Former Portland Thorns coach accused of sexual coercion

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Portland Thorns apologize after The Athletic expose accuses Paul Riley of sexual coercion; NWSL cancels weekend games

TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL – Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, chatting with team owner Merritt Paulson, in 2015.

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Former Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley has been accused of sexual coercion by multiple former players from across women’s soccer, including his former players in Portland, according to a new report from The Athletic.

The article, published Thursday, Sept. 30, accused Riley of sexually coercing and verbally abusing players on his teams between 2011 and 2015. During much of that time, Riley served as head coach for the Portland Thorns.

On Friday, the NWSL announced that games will not be played this weekend. That includes Saturday’s highly-anticipated match at Providence Park between OL Reign and the Thorns.

In an announcement, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said, in part, that the league’s priority is not business as usual. She called this pause “the first step as we collectively work to transform the culture of this league, something that is long overdue.”

According to the article, former Portland player Sinead Farrelly said she was coerced into having sex with Riley multiple times. The article also states Riley allegedly told Farrelly and player Meleana “Mana” Shim to kiss after a night of heavy drinking. If they did, he allegedly said, the team wouldn’t have to endure a grueling conditioning exercise.

On Thursday, the Portland Thorns released a statement apologizing to Shim and Farrelly for the team’s role:

“We want to thank Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly for bravely speaking out and fully apologize to them for our role in the abuse they detailed,” the team wrote on Twitter.

Riley served as Portland’s head coach from 2013 to 2015. In a statement, the Portland Thorns said they declined to renew Riley’s contract because of similar allegations made against him.

“We take all complaints about harassment extremely seriously. Immediately upon receiving a complaint from a player in 2015, we conducted a thorough investigation advised by an outside law firm and placed Riley on administrative leave,” the club said Thursday. “While the findings did not show unlawful activity, they did uncover clear violations of our company policies. Based on this, we chose to sever ties with Riley. The findings of the investigation were fully shared with the NWSL league office.”

The Rose City Riveters, the fan-run supporters’ group, released a statement demanding accountability from the Thorns and the NWSL, and that the allegations against Riley be re-investigated by the league.

“We are disgusted and angry about the actions and inaction reported on today in The Athletic. This is appalling and infuriating,” the statement begins. “We want to support the best club in the world. Today’s reporting brings to light that there is a long way to go before we can make that claim.”

In a tweet, Portland native and USWNT star Megan Rapinoe said anyone in a position of power who knew of this behavior were “all monsters” and should resign immediately.

Riley told The Athletic the majority of the allegations are “completely untrue.”

“I have never had sex with or made sexual advances towards these players.”

Riley, who currently coaches for the North Carolina Courage, was fired on Thursday, following the report.

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