National Women’s Football League players take a mid-game break and stand together in the first return match after the postponement


In the first two of three games scheduled for Wednesday, players from NJ / NY Gotham FC and Washington Spirit gathered with their arms folded for a minute before play resumed, as did the players in the match between North Carolina Courage and Racing. Louisville FC.

Fans from both matches gave a standing ovation and applauded as the players gathered.

The protest will take place during all three matches, the National Women’s Football League Players Association announced on Wednesday. Game three of the night features Portland Thorns FC and Houston Dash in Portland, Oregon.

The controversy stems from an investigative report from The Athletic last week in which players said North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley used his influence and power to sexually harass players and, in an incident, forcing a player to have sex with him. .

In the report, former player Sinead Farrelly described how a married Riley forced her into his hotel room to have sex. Another reported incident describes that Riley forced Farrelly and his teammate Mana Shim to return to his apartment and pressured the two to kiss each other.

The Athletic asked Riley for comment on his alleged misconduct, to which he replied that the former players’ claims were “completely untrue”. According to The Athletic, Riley told them in an email, “I have never had sex or made sexual advances towards these players.”

CNN was unable to reach Riley for comment.

The impact of the report has been significant. Courage fired Riley. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird has resigned and the 10-team league called off all games scheduled for the weekend over the allegations against Riley, which resulted in three franchises in eight seasons.
Steve Baldwin, CEO and managing partner of Washington Spirit of the NWSL, also resigned Tuesday. His statement on Twitter refers to a recent request from players as part of the reason for their resignation.
Shortly before Thorns’ game on Wednesday, Portland general manager and president of football Gavin Wilkinson was placed on administrative leave “pending the results of the independent outside inquiry, which is ongoing.” the team announced. CNN is trying to contact Wilkinson for further comment.

The NWSL Players Association said in a statement that scheduled games will resume on Wednesday, adding the hashtag #NoMoreSilence.

“We took the weekend break to assess,” the NWSLPA said in a statement. “We recognize that we will not deal with the pain of the last few days in a weekend or a week. Amid the statements leagues and clubs are releasing quickly, we are listening to ourselves and each other.”

Courage owner apologizes

Former head coach Paul Riley of North Carolina Courage denied accusations of sexual misconduct in The Athletic report.

In a letter Wednesday, North Carolina Courage owner and president Steve Malik apologized and vowed to create a safe environment for the players.

“Let me start by saying that I am deeply sorry for our role in the failure to create an environment where players feel safe and comfortable to come forward,” Malik said in the letter.

He said the club were made aware of an investigation into Riley’s behavior in 2015, but they were “assured he was in good standing”. He did not disclose who assured him of this.

Malik said the team had no prior knowledge of the “horrific” allegations against Riley until last week’s report. Malik said the team did their due diligence to the former coach after purchasing the Riley-run franchise in 2017, then known as the Western New York Flash.

“As soon as we learned of the serious allegations against Mr. Riley, we immediately terminated his employment. There is no room for this behavior and abuse in our sport and our society. Mr. Riley was the first step, and we keep thinking about how we could have been better, ”said Malik.

Farrelly, talk to NBC Tuesday Along with Shim and US women’s national team forward Alex Morgan, said the damage Riley’s done “seeps into every part” of their livelihood.

“I think that’s really important and why we wanted to share our story and share in so much detail the damage that has been done to our careers, but who we are as people,” said Farrelly, who has played for Riley in three different teams, explained.

“The damage to my self-confidence, the way I saw myself and the way I approach life, it seeps into every part of your livelihood,” Farrelly told NBC.

“There are a lot of losses that come with that and things that I won’t recover and I think when we can harness the emotional impact of just showing up to try and be authentic yourself it can really knock you down. home for a lot of people because it’s bigger than sport. It’s about safety in our own lives and our bodies and the players deserve it. We all deserve it. And that’s something for which we will fight. “

CNN’s David Close, Jacob Lev, and Ben Morse contributed to this report.

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