Paul Riley surrounded by North Carolina Courage soccer players.
Paul Riley at a North Carolina Courage training session on July 11, 2017, at WakeMed Soccer Park Field 6 in Cary, NC.
Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • The National Women's Soccer League fired coach Paul Riley on Thursday following player allegations of misconduct.
  • Hours after the report, a group of players accused the league of institutional failure in handling Riley.
  • The players released a statement demanding an indpendent investigation.
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A group of US women's soccer players accused the National Women's Soccer League of institutional failure on Thursday, hours after an Athletic report detailed accusations of sexual coercion and inappropriate comments against two-time Coach of the Year Paul Riley.

The NWSL and North Carolina Courage, where Riley has coached since 2017, released a statement following the report announcing Riley's termination.

NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird announced the league would conduct an investigation into the allegations against Riley, which include incidents of sexual harassment, intimidation, misconduct, and comments about players' weight and sexual orientation.

In The Athletic piece, players Sinead Farrelly and Meleana "Mana" Shim detailed the trauma they sustained while playing for Riley.

Two-time World Cup champion Alex Morgan, who previously played under Riley, confirmed their stories and told the outlet that she tried to help them report Riley's behavior to the league.

Following Baird's statement, Morgan tweeted screenshots of emails sent to the league discussing players' accusations against Riley.

"The league was informed of these allegations multiple times and refused multiple times to investigate the allegations," Morgan said on Twitter. "The league must accept responsibility for a process that failed to protect its own players from abuse."

On Thursday evening, the NWSL Players Association released a statement demanding an independent investigation into the matter. The players also demanded that any staff accused of violating an anti-harassment policy that was put in place last spring be suspended, and asked the league to explain how Riley was re-hired following a past investigation into abusive coaching allegation.

"The NWSL has failed us," the players said. "We are taking our power back."

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