Alex Morgan: USWNT star demands NWSL be 'proactive' after sexual abuse allegations

US women’s football team striker Alex Morgan has demanded the National Women’s Soccer League be "proactive, not reactive" after it was rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct

US women’s football team striker Alex Morgan has demanded the National Women’s Soccer League be “proactive, not reactive” after it was rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct.

Last week, The Athletic detailed allegations of sexual misconduct by North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley, having spoken to more than a dozen players he had coached since 2010.

One player, Sinead Farrelly, claimed Riley coerced her into having sex with him while they were both at Portland Thorns. She also accused Riley of forcing her to kiss a teammate, Mana Shim, at his apartment.

Since The Athletic’s report was published, North Carolina Courage has sacked Riley, who denies “the majority” of allegations. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird has also resigned from her position, and last weekend’s matches were postponed. 

Farrelly, Shim and Morgan appeared on NBC’s Today Show to discuss the NWSL’s failure to tackle the allegations adequately.

“I’m here to support Mana and Sinead and to continue to amplify their voices, and just show the systemic failure from the league and how wrong they did in handling Mana’s case and complaint and investigation and where they failed Mana and Sinead, and probably many other women,” Morgan said.

“When I look back, I tried to be as good a friend and teammate as possible to Mana in helping her file a complaint, when at the time there was no anti-harassment policy in place, there was no league HR, there was no anonymous hotline, there was no way to report.

“We’ve now started to put these things in place, by demand of players, not by the league being proactive. Something we ask is for the league to start being proactive, not reactive. We’re asking for transparency.”

Shim spoke openly about the abuse she suffered under Riley.

“He’s a predator,” she said. “He sexually harassed me, he sexually coerced Sinead, and he took away our careers. From early on, there was a possession not just from Paul, but from the team that I was playing for.

“They silenced me for multiple issues, my sexuality being the most important one, and, yeah I was just very, very uncomfortable the whole time.

“And every day I showed up to work, every day I practiced, every game I played, I didn’t have confidence and I was scared. The only thing that got me through was my teammates.”

The allegations surrounding Riley, who led North Carolina Courage to back-to-back NWSL championships in 2018 and 2019, are just the latest reports of misconduct to emerge from the league.

Last year, Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen was forced to sell the club after reports of racist comments and a sexist culture in the front office. Head coach Craig Harrington was also put on administrative leave after claims of misconduct.

Gotham FC dismissed general manager Alyse LaHue in July after she was found to have violated the NWSL’s new anti-harassment policy, while Washington Spirit head coach Richie Burke had his contract terminated earlier this week after an investigation into allegations of verbal and emotional abuse of players.

On NBC’s Today Show, Farrelly said going public with the allegations had increased awareness of the ongoing issues in the NWSL.

“The support and the validation of this story by everyone globally has just been, has blown me away and really has felt like it has given my pain a purpose,” she said. “Mana and Alex and a couple of other women we worked with, and every person who’s reached out and shown support, has turned this moment into a movement and made this matter.

“They have truly amplified our voices and just made this what it should be, which is a huge deal, and demanding change.”

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