North Carolina Courage knew about earlier Paul Riley investigation


The North Carolina Courage knew about the Portland Thorns’ investigation into Paul Riley when they hired him, owner Steve Malik said in a letter released Wednesday.

Last Thursday, the Courage fired Riley after The Athletic released a bombshell report detailing allegations of emotional abuse and sexual coercion.

“Following this past week’s appalling revelations, we as a club have taken the past few days to focus internally on supporting our players and staff as we move forward as a unified group,” Malik wrote. “As we continue to process difficult emotions, let me begin by saying that I am deeply sorry for our part in the failure to create an environment where players feel safe and comfortable coming forward.”

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

“There is no place for that behavior and abuse in our sport and society,” he continued.

Over the past week, players and staff have been provided mental health resources, including a trauma psychologist.

The letter states that ownership did “due diligence” when they acquired the Western New York Flash in 2017 and brought the club to North Carolina. Riley had been fired by the Thorns in 2015 and was hired by the Flash in 2016.

At the time, the Thorns said they chose not to renew Riley’s contract. Over the past week, however, the club has admitted that it terminated Riley due to an internal investigation into allegations of misconduct toward former player Mana Shim.

“We were made aware of an investigation into Mr. Riley’s behavior in 2015 and were subsequently assured that he was in good standing,” Malik said in his letter. “During his employment with the Courage, we had no knowledge of allegations of sexual harassment or coercion.”

The NWSL has been rocked over the past week in the wake of The Athletic’s reporting. The NWSL, FIFA and US Soccer have all opened up investigations into the league while commissioner Lisa Baird resigned last Friday.

Games are set to resume Wednesday, with the Courage taking on Racing Louisville at 7:30 p.m. ET.