The Army of Survivors would like to extend support to soccer players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, and commend them for their bravery in speaking out against the abuse they experienced. The sexual coercion they described in an article in The Athletic demonstrates a gross abuse of power by former coach Paul Riley, and brings to light the systemic failures in the NWSL’s handling of reports.
These recent events prove the need for sports institutions — from youth to professional leagues — to have better policies in place when athletes report abuse.
Although the U.S. Soccer Federation has brought on Sally Yates to conduct an investigation “into allegations of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in women’s professional soccer,” it should not have taken this long for a full investigation to be initiated. The NWSL failed in its handling of the initial complaint against Riley, and he should never have been allowed to continue coaching at another club and continuing his pattern of abuse. When a complaint of this nature is filed, an investigation and suspension should occur so this pattern of abuse cannot continue at another club. It is our hope that the current investigation will utilize trauma-informed practices to mitigate the possibility of retraumatization for the survivors. Furthermore, full transparency of the investigation is necessary to ensure all perpetrators and enablers of the abuse are held accountable.
Athletes of all levels deserve better protection and have the right to feel safe in their sport. No person should be able to use their position of power to bring abuse or harm upon athletes, and a cultural change in sports is necessary to give athletes the power they deserve