‘Sickened’: Former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley accused of sexual coercion, widespread misconduct

Updated: Sep. 30, 2021 at 9:48 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - A bombshell investigation by The Athletic accusing former Portland Thorns FC head coach Paul Riley of sexual coercion and misconduct with players has ignited a firestorm in the National Women’s Soccer League.

The report (subscription required) lays out a lengthy list of accusations by former Thorns players Sinead Farrelly and Meleana Shim, both of whom said they felt pressured by Riley to engage in inappropriate behavior or risk losing their careers. Farrelly said Riley coerced her into having sex with him on more than one occasion, and both former players said he convinced the two to kiss each other in his apartment after a long night of drinking.

He’s also accused of making inappropriate comments about players’ weights and “fixating” on their romantic relationships, among other complaints by former players from different teams. The former players are placing at least some of the blame on Thorns management and the league for covering it up.

Riley, who was fired by the Thorns in 2015 after Shim reported the allegations to the team’s owner and general manager, was hired by another team a few months later. He was serving as head coach of North Carolina Courage until Thursday, when the team promptly fired him after the report was published.

In a statement issued Thursday, the Thorns said the investigation into Riley in 2015 uncovered “clear violations of our company policies,” but not “unlawful activity.” They said they reported all of their findings to the league.

“The article is a difficult read and there are some horrifying revelations,” the Thorns said. “We have grown since 2015 as an organization and will continue to seek to improve and get better.”

The team also added to their Tweet that they commend both former players for “bravely speaking out.”

Reactions to the report have been candid.

Former Thorns player and Team USA standout Alex Morgan, who helped Shim find a way to report her experience to the organization, said she is “sickened.”

Current Thorns player and two-time Olympic gold medalist Christine Sinclair called it “unacceptable.”

And OL Reign and Team USA star Megan Rapinoe, a University of Portland alum, called everyone involved, including those she said helped to cover the allegations up, “monsters.”

The NWSL, meanwhile, said the league is implementing several new policies designed to protect players following the disturbing report.