NWSL weekend games off; Portland rally planned in support of players
The reckoning continued into Friday evening, Oct. 1, for leaders of the National Women's Soccer League, a day after a report by Meg Linehan of The Athletic detailed instances of sexual coercion involving former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley.
Late Friday, the NWSL announced the resignation of commissioner Lisa Baird.
Earlier Friday, Baird announced that none of the scheduled NWSL matches will be played this weekend — including the Thorns' scheduled Saturday showdown with Reign FC. That decision reportedly came after the league's players demanded the weekend games be canceled.
The Thorns' supporters group, the Rose City Riveters, is planning a rally in support of NWSL players at 5 p.m. Saturday at Southwest 18th and Morrison.
Riley was fired Thursday by the North Carolina Courage, had his coaching license revoked by U.S. Soccer and is suspended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. U.S. Soccer and FIFA, soccer's international governing body, have also announced investigations into alleged abuse within the NWSL and its clubs.
In Linehan's difficult-to-read report, former Thorns player Sinead Farrelly and Meleana "Mana" Shim relate abusive and coercive behavior by Riley both before and during his tenure from 2014-15 as Thorns coach.
The revelations — most of which Riley denied to The Athletic —Â are the latest in a string of abuse-related coaching changes within the league.
Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke, Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly and OL Reign coach Farid Benstiti have all been dismissed this season, reportedly because of abusive actions toward players.
Among the many players to thank Shim and Farrelly through social media was Thorns defender Meghan Klingenberg, who in a Twitter post called it "enraging" that Riley was rehired in the league after his contract was not renewed in Portland following an investigation of a Thorns player's complaint about Riley.
In a statement released Thursday, the thorns acknowledged that investigation led to the club parting with Riley because of "clear violations of our company policies."
In part, Klingenberg's post read: "Why is it always on players' shoulders to bear the burden? Why do we have to put up with inadequate conditions and unsafe work environments while abusers get protection, good pay and a new hunting ground to prey on young women.
"This league won't fold. But it sure as hell won't ever be the same. And that's a good thing."
In its statement about asking for this weekend's games be cancelled, the NWSL Players Association said it understands that fans juggle schedules to attend games. In part, that statement read:
"We hope that fans will understand and support us through this time. This is far from over for any of us.
"As players, we hope that those who read this statement will hear that it's OK not to be OK. It is OK to take space to process, to feel, and to take care of yourself. In fact, it's more than OK. It's a priority.
"That, as players, will be our focus this weekend."
Currently, the Thorns are scheduled to host Houston at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 6. The club's website states that tickets for Saturday's match will be honored if the match is rescheduled. If the match is not rescheduled, the club will announce options for ticket holders.
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