NJ / NY players Gotham FC, Washington Spirit, NC Courage and Racing Louisville FC stopped playing six minutes after their Wednesday night clashes and held hands in midfield as the National Players Association of The Women’s Soccer League released a statement that read, in part, “#NoMoreSilence,” on the league’s return to play following egregious allegations against former NC Courage coach Paul Riley.
“Tonight, we reclaim our place in the field, because we will not let them take away our joy,” the statement read. “But this is not business as usual.”
The NWSLPA announced that each team will stop playing in the sixth minute on Wednesday and players will stand in solidarity in midfield “for a minute in honor of the 6 years it took Mana, Sinead and all those who fought too long to be heard “. “
“We call on the fans to remain silent with us. During that time, we ask that they remain in that pain and discomfort with us, as we consider what they have asked us to sit for too long, in that minute. , what is required of each one of us to recover our league and our sport ”.
The Players Association added that after the games, players will not “answer any questions that do not relate to abuse and systemic change at NWSL.”
“The reckoning has already begun. We will not be silent. We will be relentless in our pursuit of a league that deserves the players in it.”
Wednesday marked the first competitions since the NWSL suspended games last weekend as the league faces a full-scale scandal.
Riley was fired last week following a damning report from The Athletic detailed allegations of sexual coercion of former players. Additionally, former players said Riley made inappropriate comments about the players’ weight and sexual orientations, with allegations spanning three teams and three leagues, beginning in 2011.
Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim shared incidents with The athletic from when Riley allegedly sexually coerced former players, including when Riley allegedly brought the two players to his apartment in 2015 after a night of drinking and pressured them to kiss while he watched.
Shim filed a complaint about Riley’s behavior at the franchise’s main office several days after the 2015 season ended. However, Riley remained employed in the league, and was later rehired in 2016 by Western New York Flash (the franchisee). who eventually moved to North Carolina).
Riley was fired Thursday after the report was released and NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird resigned Friday night.
The same night, FIFA Announced will conduct its own investigation into Riley’s allegations “due to the seriousness and seriousness of the players’ allegations.”
“As part of this, FIFA will be reaching out to the respective parties, including US Soccer and NWSL, to learn more about the various safeguarding concerns and allegations of abuse that have been raised,” the statement read: partly. “When it comes to misconduct in football, we would like to reiterate that FIFA’s position is clear: anyone found guilty of misconduct and abuse in football will be prosecuted, sanctioned and expelled from the game.”
The United States Soccer Federation followed shortly thereafter, announcing that it will “initiate an independent investigation into the allegations of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct reported yesterday by The athletic. “
The league’s board of governors Announced multiple changes and initiatives following Riley’s firing and Baird’s resignation, including the formation of an executive committee that will oversee the operations of the league’s main office as the NWSL conducts a global search for a permanent commissioner. Additionally, NWSL contracted with Covington & Burling to investigate the environments in which players compete, train and live, and reform measures will be suggested at the end of the investigation.
This will include the reopening of the 2015 investigation into Riley’s departure from the Portland Thorns and his hiring by Flash.
However, the NWSLPA announced Wednesday its own demands to address the necessary systemic transformation within the league, including, but not limited to, expanding the scope of the league’s investigation. In addition, they want to introduce a new protocol that would require that any person in power “at the time a Club hires or separates from employment a coach who was, is or will be under investigation for abuse, be suspended from any governance function or supervision”. within NWSL pending the conclusion of an independent investigation, effectively immediately. “
The league-wide scandal extends beyond Riley.
Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin announced his plan to step down from his roles as CEO and managing partner, effective Tuesday, on Tuesday. The move came after the club announced last week that it had fired coach Richie Burke for good cause after he was initially suspended on allegations of verbal and emotional abuse in August.
According to the Washington PostThe NWSL investigation of the coach expanded to allegations by several female employees of a toxic “old boys club” culture, which included a male executive using demeaning nicknames for female players.
Burke was reportedly fired for harassment and for creating a toxic work culture for female employees, according to Washington Post investigation. In the report, former players said Burke “made racially insensitive jokes” and described him as “incredibly volatile.”
The Spirit players went public with their fight on Tuesday when they posted statements on their social media pages asking him to sell the team to Y. Michele Kang. The players expressed in their unified statement that the one they trust is Kang, as she “continually puts the needs and interests of the players first.”
Beyond Riley and Burke, OL Reign coach Farid Benstiti was forced to resign in July after inappropriate comments made during training. Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly was also fired for good cause earlier this season, and Gotham FC general manager Alyse LaHue was fired for violating the league’s anti-bullying policy.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.