SHOCKED AND DISGUSTED': US soccer stars speak out after top coach fired over sex misconduct claims

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The National Women’s Soccer League came under fire Thursday amid a report that alleged sexual misconduct against North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley.

The Courage abruptly fired Riley after The Athletic reported that the claims, which included allegations of sexual coercion, stretched back for more than a year. The allegations prompted a statement from NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird.

The Courage have fired Paul Riley effective immediately after allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. The allegations were first reported by The Athletic in a story Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, that detailed misconduct stretching back more than a decade.
(Associated Press)

Sinead Farrelly was one of the players who made the allegations against Riley.
(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

“The North Carolina Courage have terminated Head Coach Paul Riley, effective immediately, in light of today’s reports of very serious allegations of misconduct. Sean Nahas has been named interim head coach for the remainder of the season, effective today at training,” the club said.

Former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim recounted their experiences with the coach in a detailed report in The Athletic. Farrelly said the alleged harassment started in 2011 when she was a player for the Philadelphia Independence of the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer league and continued when she joined the NWSL’s Portland Thorns. Shim said she had a similar experience.

The Thorns said there was a lot in the article the organization was learning for the first time.

“We talk all complaints about harassment extremely seriously. Immediately upon receiving a complaint from a player in 2015, we conducted a thorough investigation advised by an outside law firm and placed Riley on administrative leave. While the findings did not show unlawful activity, they did uncover clear violations of our company policies. Based on this, we chose to sever ties with Riley. The findings of the investigation were fully shared with the NWSL league office,” the team said.

Mana Shim, left, was another player who accused Riley of misconduct.
(Getty Images)

Riley denied the allegations to The Athletic. He called the claims “completely untrue.”

The NWSL was harshly criticized over the recent report. The NWSL Players Association demanded the league take action, including launching an independent investigation, suspend anyone in violation of the league’s anti-harassment policy regardless of when the complaint was made and disclose how Riley was still hired within the league despite allegations.

“A league for women. Yet @NWSL fails to protect women. And then tries to continue to sweep it under the rug. Support these players. Believe these players. Protect these players. Transparency, accountability NOW.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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