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What You Should Know About The National Women’s Soccer League

Issues have plagued the league and silence is not an option 

TW: This article will be discussing sensitive issues including sexual assault. 

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) was created in 2012 in hopes to continue to make women’s soccer more well-known in the United States. Currently, there are 10 teams with an expansion team on the way. The idea was simple: while previous U.S. women’s soccer leagues have failed, let’s create a new and refreshing one. However, there are still major problems that persist. Pay is not where it should be, games are not easily accessible to view and the most important problem: sexual assault from coaches to players. 

On September 30th, former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim accused coach Paul Riley of sexual assault. They detailed their horrific experiences with Riley and declared that they should not be silent. Accusations of Riley date all the way back to 2011, where Farrelly states that Riley forced her to engage in sexual behavior. In 2015, when Riley was coach of the Portland Thorns, he allegedly forced Farrelly and Shim to kiss to avoid doing drills. Portland Thorns’ management was informed of his inappropriate behavior. While he was released, no further investigation of his actions occurred because there was no explicit or convincing evidence of his actions according to Thorns’ management. 

Farrelly and Shim’s stories are unfortunately not new or surprising. It’s heartbreaking and frustrating. Players including Megan Rapino, Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn (just to name a few) have vented their frustrations and offered their support to Farrelly, Shim and all women who have been sexually abused. In fact, in a series of tweets, Morgan released emails Farrelly sent to commissioner Lisa Baird about her horrific experience and Baird offered no action in response. The NWSL Players Association and individual club teams released statements also showing support to the victims and Riley was fired from his current team. While the response is quick and loud, it’s still a problem that needs to be addressed. The first step is to make the problem known, which is why I find it incredibly useful to be writing this article.  

These issues are not just happening in professional sports: they are happening in colleges, high schools and clubs. Farrelly and Shim’s stories are a reminder that organizations like the NWSL try to sweep these problems under the rug, in hopes of protecting their image. But their stories are a reminder that people like Riley must be held accountable, not protected. It’s a reminder that victims should not have to endure these traumatizing actions and suffer in silence.

Natalia Iding

Wisconsin '23

I'm a Sophomore at the Univerity of Wisconsin-Madison and planning to double major in Human Development and Family Studies and Gender Woman's Studies. In my free time, I like to watch Netflix, play sports, and hang out with my family!
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