Allegations of misconduct and sexual harassment by former Thorns coach shake NWSL


Thorns’ match against OL Reign is called off and Portland Thorns fans have scheduled a protest on Saturday October 2 in Providence Park as allegations of misconduct by a former Thorns coach sweep through the National Women’s Soccer League.

On September 30, sports journalism site The Athletic published a highly publicized investigative story by Megan Linehan who alleged misconduct on the part of Paul Riley, coach of North Carolina Courage and former coach of the Portland Thorns.

Two former Thorns players, Sinead Farrelly and Meleana “Mana” Shim, alleged that Riley sexually harassed them, entered into sex with Farrelly while training him, openly obsessed with the sexual orientation of both players and had them pressured into getting them into sexual situations, such as asking them to kiss in his Portland apartment after a night of drinking in the Pearl District so that the entire team can avoid a punitive exercise called the “suicide mile” the next day. He also reportedly called Shim to his room to review video footage of the matches, but was only wearing underwear when he arrived. (Riley denied the players’ accounts.)

In response to the story, the North Carolina Courage fired Riley and the American Football Federation. suspended his coaching license.

The article’s allegations raise important questions for the Thorns franchise and its owner, Merritt Paulson. The team told The Athletic they fired Riley weeks after Shim filed a complaint with the team’s human resources department in 2015. But they haven’t made any public statement on the reasons for the dismissal. of Riley at the time, and he was hired by another team in the NWSL. , the Western New York Flash, five months later.

Portland thorns issued a statement, stating that “there is a lot in the article that we are hearing about for the first time,” before explaining that while their investigation into Riley’s conduct “did not reveal any illegal activity, they discovered clear violations of our company policies. The findings of the investigation were fully shared with the NWSL.

About 20 minutes later, Thorns’ social media account added, “We want to thank Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly for courageously speaking out and we fully apologize for our role in the abuse they detailed.”

Following the accusations, the players’ union, the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association, issued a series of demands:

Following the cancellation of not only the Thorns game, but all scheduled NWSL games this weekend, the players’ union has also revealed he had asked for the adjournment.

“Dressing for match day under the lights in front of supporting fans is what brings us joy. We refuse to have that joy taken away from us. We also recognize, however, that struggles for sanity are real, “a union statement read.” We hope the fans will support us during this time. “

Thorns fan club Rose City Riveters, which is actually part of a fan club network called the Independent Supporters Council, made an appeal on Twitter: “18th and Morrison. 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. tomorrow. We will come together to support our players, so bring your voice!

Fans of Seattle’s OL Reign, who may have traveled to Portland for the now-canceled game, have been encouraged to join the protest by their own Royal Guard fan club, who tweeted: “Solidarity wins over rivalry.”

The Riveters account answered questions about the event – it will be suitable for families and people should bring signs to wave – but when contacted to comment on what the protest wanted to accomplish, they referred WW to the statement issued by the ISL of North America.

ISL’s statement expresses its disgust at the revelations and the “model of lack of basic workplace protections” within NWSL. “There is no policy to protect players,” the statement read. The ISL press release then takes up verbatim the demands of the players’ union. Read the full statement here.


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