National Women’s Soccer League players staged a demonstration during Wednesday night's matches following several allegations of sexual coercion and harassment against former North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley.
Athletes stopped play in the sixth minute of the match in recognition of the six years it took for the allegations of Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly to come to light. Players, both on and off the pitch, ran to each other to join arm in arm and form one circle in the center of the pitch.
The same demonstration could be seen during the NJ/NY Gotham-Washington Spirit, North Carolina Courage-Racing Louisville and Houston Dash-Portland Thorns games.
Additionally, the announcer in all stadiums asked fans to show their support by standing in silence.
"During that time, we ask that you stand in that pain and discomfort with us, as we consider what too many of us have been asked to sit with for too long."
Fans across stadiums rallied around the teams, clapping and holding up signs that read "IM SPEECHLESS," "Power to the Player," "No More Silence" and "Protect Our Players."
The act was also in recognition of players "who fought for too long to be heard," the players said in a statement published to social media, which was accompanied by the hashtag #NoMoreSilence.
Former NWSL players Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly came forward with allegations of Paul Riley’s abuse, including but not limited to sexual coercion, dating back more than a decade. An investigation by The Athletic highlighted the extent of his behavior.
Though Riley has since been fired, he denies any inappropriate behavior.
The firing of former NC Courage head coach was the latest in a string of recent controversies surrounding the American women’s league. Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke was fired last week for violations of the NWSL's anti-harassment policy, while OL Reign coach Farid Benstiti was asked to resign in July after inappropriate comments made during practice.
Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly was also fired last month for reasons that have not been made public, and Gotham FC general manager Alyse LaHue was relieved of her duties for violating the league's anti-harassment policy.
U.S. Soccer and FIFA have since announced investigations into the league's handling of Paul Riley.