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Mana Shim, Sinead Farrelly ‘want players to be protected’ amid NWSL reckoning

(Fred Kfoury III/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Mana Shim, Sinead Farrelly and Alex Morgan spoke on The Today Show on Tuesday in their first public interview since Shim and Farrelly came forward with their accounts of abuse under former NWSL coach Paul Riley.

The Athletic released a report last week in which the former players accused Riley of sexual coercion and harassment and emotional abuse. The North Carolina Courage fired Riley hours after the story was published.

“It is the whole spectrum of emotions,” Farrelly said about how she’s felt since The Athletic article came out. “The support and the validation of this story by everyone globally has just been … it has blown me away and really has felt like it has given my pain purpose. That has been a liberation for me that I have not been able to feel for almost 10 years.”

Shim echoed Farrelly’s comments and added that there is still work to be done.

“I want more,” Shim said. “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.”

The support, both said, has been critical.

“I just feel speechless about it,” Farrelly said. “I don’t have words. They have truly amplified our voices and just made this what it should be. Which is a huge deal.”

Morgan addressed the league’s inaction, which allowed for another NWSL team to hire Riley five months after the Portland Thorns investigated his conduct and terminated his contract in 2015. The Orlando Pride and U.S. women’s national team star called the sequence of events a “systemic failure.”

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

In the days following the initial report, Lisa Baird resigned as NWSL commissioner and no games were played over the weekend while the league addressed the situation. In addition to Riley’s NWSL firing, U.S. Soccer suspended his Pro Level coaching license in response.

Both U.S. Soccer and FIFA have opened up investigations into the league and the NWSL has announced  a “commitment to systemic transformation,” including reopening the 2015 investigation into Riley.

Shim said Tuesday that change will not happen immediately.

“I’m still damaged,” she said. “This isn’t something that just goes away overnight because we talk about it. It’s extremely vulnerable and detailed what we’ve gotten into this week. It brings up a lot.

“I’m just so grateful for this opportunity to get these bad people out of the league and really shine a light on this issue because it’s so prevalent. It’s not just this team. It’s not just this coach. It’s across the league, it’s across the sport, and we have to do something about it.”

“It’s bigger than the sport,” Farrelly added. “This is about safety in our own lives and our bodies. The players deserve that. We all deserve that. That’s something that we will fight for.”