Women’s Soccer Faces a #MeToo Moment

national women's soccer league

Players are speaking out about the sexual harassment and abuse they experienced.

In a recent report by The Athletic, National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) players accused longtime coach Paul Riley of sexual harassment and abuse. One of them, Sinead Farrelly, said he coerced her into having sex, while another, Mana Shim, said he pressured her and Farrelly to kiss in front of him. Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke was also accused of verbal abuse and creating a toxic work culture for women in a Washington Post report.

The situation in their own words: Farrelly and Shim went on Today to discuss the abuse. “He’s a predator,” Shim said. “He took away our careers.” The sport’s others stars have also stood beside them — and accused the league of not protecting its players. Alex Morgan claimed on Twitter that the NWSL knew about the accusations but had failed to act “multiple times,” while Megan Rapinoe wrote: “Burn it all down. Let all their heads roll.”

What has the fallout been? Both Riley and Burke were fired. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird and Washington Spirit CEO and majority owner Steve Baldwin both resigned, and the league canceled games scheduled for last weekend.

What comes next? Players are pressuring Baldwin to go even further by selling his stake in the club. Meanwhile, U.S. Soccer has hired former acting Attorney General Sally Yates to lead an investigation into the league. The reckoning has also spread to leagues across the globe, with top players in Venezuela and Australia going public with their own stories of abuse.