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The National Women’s Soccer League has canceled weekend games amid a meeting between the league and the NWSL Players Association to investigate misconduct allegations against North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley.
Friday’s matches, including Washington at North Carolina and Gotham FC at Louisville were postponed along with Saturday’s slate that featured Orlando at Chicago, Houston at Kansas City and Reign FC at Portland.
The North Carolina Courage fired Riley on Thursday amid allegations spanning over a decade of sexual coercion and inappropriate comments about players’ weight and sexual orientation.
“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,” NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement. “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. We have made this decision in collaboration with our players association and this pause will be the first step as we collectively work to transform the culture of this league, something that is long overdue.”
The announcement came after The Athletic published an investigation in which it talked to more than a dozen players from every team Riley has coached since 2010, including two named players who went on the record with allegations against him.
A club statement on Thursday read: “In light of today’s reports, the North Carolina Courage have terminated head coach Paul Riley, effective immediately, following serious allegations of misconduct.
Riley, in an email to The Athletic, said the majority of the allegations are “completely untrue.”
Racing Louisville, whose Friday match against Gotham FC, was postponed, issued the following statement.
“We commend the bravery of those who have shared their stories to help eradicate this reprehensible behavior in the league,” Racing’s president Brad Estes said. “We joined the NWSL, in part, to empower women in our community. We also see the necessity to raise standards within women’s professional soccer. It’s going to take real work and humility to effect the change these athletes deserve. Now more than ever, we are committed to this effort, and we fully support our players.”