Heather O’Reilly wants more from Courage’s statement on NWSL abuse

Paul Riley was fired by the Courage in October 2021 after abuse allegations against him emerged. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The North Carolina Courage released a statement Wednesday in the wake of Sally Yates’ findings on “systemic” abuse and corruption in the NWSL that rang hollow for many in the soccer community. That included former Courage and U.S. women’s national team standout Heather O’Reilly.

“Need a bit more here guys,” she wrote in a Twitter reply to the Courage’s statement.

The club acknowledged its role in the patterns of abuse, as revealed in the Yates report, but did not mention former coach Paul Riley, who was fired last year amid allegations of sexual coercion and harassment.

“The North Carolina Courage stand in full support of the players impacted by abusive behavior across our league,” the Courage’s statement read. “We acknowledge our responsibility to continuously examine our organization and our role within the systemic problems in our sport, as described in the Yates report. The details and events are deeply disturbing, and action must be taken to ensure these types of occurrences are never again allowed to happen. The Courage commend the strength and bravery of those that have chosen to step forward to share their experiences.

“The Courage commit unequivocally to continuing to implement solutions, improve our processes and take appropriate action on the recommendations outlined in the Yates report. We are dedicated to fostering an environment of equity, respect and player safety in every aspect of our team operations, and look forward to working closely with the NWSL, the NWSLPA and our players, coaches and staff in advancing these values across the league and women’s soccer.”

O’Reilly, a World Cup champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist with the USWNT, played for Riley at the Courage from 2018-19.

Riley was at the center of the Yates report and a previous investigation by The Athletic, which revealed that Riley went on to coach the Courage for nearly five seasons despite an investigation into his misconduct when he was the coach of the Portland Thorns.

Both reports shared accounts of Riley’s sexual harassment and coercion of two Thorns players — Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly — during his time coaching in Portland.

The Yates report also highlighted a similar experience by an unnamed Courage player. Riley, she said, would tear her down with comments about her weight, ask her questions about her sex life and insist that she “needed to improve her sex life,” according to the report.

“‘I always thought I was at fault for my feelings because especially after he called me chubby in 2019 that year all I wanted was the mans [sic] approval and to be seen by him,’” the report states. “Team management confirmed that Player A had reported feeling ‘uncomfortable’ due to Riley’s comments about her weight and body.’”