NATIONAL Women's Soccer League commissioner Lisa Baird resigned, caving to pressure for failing to probe sexual misconduct and abuse after a league coach was blasted for committing sexual coercion with his players.
Controversy erupted this week detailing North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley’s alleged deplorable conduct with his female players, including two who went public claiming he coerced them and others to engage in sex with him and forced players to binge drink.
Baird wasn't the only one out the door.
NWSL general counsel Lisa Levine was also excused from her role.
'I OWED HIM'
Riley’s former players, Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, were two of a dozen players who came forward in a story in The Athletic accusing Riley of forcing them to have sex with them.
Meleana "Mana" Shim, who played under Riley with Farrelly on the Portland Thorns said: "I felt from the beginning like I owed him."
In one instance, Riley entreated Shim and Farrelly back to his apartment after a night of drinking and urged them to kiss each other as a way to spare the team from a grueling conditioning exercise, according to the publication.
COACH RILEY: NO SEX, JUST DRINKS
Riley responded in an email calling some of the allegations as "completely untrue."
He wrote: "I have never had sex with, or made sexual advances towards these players."
He said he had sometimes partaken in some nights out drinking with his players and occasionally covered their bar tabs, "but I do not take them out drinking."
Riley, who is 58 and hails from England, was fired as head coach of US women’s football club North Carolina Courage and his coaching license was suspended by the U.S. Soccer Federation.
He had been named the head coach of the franchise back in 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The team won the 2019 league championship by beating the Chicago Red Stars.
Sean Nahas has been named interim head coach of the Courage for the remainder of the season to replace Riley.
Late Friday night the league confirmed in a tweet that it had "received and accepted Lisa Baird's resignation as its commissioner."
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
Prior to tendering her resignation, Baird attempted to express contrition on the league's website.
"This week, and much of this season, has been incredibly traumatic for our players and staff, and I take full responsibility for the role I have played. I am so sorry for the pain so many are feeling," Baird wrote.
"Recognizing that trauma, we have decided not to take the field this weekend to give everyone some space to reflect.
"Business as usual isn't our concern right now.
"Our entire league has a great deal of healing to do, and our players deserve so much better."
She hoped the pause would be a first step to "collectively work to transform the culture of this league, something that is long overdue."
The league formally moved ahead to postpone all of Friday’s and this weekend's matches.
US Soccer said it is working to identify someone to investigate the allegations of “sexual coercion and misbehavior by Paul Riley” and promised to share the results publicly, according to a tweeted statement.
"We take seriously our responsibility to vigorously investigate the abhorrent behavior that has been reported and gain a full and frank understanding of the factors that allowed it to happen, and the changes that should be made to make sure it does not happen again," read a portion of the statement by US Soccer.
FIFA also confirmed that it has opened a preliminary investigation into the accusations against Riley and the handling of them.
"As part of this, FIFA will be reaching out to the respective parties, including U.S. Soccer and NWSL, for further information about the various safeguarding concerns and allegations of abuse that have been raised," according to FIFA's statement.
"When it comes to misconduct in football, we would like to reiterate that FIFA's position is clear: anyone found guilty of misconduct and abuse in football shall be brought to justice, sanctioned and removed from the game."
Star player Alex Morgan, who played for Riley at Portland years back, tweeted that the league was "informed" of Riley's allegations "multiple times."
“The league must accept responsibility for a process that failed to protect its own players from this abuse,” she tweeted.
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