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‘No more silence’: A comprehensive timeline of the NWSL’s reckoning


It’s amazing how much can change in two weeks. While the NWSL’s reckoning is far from complete, it’s safe to say that the league is not the same league that it was only 14 days ago. Since the story first broke of the Paul Riley scandal, jobs have been lost, promises have been made and a whole generation of players have stepped forward to demand the NWSL change.

In case you’ve lost track of all that has happened, we’ve laid out a timeline of the major events. This story is likely far from over. But here’s what’s happened so far:

Thursday, Sept. 30, 7 a.m. ET – The Athletic releases report detailing misconduct allegations against Paul Riley

Over a dozen players representing every team Riley has coached since 2010 as well as 10 other sources in the women’s game detail Paul Riley’s history of alleged sexual coercion and emotional abuse. Two, Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, exhaustively share their accounts of abuse.

Shim reveals that she reported the incidents to the Portland Thorns’ front office in 2015 with the help of Alex Morgan. Riley, who was coaching the Thorns at the time, was investigated by the club. The Thorns tell The Athletic that they “chose not to renew his contract” over their findings. At the time, the club made no mention of its investigation when it let Riley go, and five months later, he was hired by the Western New York Flash, who eventually became the North Carolina Courage.

Thursday, Sept. 30, 7:15 a.m. ET – The NWSLPA responds

The NWSL Players Association puts out a statement in response to the story in The Athletic. In it, they demand immediate action and say they “refuse to be silent any longer.”

Thursday, Sept. 30, 9:15 a.m. ET – Players begin to react

Players around the league begin to react. Morgan, who is featured in The Athletic article, calls on the NWSL to “do the right thing” as others begin to express their shock and disappointment.

Among them are Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams, who both played under Riley at North Carolina and in Western New York.

USWNT star and OL Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe says that “not once during this whole time was the right person protected,” calling for all those who enabled the abuse to be fired.

Louisville’s Nadia Nadim also speaks out, calling the NWSL “a joke.”

Thursday, Sept. 30, 3:04 p.m. ET – Portland Thorns release statement about the allegations

The Thorns, who were at the center of The Athletic’s story, release their first statement, thanking Shim and Farrelly for “bravely speaking out” and apologizing for their role in the abuse.

“There is much in the article we are first hearing about now,” they write, adding that they conducted a thorough investigation in 2015. While they did not find evidence of “unlawful activity,” the Thorns say they chose to sever ties with Riley over the findings, which they shared with the league.

Thursday, Sept. 30, 3:20 p.m. ET – North Carolina Courage fire Paul Riley

The North Carolina Courage announce that they have fired head coach Paul Riley, effective immediately, following the allegations raised in The Athletic.

“The Courage support the players who have come forward and we commend them for bravely sharing their stories,” the team says in a statement.

Assistant Sean Nahas is named head coach on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.

Thursday, Sept. 30, 3:20 p.m. ET – NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird responds to allegations

NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird issues a response to the allegations, saying that she is “shocked and disgusted.” She adds that the NWSL is reporting the allegations to the US Center for SafeSport for investigation.

“A safe and secure work environment is a top priority for the league and its collective ownership,” she says in a statement.

Thursday, Sept. 30, 4:29 p.m. ET – Alex Morgan speaks out against the league

After commissioner Lisa Baird releases her statement, USWNT star and former Portland Thorns player Alex Morgan reveals she has the receipts proving the NWSL was contacted about Farrelly’s allegations. Morgan previously helped Shim report her story to the Thorns.

“The league was informed of these allegations multiple times and refused multiple times to investigate the allegations,” Morgan writes.

Morgan posts screenshots of the emails between Farrelly and Baird, in which Baird said that the initial complaint was “investigated to conclusion” before wishing her “the best.”

Thursday, Sept. 30, 5:54 p.m. ET – US Soccer suspends Riley’s coaching license

US Soccer says in a statement that they are “deeply disturbed” by the allegations and have suspended Riley’s Pro Level coaching license, effective immediately.

Riley is later barred from US Soccer facilities by SafeSport.

Friday, Oct. 1, 12:06 a.m. ET – Lisa Baird takes “full responsibility” as NWSL opts not to play weekend games

In a statement regarding the weekend’s matches, Baird takes “full responsibility” for her role in the allegations.

“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,” Baird says. “I am so sorry for the pain so many are feeling.”

The announcement also says the NWSL has opted not to play games over the weekend.

Friday, Oct. 1, 12:20 p.m. ET – Reports say OL Reign coach Farid Benstiti resigned over abuse allegations

Following the report on Riley, The Washington Post details how another coach, Farid Benstiti, was the subject “of a formal complaint of verbal abuse made by a player.”

Benstiti resigned from his position in July. At the time, OL Reign’s CEO Bill Predmore thanked the coach for his “contributions” before saying that the club “wished him the best in all his future endeavors.” Only now does it come out that an investigation occurred and Predmore asked Benstiti to resign.

Friday, Oct. 1, 4:13 p.m. ET – Chicago Red Stars co-owner Sarah Spain comments on allegations

Chicago Red Stars co-owner Sarah Spain spoke out against the allegations, saying that she is “blindsided by the toxic culture” of the NWSL and even wondered if she should “get out.”

“I’m committed to burning it all down and building it back without the fear, power dynamics, toxicity, and secrecy that allowed it to get where it is,” says Spain of the NWSL.

Friday, Oct. 1, 6:32 p.m. ET – FIFA, US Soccer open up investigations into NWSL

In a statement, FIFA writes that they are “deeply concerned” with the allegations in the NWSL and have subsequently opened a preliminary investigation.

Additionally, US Soccer announces that they are also launching an independent investigation into the allegations.

“We take seriously our responsibility to vigorously investigate the abhorrent behavior that has been reported and gain a full and frank understanding of the factors that allowed it to happen, and the changes that should be made to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” U.S. Soccer says in an official statement.

Friday, Oct. 1, 9:47 p.m. ET – NWSL announces it has “received and accepted” Lisa Baird’s resignation

Following earlier reports that Baird had been forced out by the NWSL’s Board of Governors, the NWSL says it has received and accepted her resignation. General counsel Lisa Levine is also reported to have been ousted, though she too is officially said to have resigned.

Baird later resigns from the US Soccer Federation’s Board of Directors.

Saturday, Oct. 2, 12:15 a.m. ET – NFLPA, WNBPA express support for NWSL players

Two players associations of other pro sports leagues express their support for NWSL players amid the fallout.

“The reports about abuse of our sisters in the NWSL are alarming,” the NFLPA says in its tweet. “We stand in solidarity with them.”

Saturday, Oct. 2, 4:45 p.m. ET – Portland Thorns supporters protest while Timbers players express support

A group of protestors gathered outside of the Portland Thorns’ stadium on Saturday in response to the allegations against former Thorns head coach Paul Riley. The Rose City Riveters, the Thorns’ official supporters, organized the rally.

That same day, Portland Timbers players pen a letter in support of NWSL players, saying “there is no place in sport for abuse of women — in any league, in any country, at any level.”

Sunday, Oct. 3, 5:32 p.m. ET – NWSL announces “commitment to systemic transformation”

The NWSL announces on Sunday their “commitment to systemic transformation,” outlining initiatives to review the league, including reopening the 2015 investigation into the allegations made against Riley.

Additionally, a new executive committee comprised of the Orlando Pride’s Amanda Duffy, Kansas City’s Angie Long and OL Reign’s Sophie Sauvage is formed. The league announces it has also begun a global search for a permanent commissioner.

Midge Purce later calls the promises “not nearly enough.”

Monday, Oct. 4, 12:05 p.m. ET – Thorns owner Merritt Paulson pens letter

Portland Thorns’ owner Merritt Paulson breaks his silence on Monday in a letter released by the Thorns. In it, he says the entire organization is “reeling and devastated” by the abuse that Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly endured as members of the organization.

He then outlines how the Thorns have “zero tolerance for harassment or discrimination of any kind.”

In his note, he says that the club terminated Riley. It’s the first time the Thorns have used that language, having previously said they simply chose not to renew Riley’s contract.

Paulson apologizes for not publicly mentioning the investigation when the team let Riley go in 2015.

Monday, Oct. 4, 10:45 p.m. ET – Lisa Baird says she’s “proud of what I did to make the league better”

In her first public comments since resigning, Baird says in a statement Monday that she is proud of her efforts to make the league better.

“I fought to enact initiatives that protected the women in our league,” she says, citing mandatory screening and background checks, protection plans for the safety of players younger than 18 years old, anti-harassment training and the implementation of new anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies.

“I am invested in and care deeply about the NWSL and its players,” she continued. “The women who play our game deserve to be protected and I am proud of what I did to make the League better.”

Tuesday, Oct. 5, 8 a.m. ET – Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly speak out

Farrelly and Shim spoke publicly for the first time on The Today Show with Alex Morgan, calling the days since the story’s release a “whole spectrum of emotions.”

“I want more,” Shim says. “I want more justice. I want policies. I want players to be protected. At the same time, I feel like we’re on the right path.”

Morgan also addresses the league’s inaction.

“Something we ask is for the league to start being proactive and not reactive,” Morgan says. “We ask for transparency.”

Tuesday, Oct. 5, 8 a.m. ET – NWSLPA announces they will resume play on Wednesday

After foregoing the weekend’s slate of games, the NWSLPA announces it will resume play on Wednesday, while also saying their demands “will be forthcoming.”

Tuesday, Oct. 5, 9:15 a.m. ET – Washington Spirit CEO Steve Baldwin steps down

Baldwin announces his resignation as CEO on Tuesday, giving Spirit president Ben Olsen “full authority over all club operations.”

Spirit players had reportedly written Baldwin a letter asking him to step down as CEO and Managing Director following earlier allegations of abuse against their former coach.

Tuesday, Oct. 5, 5:06 p.m. ET – Portland Thorns’ supporters announce boycott

The Rose City Riveters, the Timbers Army and the 107IST release a joint statement on Tuesday stating they will be boycotting concession stands and team stores until their list of demands are met.

Included in those demands is the “immediate and complete removal” of GM Gavin Wilkinson over his role in the Thorns’ 2015 investigation and firing of Riley.

Wednesday, Oct. 6, 11:05 a.m. ET – Courage owner Steve Malik reveals the Courage new about Thorns’ investigation

In a letter, North Carolina Courage owner Steve Malik reveals the Courage knew about the Thorns’ 2015 investigation into Riley.

When they acquired the Western New York Flash in 2017, Malik asserts that ownership did “due diligence” in their investigations of the coach but were assured he was “in good standing.”

According to Malik, upon learning of the extent of the full allegations, the club immediately fired Riley.

Wednesday, Oct. 6, 7:16 p.m. ET – NWSLPA outlines demands

As games get underway on Wednesday, the NWSLPA releases a list of eight demands, revealing that they will be conducting their own investigation. They ask the NWSL to cooperate with said investigation.

“We will be relentless in our pursuit of a league that deserves the players in it,” they write.

The deadline to agree with the demands is Wednesday, Oct. 13.

Wednesday, Oct. 6, 7:27 p.m. ET – NWSL players pause games in solidarity with abuse victims

As the NWSL returns to play, players pause at the sixth minute of each game to link arms together in the middle of the field.

The NWSL Players Association says that the players paused at the sixth minute “in recognition of the six years it took for Mana, Sinead, and all those who fought for too long to be heard.”

Wednesday, Oct. 6, 7:52 p.m. ET – Washington Spirit players demand Steve Baldwin sell the team

Washington Spirit players release a public letter to co-owner Steve Baldwin demanding he sell the team to Y. Michele Kang. They say Baldwin’s earlier resignation was not in line with their demands, as they “clearly meant you should not retain any management control.”

“You still have a firm grip as majority owner on the decisions that need to be made at the club even if they are made from behind a veil,” they continue.

Additionally, the players say they have no confidence in the club’s new president, Ben Olsen, who was hired by Baldwin without Kang’s input.

Wednesday, Oct. 6, 9:07 p.m. ET – Portland Thorns place GM Gavin Wilkinson on administrative leave

The Thorns announce that they have placed Wilkinson on administrative leave pending the results of the outside independent investigation. The announcement comes within hours of the team’s players releasing a statement in which they demand Wilkinson be placed on leave “until the process concludes.”

Thursday, Oct. 7, 12:35 a.m. ET – Thorns’ coach Mark Parsons says he knew of 2015 investigation

Following Wednesday night’s game, Thorns head coach Mark Parsons says he was made aware of an incident and an investigation in regards to Riley’s 2015 departure from the team.

“It was an area where I wasn’t allowed and wasn’t able to know more,” he says.

Friday, Oct. 8 – Washington Spirit co-owner Steve Baldwin reportedly makes, then rescinds offer to sell team to Y. Michele Kang

According to reporting by The Athletic, Baldwin made an offer to Y. Michele Kang to sell the team at three times its most recent valuation. Kang was reportedly willing to sign the check. However, before Kang could officially accept or negotiate, the offer was rescinded.

According to the report, Baldwin is now planning to sell to a local group or an interested party outside of the D.C. area.

The Spirit’s Aubrey Bledsoe is subsequently quoted as saying that Baldwin is not respecting the player’s wishes.

“We have made it very clear the path forward for this team,” Bledsoe says following the Spirit’s Saturday night win. “We believe that Michele will be a great owner and continually put the players first.”

Referencing the players’ open letter, Bledsoe adds, “I don’t think Steve is going to honor our demand or request.”

Sunday, Oct. 10, 7:33 a.m. ET – Chelsea FC women link arms in solidarity with NWSL players

Player protests officially go global as Chelsea’s players and staff link arms in a show of support for NWSL players ahead of their Women’s Super League game on Sunday.

Fellow FAWSL clubs will later recreate the show of solidarity.