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Mana Shim, NWSL abuse victims call for removal of complicit owners

Fans hold up a sign calling out Portland Thorns and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson in March 2022. (Logan Hannigan-Downs/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Three former NWSL players who were the subject of abuse from coaches during their time in the league are speaking out.

Mana Shim, Sinead Farrelly and Erin Simon issued a joint statement Monday in the wake of U.S. Soccer’s report on “systemic” abuse and misconduct in the NWSL calling for accountability among the league’s ownership ranks.

“There have been too many years of inaction and too many empty promises made while players suffered at the hands of the league,” the players wrote. “No one involved has taken any responsibility for the clear role they played in harming players – not the teams, not the league, and not the federation. They chose to ignore us and silence us, allowing the abuse to continue.”

In 2015, as a player for the Portland Thorns, Shim accused then-Thorns coach Riley of sexual harassment and coercion, which led to his dismissal from the team. Her account was corroborated by then-teammate Sinead Farrelly in an October 2021 report published by The Athletic, in which Farrelly also described her own experiences of sexual coercion and harassment from Riley.

After The Athletic report, Riley was dismissed from his position as head coach of the North Carolina Courage, and U.S. Soccer and the NWSL each opened up investigations into coach abuse in the league.

U.S. Soccer’s report details how the Thorns front office decided to keep the claims made against Riley quiet, which allowed him to continue his coaching career. Then-Thorns GM Gavin Wilkinson even placed blame on Shim for Riley’s exit from the team.

Simon, meanwhile, played for Racing Louisville under Christy Holly, who was fired “for cause” last August. U.S. Soccer’s repoSimonrt reveals new information about the circumstances surrounding his departure, including his abuse of Simon.

Both Louisville and Portland have not cooperated fully with the investigation, per U.S. Soccer.

“Owners who have driven a culture of disrespect, who are complicit in abusing their own players, have no place in this league and should be removed from governance immediately,” reads the statement from Shim, Farrelly and Simon. “This will be the first of many necessary steps to finally hearing our voices and keeping our players safe.”

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