National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) side Portland Thorns said on Monday it regrets its role in “a systemic failure across women’s professional soccer” after sexual harassment allegations against one of its former coaches and promised change.
The Athletic on Thursday outlined allegations of sexual coercion and misconduct by former head coach Paul Riley, who led the North Carolina Courage to back-to-back NWSL championships in 2018 and 2019, after speaking to more than a dozen players he coached since 2010.
In an open letter, Thorns’ team owner Merritt Paulson said the organisation placed Riley on immediate suspension after receiving the complaint against its then-coach and shared what it learned in its own investigation with the NWSL but failed to be more transparent with the public.
“(We) made an opaque announcement about not renewing Riley’s contract as opposed to explicitly announcing his termination, guided by what we, at the time, thought was the right thing to do out of respect for player privacy,” said Paulson, whose Peregrine Sports also owns Major League Soccer (MLS) side the Portland Timbers.
“I deeply regret our role in what is clearly a systemic failure across women’s professional soccer.”
Paulson said the team would cooperate with all investigations and were implementing an anonymous reporting system for harassment and discrimination.