Former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim were joined by USWNT star Alex Morgan on NBC’s TODAY show as the fallout from allegations of sexual misconduct against longtime National Women’s Soccer League coach Paul Riley continued Tuesday morning.
The NWSL called off its matches last weekend in the wake of The Athletic’s reporting that former Portland Thorns and Washington Spirit coach Riley sexually harassed and coerced his players, as well as the firing of Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke for the harassment of players.
Shim and Farrelly went public last week with their allegations against Riley, and Shim said that Morgan helped her in placing the 2015 complaint against Riley.
The players expressed sentiments for both public and private support while also detailing feelings that are both grim and haunting.
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“I was very, very uncomfortable the whole time,” Shim said. “Every day I showed up to work, every day I practiced, every game I played, I didn’t have confidence and I was scared. The only thing that got me through was teammates. Alex and Sinead, they are two of my best friends, and thank God I have them. Alex was the first person I told who said I will do anything to support you. She was loyal from Day One.
“That’s really the only way I got through it and I’m still damaged. It doesn’t go away overnight what we’ve gotten into this week, and it brings up a lot. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to get these bad people out of the league. It’s not just this team. It’s not just this coach. It’s across the league, across the sport, and we have to do something about it.”
“I want more justice. I want better policies. I want players to be protected.” -National Women's Soccer League player Mana Shim on sexual abuse allegations against former coach Paul Riley pic.twitter.com/cjCnYSgjzc
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 5, 2021
Morgan said she will continue to fight for changes in the NWSL, which is searching for a new commissioner after Lisa Baird resigned due to the scandal.
“[It’s a shame] how wrong they were in handling Mana’s case and complaint and investigation, and where they failed Mana and Sinead and probably many other women,” Morgan said. “When I look back I tried to be as good of a friend and teammate as I could’ve been to Mana when at the time there was no anti-harrassment policy in place. We have now started to put these things in place by demand of players. Something we ask is for the league to start being proactive, not reactive.”
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Farrelly acknowledged that her story going public has challenged her in new ways but has also given her a sense of liberation.
“The whole spectrum of emotions,” said Farrelly, adding that she’s been “completely overwhelmed.”
“The support and validation of the story by everyone globally has blown me away and feels like it has given my pain purpose. That’s been a liberation for me that I have not been able to feel for almost 10 years.”
Farrelly wants the world to know the deep and lasting repercussions of the abuse she faced in the workplace.
“The damage to my self-confidence and how I approached life, it seeps into every part of your livelihood and there’s a lot of loss that comes with that and things I will not get back. When we can tap into the emotional impact of just showing up to be your authentic self… it’s bigger than the sport. We all deserve that.”
Shim’s allegations against Riley are severe, and the former Thorns player didn’t mince words.
“He’s a predator,” Shim said. “He sexually harassed me. He sexually coerced Sinead, and he took away our careers.”