Riley Talks

NC Courage head coach Paul Riley talks with an assistant during the club's match against Reign FC at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday, July 13, 2019. The Courage topped the Reign, 2-0.

The North Carolina Courage have terminated head coach Paul Riley, effective immediately, following accusations of sexual coercion made by former players in a report from The Athletic. Sean Nahas has been named as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

The Courage and National women’s soccer league made their statements just before 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, over eight hours after the Athletic’s report went out.

Sinead Farrelly and Meleana "Mana" Shim, who played for Riley at multiple teams, both came forward to The Athletic with accusations of sexual coercion. Shim’s accusations were investigated in 2015 when Riley was the head coach of the Portland Thorns, who decided not to renew Riley’s contract at the end of that season after placing him on administrative leave during the investigation. The investigation did not lead to any further action from the league, and Riley was later hired by the Western New York Flash. Many of Farrelly’s accusations from her time playing under Riley have not been investigated by the NSWL, according to The Athletic’s report.

In addition to Farrelly and Shim, The Athletic spoke to a dozen players who represented every club Riley has coached since 2010, the majority of which asked to remain anonymous. Riley was also accused of making inappropriate comments about players’ sexuality and weight, among other things.

The full accusations can be found in The Athletic’s report from Meg Linehan.

In an email response to a list 23 of questions from The Athletic, Riley said the majority of the allegations are “completely untrue.” According to The Athletic, he specifically said, “I have never had sex with, or made sexual advances towards these players.” 

According to The Athletic, Riley also said in his response that “there’s a chance I’ve said something along the way that offended someone,” but that he does not belittle his players or comment on their weight or personal relationships.

The NC Courage also made the following statement to The Athletic in the report: 

“When we hired Paul, we made perfectly clear the expectations of the job and the values of our club, and from what we know, he has lived up to those expectations,” the statement said. “If there are any players or staff that wish to come forward in accordance with NWSL league policy, we encourage them to report any inappropriate behavior as we will continue to uphold the standard of maintaining a safe and positive environment for all at the club.”

The Portland Thorns made the following statement via the club’s Twitter on Thursday afternoon.

In the wake of The Athletic’s reporting, the NWSL Players Association released the following statement:

“We, the players of the NWSL, stand with Sinead Farrelly, ­­­­­­­Mana Shim, Kaiya McCullough, and each of the players who have brought their stories into the light – both known and unknown. Words cannot adequately capture our anger, pain, sadness, and disappointment.

“To the players who suffer in silence, know that the Players Association holds a safe space for you. We stand ready to confidentially offer you resources and support. You are not alone.

“We refuse to be silent any longer. Our commitment as players is to speak truth to power. We will no longer be complicit in a culture of silence that has enabled abuse and exploitation in our league and in our sport.

“The very lack of basic and fundamental protections that ensure dignity at work are part of what has led to stories like those that have come out this season. NWSL and its Clubs must act swiftly to implement changes that would protect current and future players. The opportunity to do this is right now in our first contract negotiation. In the face of systemic abuse, players demand greater control over their lives and careers.”

The list of the NWSLPA’s demands, which were sent alongside the preceding statement, include that: 

1. The NWSL initiate an independent investigation into the allegations published by The Athletic this morning pursuant to the Anti-Harassment Policy for a Safe Work Environment by 12:00 p.m. EST on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.

2. Any League or Club Staff who are accused of conduct, no matter when it occurred, that violates the current Anti-Harassment Policy for a Safe Work Environment or any mandated reporter who failed to report the alleged violation be suspended immediately, pending the results of the above referenced investigation, and in any event no later than 12:00 p.m. EST on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.

3. The NWSL disclose how Paul Riley was hired within NWSL after departing from another NWSL Club subsequent to an investigation into abusive conduct during the bargaining session scheduled for Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.

Multiple individual NWSL players have also individually spoken out in support, including Orlando Pride’s Alex Morgan, Portland Thorns’ Becky Sauerbrunn, OL Reign’s Megan Rapinoe, Racing Louisville Nadia Nadim and others.

The Uproad NC, a supporters group of the NC Courage, also spoke out on Twitter, demanding that Riley step down and an independent investigation be conducted.

Sports Editor

I'm Nicholas Schnittker, one of the two assistant sports editors for Technician. I'm in the class of 2022 and am currently majoring in communication and minoring in journalism. I have been at Technician since August 2018 and an editor since May 2019.