North Carolina Courage takes the field for first game since coach Paul Riley sacked

CARY, NC (WTVD) – The North Carolina Courage will take the field Wednesday night for their first game since the dismissal of his head coach on the sexual coercion allegations last week.

Steve Malik, the owner of Courage said on Wednesday that the organization was not aware of allegations of sexual harassment against former coach Paul Riley until the report which led to his dismissal and apologized for “the ‘failure’ of the franchise to create an environment where players feel safe. advancing.

Malik’s statement in an open letter was the team’s first public comment following the announcement of Riley’s sacking last Thursday. The allegations rocked the league and leads to resignation National Women’s Soccer League Commissioner Lisa Baird.

Malik said in his letter that Courage “did their due diligence” in retaining Riley and the coaching staff after Malik bought the team in 2017.

“We were made aware of an investigation into Mr. Riley’s behavior in 2015 and were subsequently assured that he was in good standing,” Malik wrote. “During her employment with Courage, we had no knowledge of any allegations of sexual harassment or coercion. When we learned of the horrific allegations in last week’s report, we took them seriously and immediately heard about them. fired Mr. Riley. “

ABC11 reached out to Malik on Wednesday, who returned the comments to its communications department. The players were not made available to the media.

Two former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim have presented allegations of abuse, including sexual coercion, dating back over a decade. The allegations were detailed last week in an article in The Athletic.

Riley has denied any inappropriate behavior.

He coached the Portland Thorns in the NWSL in 2014 and 2015 when he was fired by the team, who had investigated him and shared his findings with the league. Riley then went on to coach the Western New York Flash for a season before the team was sold and moved to North Carolina in 2017.

Riley’s sacking was the latest in a string of recent scandals involving the NWSL, the top women’s professional football league in the United States.

Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke was fired last week for violating the NWSL’s anti-harassment policy detailed in the Washington Post.

OL coach Reign Farid Benstiti was ordered to resign in July after inappropriate comments made during training. Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly was sacked last month for reasons that were not made public, and Gotham FC general manager Alyse LaHue was sacked for violating the anti-harassment policy of the league. She denied the allegations.

US Soccer and FIFA have announced investigations into the league’s handling of the Riley case.

The NWSL games scheduled for last weekend have been canceled at the request of the players’ union. The league was scheduled to resume play Wednesday night, with Courage hosting Racing Louisville. Kick-off is at 7:30 p.m. at Sahlen Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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