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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.

2023 MVP Breanna Stewart Drops 31 Points in Liberty’s Huge Win Over Fever

breanna stewart and jonquel jones of the new york liberty celebrate win over indiana fever
Stewie and the Liberty dominated the court throughout Thursday's Fever home opener. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty dominated Indiana on Thursday night, winning by a whopping 36 points in the Fever's home opener. 

A sold-out crowd of 17,274 was in attendance to watch as star rookie Caitlin Clark finished the 102-66 defeat with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. It’s the first time since January 2021 — her freshman season at Iowa — that Clark's been held to single-digit scoring. 

"The physicality is definitely up there... I'm easily pushed off screens," she told reporters after the loss. "The game seems a little fast for me right now. The more I play and the more comfortable I get, it's going to slow down a little bit. It will be easier for me to make reads, see things develop."

The Fever were outscored by a combined margin of 57 points in their first two games — the largest two-game point deficit in WNBA season-opening history, according to @ESPNStatsInfo.

"We've got to get to a level of toughness," Fever coach Christie Sides in her own postgame remarks. "When things are going south on us, we're not stopping the bleeding."

"I have great perspective on everything that happens," Clark added. "It was the same in my college career. There were some moments that were absolutely amazing. And there were some moments I was not happy with how I played and how my team performed. That's just life, that's just basketball."

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, who herself experienced a rocky rookie season following a much-hyped college career, offered up some insight on the matter.

"In this league, there are tough defenses all centered around not letting you get the ball, trapping, not letting you score," Ionescu said. "There were many factors that played into what was a tough first season for me in the league, but it helps you be able to figure it out. You have to have those experiences."

But it was reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart that truly stole the show, racking up 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks on the night.

"In general, I just wanted to come out more aggressive coming off of last game," Stewart said after putting up the 24th 30-point game in her career.

Stewart she also commended the fans inside Indianapolis's packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, noting that she hopes that level of support to continue across the WNBA.

"This is how you want every game to be and when it's a sell-out crowd, it gives you a similar playoff atmosphere feel," she said. "People want to be a part of this and the thing now is to continue to sustain it, continue to take the momentum that we have and turn it into something more."

WNBA Commissioner Admits to ‘Faulty’ Charter Rollout

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert at 2024 wnba draft
Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York. (Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert admitted to a "faulty rollout" of the new charter travel initiative on Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Ahead of Tuesday's season opener, it was announced that the only teams flying private this week would be Indiana and Minnesota. The announcement came mere days after the league made a new charter flight program for all WNBA teams public. At the time, they said it would be implemented "as soon as we have the planes."

But as two teams out of 12 chartered to their first games of the season, others like the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky were forced to fly commercial.

A town hall meeting between Engelbert and the players was held in response to the confusion. Everything from the league's new media rights deal to private travel was covered in the meeting, with players submitting their questions ahead of time. Sky center Elizabeth Williams told Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile afterwards that cross-country flights were prioritized.

"Flights that are across the country like [the Lynx] going to Seattle, crossing multiple time zones, or flights that usually require a connection, those were the priorities," Williams said. "That’s why New York didn’t go to DC with a charter, but Minny goes to Seattle."

What’s unclear under that metric is that the Atlanta Dream played the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday, which could technically be classified as a cross-country flight. 

On Tuesday, rookie forward Angel Reese shared a photo on her Instagram story lamenting the league's use of commercial flights.

"Just praying that this is one of the last commercial flights the Sky has to fly," Reese posted. The team still has at least three commercial flights awaiting them in the near future.

"Obviously, I think all teams should be able to get chartered," Reese told the Sun-Times. "But I know moving forward... going in the right direction, being able to have some teams [chartering] is cool. Within the next weeks, everybody will be flying charter, which will be really good."

On Thursday, Lindsay Schnell of USAToday Sports confirmed that the league intends to have all teams on charter flights by May 21st.

Brazil Wins Bid for 2027 Women’s World Cup Host

fifa womens world cup trophy on display
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on display in Bangkok after Brazil was announced as the 2027 host country. (Thananuwat Srirasant - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Brazil has been named the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA announced early Friday. 

The decision came after a vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, with Brazil earning 119 votes to the joint European bid’s 78. 

This will be Brazil’s first time hosting the Women’s World Cup, with the country having hosted the men’s World Cup twice before in 1950 and 2014. It will also be the first Women’s World Cup held in South America. The tournament will follow the same 32-team format as the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand.

Brazil winning the bid was not entirely surprising after FIFA issued a report just last week, stating that the Brazilian bid had pulled ahead as host following technical inspection. After evaluation, Brazil was given a score of 4.0 out of 5, compared to the 3.7 awarded to the Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Brazil ranked higher in a number of key areas, including stadiums, accommodations, fan zones, and transport infrastructure. Though considered to be a frontrunner, the US and Mexico withdrew their joint bid prior to the technical inspection period, saying they would instead focus their efforts on 2031.

On Friday, Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues called it a "victory." 

"We knew we would be celebrating a victory for South American women's soccer and for women," he told reporters. "You can be sure, with no vanity, we will accomplish the best World Cup for women."

"We are working on a transformation, not only for the country but for the continent," added bid team operational manager Valesca Araujo.

Brazil intends to use 10 of the venues utilized at the 2014 men’s World Cup, including holding the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 25th. The CBF's proposal outlines that the 2027 tournament run from June 24th through the end of July. Last summer’s World Cup began at the end of July and concluded on August 19th.

Another notable element of Brazil's newly unveiled plan to grow of the women’s game is that "all [men’s] clubs wishing to take part in high-level national and continental competitions must now provide a structure for a women’s team." While the definition of "structure" was not specifically identified, the country has set targets with CONMEBOL to help increase the number of women’s club teams in the country.

In last week's inspection findings, FIFA noted that selecting Brazil as the next WWC host could "have a tremendous impact on women's football in the region."

Chelsea Eyes Weekend Finale With WSL Title in Sight

chelsea players celebrate win against tottenham in the wsl
Chelsea beat Tottenham on Wednesday, moving to the top of the table in an effort to win departing coach Emma Hayes some silverware. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chelsea did what they needed to do on Wednesday in order to make Saturday's slate of season-ending WSL fixtures interesting: Beat Tottenham.

The Blues are now number one in the league, with an edge over Manchester City on goal differential thanks to an eight-goal outing against Bristol City last week. 

Yesterday's result tees up a league finale for the books as Chelsea looks to send coach Emma Hayes off with another trophy to add to her cabinet. The Blues will play FA Cup winner Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, while City is away at Aston Villa.

"We will be leaving nothing on the pitch, we will be giving everything and no matter what the result is," Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert said after Wednesday's win. "At least we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything."

It makes for a thrilling end to Chelsea's Emma Hayes era, as the decorated WSL coach will take over the USWNT in June. And it comes after Hayes all but conceded the title race early this month after Chelsea fell to Liverpool 4-3.

"I think the title is done," Hayes said at the time. "Of course, mathematically, it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"We will never give up. But the title is far from us; it's not in our hands. I think City are deserving, their consistency has put them in that position. Of course, we will go to the end, but I don't think the title will be going to us this year."

Be it mind games or Hayes truly thinking her team was that far off, her words lit something in Chelsea. Their following two performances showed the team’s determination to have a shot at some silverware.

As for Saturday's schedule, Hayes believes her team is facing the "tougher of the two games."

"It's a fitting finale for me, being my final game," she told BBC Sport. "As I said to the players if someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don't need a third one. We're in the position we want to be in, and we'll give it everything on Saturday no matter what."

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