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National Women's Soccer (NWSL)

Courage fire coach Paul Riley after report of sexually coercing players

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The North Carolina Courage of the NWSL fired coach Paul Riley Thursday afternoon after allegations of sexual misconduct toward his players over the years.

“The Courage support the players who have come forward and we commend them for bravely sharing their stories,” read an official statement signed by “the players, staff and principal owner” of the club.

“The North Carolina Football Club is united together in our commitment to creating a safe, positive and respectful environment, not only within our club but across the league and our great sport. As previously stated, players and staff are encouraged to report any inappropriate behavior in accordance with NWSL policy as we prioritize efforts to maintain the highest professional standards of conduct throughout our organization.”

U.S. Soccer also responded by suspending Riley’s coaching license.

“These are serious allegations and these athletes — and all the players in the NWSL — have our unequivocal support,” a statement from U.S. Soccer said. “U.S. Soccer is in communication with the NWSL as they review this matter and will work with them to ensure meaningful steps are taken to ensure a safe and supportive environment across the league.”

The Athletic cited more than a dozen of Riley’s former players, including two who went on the record, Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, to detail the English coach’s pattern of behavior. Riley was alleged to have coerced Farrelly and other players to have sex with him, forced players to join in on nights of excessive drinking, sent some of them a lurid picture and manipulated them mentally and emotionally in other ways related to their playing time and status on the team.

The National Women’s Soccer League Players Association called for an investigation into Riley’s history.

Riley, 58, has coached women’s teams since 2006 and began coaching North Carolina in 2017.

Sean Nahas was named interim head coach of the Courage for the remainder of the season.

–Field Level Media

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