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Sexual Allegations in the National Women’s Soccer League

*Trigger warning: this story mentions sexual abuse. 

The National Women’s Soccer League called off their matches this past weekend following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. 

On October 7th, the North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley was fired as sexual allegations began spilling out about him spanning over a decade.  The Athletic published an investigation conducted by journalist Meg Linehan who interviewed over a dozen players that Riley had coached since 2010. The report contained a decade’s worth of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and homophobic statements which affected so many players. 

Players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim went on record and relayed how Riley coerced them into having sex with him and sending him explicit sexual pictures as well as kissing each other in front of him while he watched. 

The North Carolina Courage released a statement of solidarity and encouragement following the release of this investigation. “The Courage supports the players who have come forward and we commend them for bravely sharing their stories,” said Steve Mailk, the team’s principal owner. 

This incident surrounding Riley was not in isolation. This past week, Washington Spirit’s coach Richie Burke was also fired after a sexual harassment investigation. For weeks, news reports were released about Burke, claiming that created a toxic environment for the female players. 

The NWSL Players Association told the press that the union supports players “who have brought their stories into the light — both known and unknown.” The Association is also making a sports psychologist available to past, current, and future players to help cope with this difficult situation.  

The U.S. appointed Sally Yates, former acting Attorney General, to investigate these allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct within the Women’s Soccer League. FIFA also has gotten involved and is looking into these claims and sexual abuse as well. 

Hopefully, the NWSL as well as the larger sports community will work hard to hold those accountable and create a more safe environment for the players. 

Adina Hirsch is a sophomore at the University of Florida. She is studying economics and psychology in hopes to attend law school in the future to become a public defender. Adina is passionate about cold brew coffee, criminal justice, and new experiences.
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