National Women’s Soccer League set to resume games amid sexual harassment scandal

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FILE – The North Carolina Courage celebrate with the championship trophy following their win over the Chicago Red Stars in an NWSL championship soccer game in Cary, N.C., in this Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, file photo. The National Women’s Soccer League will not play the games scheduled for this weekend as it deals with the fallout from allegations of sexual misconduct against a former coach. North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley was fired by the team following a report in The Athletic that detailed the alleged misconduct, which included claims from two former players of sexual coercion. The NWSL did not specify Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, whether the games were canceled or postponed. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker, File)

(NewsNation Now) — The National Women’s Soccer League is set to resume games this week after a stretch of games were canceled in response to reports of a former coach’s alleged sexual harassment and misconduct.

The league was rocked last week when two former players came forward with allegations of harassment, including sexual coercion, against North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley. Weekend games were canceled in response to the allegations, which were first published by The Athletic.

“Today we stand with Mana, Sinead, and Kaiya as they continue to tell their stories,” a statement from the NWSL players Twitter account said in part Tuesday morning. “We have made the decision to proceed with Wednesday night’s scheduled competition, but our demands will be forthcoming.”

The alleged misconduct, which includes claims of sexual coercion, stretched back more than a decade, according a report by The Athletic. The claims of abuse in the report were made by former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim.

The alleged harassment of Farrelly started in 2011 when she was a player with the Philadelphia Independence of the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer League.

She told the Athletic the harassment continued when Farrelly was with the Portland Thorns. Shim, a former Thorns player, also allegedly experienced harassment. The Thorns said Thursday that the team investigated claims about Riley and passed those on to the league when he was dismissed.

Riley was immediately fired by the Courage, and both FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, and U.S. Soccer opened investigations into why he was able to continue coaching even after the players brought their concerns to the league. Riley was head coach of the Thorns in 2014 and 2015. After he was let go by the Thorns, he became head coach of the Western New York Flash for a season before the team was sold and moved to North Carolina.

Riley told The Athletic the allegations were “completely untrue.”

NWSL League Commissioner LIsa Baird resigned Friday night and NWSL launched an independent investigation Sunday into its handling of abuse claims.

U.S. Soccer was instrumental in founding the NWSL in 2013 and helped support the league until last year, when it became independent. The federation continues its financial support of the league.

In addition to the NWSL’s announcement, U.S. Soccer said it had retained former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to lead its investigation into abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in women’s professional soccer. Yates now works in private practice.

“U.S. Soccer takes seriously its responsibility to vigorously investigate the abhorrent conduct reported, gain a full and frank understanding of the factors that allowed it to happen and take meaningful steps to prevent this from happening in the future,” the federation said in a statement.

The league’s board of governors appointed an executive committee made up of Amanda Duffy, Angie Long and Sophie Sauvage to oversee the front office until a new commissioner is named.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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