The footballers stopped on the field six minutes into Wednesday’s games in the National Women’s Soccer League and linked their arms in a circle to show solidarity with two former players who accused a prominent coach of harassment and others. misconduct.

The acts of protest occurred during games between Gotham FC and Philadelphia’s Spirit of Washington and between the North Carolina Courage and Louisville Racing.

“Tonight, we reclaim our place on the court, because we will not let our joy be taken away from us,” the NWSL Players Association warned in a statement released Wednesday night. “But this is not for things to continue as usual.”

The league had just returned to the court after suspending last weekend’s games as the allegations leveled Sept. 30 against former Courage coach Paul Riley, who was subsequently fired, faded.

Hours earlier, the owner of the Courage apologized for the team’s “failure” to create an environment in which players felt safe to speak out.

Courage owner Steve Malik’s statement was the team’s first public comment following Riley’s impeachment announcement last Thursday. The allegations rocked the league and led to the resignation of NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird.

Malik said in his letter that, after acquiring the Courage in 2017, he “conducted due diligence” to retain Riley and the coaching staff.

“We became aware of an investigation into Mr. Riley’s behavior in 2015 and were subsequently assured that all was well,” Malik wrote. “During his employment with the Courage, we were not aware of allegations of sexual harassment or coercion. When we learned of the horrible allegations in last week’s reports, we took them seriously and immediately fired Mr. Riley. “

Two former NWSL players, Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, made public allegations of abuse, including sexual coercion, dating back more than a decade. The allegations were detailed last week in a note by The Athletic.

Riley has denied any inappropriate behavior.

He led the Portland Thorns of the NWSL in 2014 and 2015, when he was fired by the team, which had investigated him and shared his findings with the league. Riley took over the reins of the Western New York Flash for a season, before the team was sold and relocated to North Carolina in 2017.

Riley’s firing was the latest in a series of scandals involving the NWSL, America’s leading professional women’s soccer league.

 

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