all scores

Ex-NWSL coach Paul Riley plans to ‘fight’ after permanent ban

(Howard Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Paul Riley plans to “fight” after the NWSL issued permanent bans to him and three other former coaches at the center of the league’s abuse reports, he said Tuesday.

The bans came one month after the NWSL and NWSLPA released the findings of their joint investigation into “widespread misconduct” in the league, and three months after U.S. Soccer released the results from its own investigation into “systemic” abuse and failures by NWSL coaches and executives.

Both reports detailed players’ allegations of sexual coercion and harassment against the former Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage coach.

“We have a lot of plans ahead to fight a lot of things,” Riley said in a text message Tuesday to WRAL News. “Absolutely never had any intention of coaching in NWSL again. The political, woke, cancel culture of the league says it all.”

The 59-year-old did not specify what he planned to fight, though he has denied the allegations.

The abuse investigations started after a 2021 report in The Athletic revealed accusations made against Riley in 2015, during his tenure as head coach in Portland. The Thorns fired him after receiving the complaints but kept the reason for his dismissal under wraps publicly, which allowed Riley to continue coaching in the league.

In the aftermath of The Athletic report, Riley was fired from his position as head coach of the Courage, which he held from 2017-21. As part of the NWSL and NWSLPA joint investigation, Courage defender Kaleigh Kurtz said she felt Riley had been grooming her and identified his conduct as abusive.

“We stand firmly with the league, the NWSL Players Association and fellow clubs in holding player safety and well-being as our top priority,” the Courage said in a statement Monday.

In addition to Riley, former coaches Christy Holly, Rory Dames and Richie Burke have been barred permanently from the NWSL.

Holly was fired as Racing Louisville coach in August 2021 after he groped a player on multiple occasions. Burke was fired in September 2021 after player complaints of racism and verbal abuse. Dames resigned in November 2021 after a report in the Washington Post that exposed player complaints of his “pejorative,” “degrading” and “racially insensitive” comments.