TW: Sexual abuse
The NWSL is under fire yet again, with an investigation underway to find all allegations of abuse within the league.
Here is just a summary of the 172-page report here that outlines the systematic abuse within the NWSL —
Christy Holly: Asked to leave Sky Blue FC in the middle of the 2017 season due to his verbal abuse and alleged relationship with a player. The club said Holly and the team “mutually agreed” to part ways. Later, he was fired by Racing Louisville in August 2021 after groping a player on multiple occasions.
“He requested that she meet him to review the game film at his house and showed her pornography instead, masturbating in front of her before she left. In another incident, under the pretense of watching game film, he touched her genitals and breasts each time she made an errant pass in the video.”
Paul Riley: He coerced at least three players into sexual relationships. Allegations of Riley’s sexual misconduct were brought to the NWSL and U.S. Soccer every year starting in 2015. In 2014, an anonymous player survey identified Riley as verbally abusive, sexist, and destructive. USWNT players reported to then-U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and then-USWNT coach Jill Ellis that Riley was abusive. Riley went on to coach for the Flash and the Courage. When Courage owner Steve Malik pressed in 2017 about the reason for Riley’s departure from the Thorns, Malik was told that Riley was “essentially cleared” by a team investigation. Players had visited Riley’s apartment, Malik was informed, but it boiled down to a case of “poor judgment,” and “nothing else was reported.”
Rory Dames: Created a “sexualized team environment” for his youth club. He spoke to players “about foreplay, oral sex, and their sex lives.” He crossed the line to sexual relationships in multiple cases. USWNT players, including Christen Press, reported to Gulati and Ellis in 2014 that Dames created a hostile environment with the Chicago Red Stars. In 2014 and 2015, player surveys reported Dames as “abusive” and “unprofessional.” In 2018, Press formally complained to USSF for a SECOND time, saying Dames “emotionally abused” players. In 2021, a sports psychologist at the Red Stars found that 70% of the club’s players reported being emotionally abused. Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler was told by players starting in 2014 that Dames was emotionally and verbally abusive. Dames was then pushed to resign in 2021, but the Red Stars omitted the allegations of abuse in their announcement of his resignation. Sadly, Dames continues to own his youth club.
Recommendations from US Soccer in the report include background screenings for all U.S. Soccer members, from the youth to the professional level. Eliminating the use of nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements, which “act to shield information about abusive coaches.” Suspension of licenses for coaches found to engage in misconduct and for members who fail to act on reports of misconduct.
You would think this is the least the NWSL can do when hiring coaches. Let’s hope this negative media attention will push more professionalism within the league. Bottom line, these players deserve a safe environment, and these coaches being allowed to continue their abusive behavior for years is not okay.