to see themselves as the best in the world but with this s--t 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," she wrote on Twitter.

The league responded by setting up an anonymous hotline for players to report abuse as well as making a sports psychologist available for any current, former or future player who need a confidential consultation.

"We refuse to be silent any longer. Our commitment as players is to speak truth to power. We will no longer be complicit in a culture of silence that has enabled abuse and exploitation in our league and our sport," the statement added.

"The very lack of basic and fundamental protections that ensure dignity at work are part of what has led to stories like those that have come out this season.

"NWSL and its clubs must act swiftly to implement changes that would protect current and future players. The opportunity to do this is right now in our first contract negotiation. In the face of systemic abuse, players demand greater control over their lives and careers."