All Scores

Courage coach Paul Riley accused of sexual coercion in bombshell report

(Howard Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley has been accused of sexual coercion and emotional abuse in an extensive and disturbing report by The Athletic’s Meg Linehan.

The Athletic talked to over a dozen players representing every team Riley has coached since 2010, as well as 10 other sources in the women’s game, detailing Riley’s history of alleged sexual coercion and emotional abuse. Members of each of the three teams he coached described several evenings in which Riley went out and drank heavily with his players.

“It’s almost like an abusive relationship, even when it’s not crossing the line of sexual, because he gives and takes,” one former Thorns player told The Athletic. “The girls just want to please their coaches, they want to do the right thing. Paul said he’ll invest in you, then he takes it away.”

One of Riley’s longtime player, Sinead Farrelly, spoke to The Athletic about the coach’s alleged grooming tactics. Farrelly said he would pay special attention to her at times, and at other times he could be harsh to the point where Farrelly longed for his approval.

Farrelly joined Riley at each of his coaching stops — the Philadelphia Independence, the New York Fury and the Portland Thorns. She said she gave up the final spot on the United States women’s national team’s roster for the 2011 World Cup because Riley told her she was being “disloyal” to him and their team, which at the time was the Independence of the former Women’s Professional Soccer league.

After the Independence lost the WPS final in August 2011, Farrelly described an incident at the team hotel that “changed my whole life.” Her and Riley went back to Riley’s hotel room, where she said Riley coerced her into having sex with him. The next morning, Riley allegedly told Farrelly that she had followed him into his room and that “we’re taking this to our graves.”

But rather than keep silent, Farrelly said Riley kept bringing it up.

Eventually Riley made his way to Portland, where he helped Meleana “Mana” Shim return to the team after the Thorns had initially traded her to Houston as part of the 2014 expansion draft.

“I felt from the beginning like I owed him something because he worked to get me back,” Shim said.

As one of the team’s fringe players, Shim said Riley targeted her, belittling her in her first season before, in her second season, treating her differently in ways that helped build her confidence. She said Riley began to ask to meet with her one-on-one, with requests for coffee meet-ups turning into dinner invitations. That included film sessions allegedly moving from the office at his stadium to his apartment after hours. Shim described one instance in which Riley invited her to a film session in his hotel room. When she arrived, he was in his underwear, according to the report.

During the 2015 season, Shim and Farrelly roomed together on road trips and grew closer. They told The Athletic that, after a night out with the team in Portland in May, Riley invited them back to his apartment and said, if they kissed, the team wouldn’t have to run a suicide mile that week. They briefly obliged, they said, and Riley kept his promise.

In 2015, with the help of Thorns teammate Alex Morgan, Shim reported Riley’s behavior to the Thorns and Jeff Plush, the NWSL commissioner at the time. Based on Farrelly and Shim’s accounts, the Thorns investigated the incidents and decided not to renew Riley’s contract after the 2015 season. At the time, most thought Riley’s exit had to do with the team’s on-field results, a reason Riley endorsed in an email response to The Athletic.

On Wednesday, Thorns owner Merritt Paulson told The Athletic that the findings of the investigation factored into the team’s decision not to renew Riley’s contract in 2015 and that “everything was shared with the league.”

“Immediately when we became aware of these allegations at the end of our 2015 season, Paul Riley was placed on administrative leave and a thorough investigation advised by outside counsel was conducted, working closely with the NWSL league office,” the team said in a statement provided to The Athletic. “The investigation found no unlawful activity, but that Mr. Riley had violated our policies. As a result, we chose not to renew his contract. The findings of the investigation were shared with the NWSL league office.”

Riley was hired by the Western New York Flash five months later.

When the league adopted a new Anti-Harassment Policy earlier this year, Farrelly and Shim tried to renew the investigation with the NWSL and current league commissioner Lisa Baird. According to the report, Baird indicated to the players that the files had been reviewed, the investigation was closed and she could not share any details of the findings.

In a response to questions about his alleged conduct from The Athletic, Riley called the majority of the allegations “completely untrue.”

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

The accusations against Riley are the latest in a long list of scandals to hit the NWSL over the past year. Back in July, Gotham FC dismissed Alyse LaHue following a league investigation related to the league’s anti-harassment policy. In August, reports in the Washington Post detailed numerous accounts of verbal and emotional abuse by head coach Richie Burke, whom the Washington Spirit then fired. And in September, Racing Louisville fired Christy Holly “for cause.”

Last year, Dell Loy Hansen sold Utah Royals FC following reports of racist comments and a sexist culture in the club’s front office. Head coach Craig Harrington was also placed on administrative leave amid allegations of inappropriate conduct.

The NWSL Players Association is in the midst of negotiations with the league for the NWSL’s first collective bargaining agreement. The PA is fighting for player protections that extend beyond the league’s anti-harassment policy. They spoke out on Thursday, demanding action in the wake of the accusations against Riley.

UPDATE: The North Carolina Courage have fired Paul Riley.

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."

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.