Los Angeles (AFP) – US national team star Alex Morgan on Monday blasted the North America’s top professional women’s soccer league for not doing more to protect players over the last decade from sexual harassment by some of its coaches.
Morgan’s comments come in the wake of The Athletic’s reporting last week detailing alleged sexual misconduct by former National Women’s Soccer League coach Paul Riley, spanning multiple teams and leagues since 2010.
Morgan was speaking on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday where she was joined by two players, Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly, who previously played for Riley and went on record with allegations against him.
“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,” said Morgan, who won a gold medal with the US Olympic team in 2012.
“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.”
Farrelly, who played for Riley at three different teams, accused the coach of “sexual coercion” while he was her coach at the Philadelphia Independence.
Riley went on to become the coach of the North Carolina Courage after the Portland Thorns sacked him. The Courage fired Riley last week.
In the fallout from the allegations, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned last week from her job.
The league had also postponed a number of weekend matches but said Tuesday that the schedule would continue going forward.
Shim said Tuesday that Riley destroyed their careers.
“He’s a predator. He sexually harassed me, he sexually coerced Sinead, and he took away our careers,” Shim said. “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.”
In a statement to The Athletic, Riley denied wrongdoing, describing the allegations as “completely untrue.”
“I have never had sex with, or made sexual advances towards these players,” he told the website.
The league’s player’s union, the NWSLPA, has said that “systemic abuse” was “plaguing the NWSL.”
The NWSL announced Sunday it had retained a lawyer to oversee a number of investigations.
US Soccer and FIFA have also said they would launch investigations into the matter.