Following a shocking revelation detailing claims of sexual abuse leveled against a longstanding head coach, the National Women’s Soccer League is in chaos. Paul Riley, the former coach of the North Carolina Courage and two-time NWSL Coach of the Year, was largely considered as one of the league’s top coaches.
According to recent accusations, Riley was abusing his position of power behind the scenes. Riley has been accused of sexual misconduct, including enticing players into his bed, pushing them into intercourse, and forcing them to kiss each other for his pleasure. Riley’s coaching license and coaching position with the North Carolina Courage were stripped in light of the allegations.
Riley’s abusive tendencies were exposed in Meg Linehan’s reporting for The Athletic. Sinead Farrelly and Meleana “Mana” Shim, two of Riley’s former players, spoke out in an article about the inappropriate behavior they witnessed on his teams.
Both Farrelly and Shim have detailed grooming tactics used by Riley during his tenure as coach of the Portland Thorns. The players claim that Riley took advantage of their youth, inexperience, and reliance on him as a coach to test the limits of their relationships. Riley is also said to have wooed the players with dinner dates and phone calls to hotel rooms under the premise of soccer chat, then pushed them to consume alcohol and compel them into sexual favors.
Farrelly claims that Riley coerced her into sex on multiple occasions. Alternatively, Shim claims she never had sex with Riley, but notes that she was concerned that her coach was attempting to seduce her. Shim further accused him of sending her obscene photographs through text message and invited her into his hotel room while he was dressed in only his underwear.
Riley was also accused of paying Farrelly and Shim to kiss in front of him in exchange for a less rigorous fitness regimen the next day during practice. He allegedly made sexist remarks about women and others because of their sexual orientation, according to his accusers.
Riley is not the only one who is dealing with the fallout from the allegations. Only days after an article was released, the NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird resigned, and general counsel Lisa Levine was fired. In Farrelly and Shim’s claims against Riley, they allege that these league officials took no action after learning of Riley’s misconduct.
Beyond the dismissal of Baird and Levine, NWSL supporters and players continue to demand responsibility. Members of the Thorns’ front office who handled Riley’s probe are still in positions of power in the organization. Those at the North Carolina Courage who hired Riley despite probes exposing his behavior have yet to face any penalties for their actions.
During the time of the complaint, the league took a brief break from play to allow everyone to reflect on the revelations surrounding Riley. The game is set to resume soon, but the aftermath of the incident is far from over.
Sexual assault cases can be extremely difficult to deal with, regardless of whether they are publicized or fly under the radar. Effects can be long-lasting, with physical, financial, and emotional strain leaving lasting scars.
If you are dealing with a situation involving sexual misconduct, do not wait to reach out to an experienced sexual assault attorney. At Goldstein & Bashner, we could help you obtain justice and hold the wrongful party accountable. Call today to discuss your options with a compassionate member of our legal team.