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NWSL players pause games at sixth minute in solidarity with abuse victims

Players come together during the Gotham FC-Washington Spirit game Wednesday night. (Jesse Louie/Just Women's Sports)

The NWSL returned to action Wednesday night for the first time since a report of a coach’s abuse rocked the league.

For each of the NWSL’s three games, teams paused play at the sixth minute to meet in the center circle and link arms in a moment of silence. The demonstrations were in support of Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly, who came forward with allegations of sexual coercion and emotional abuse against former coach Paul Riley in The Athletic.

The NWSL Players Association said that the players paused at the sixth minute “in recognition of the six years it took for Mana, Sinead, and all those who fought for too long to be heard.”

Shim and Farelly addressed the demonstrations on Twitter, with Shim saying “no words, only tears.”

“Tears and chills watching this happen,” Farrelly wrote. “My heart goes out to every single player-former and current- who has lived through this culture of silence.

“We are demanding change and we are not going away.”

Change has been at the crux of the NWSL since the allegations against Riley surfaced, forcing a response from the league in a season rampant with controversies. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned from her position on Friday, while the Portland Thorns placed GM Gavin Wilkinson was on administrative leave after the team’s players released a list of demands.

Meanwhile, the NWSL, FIFA and US Soccer have each launched investigations into the cases of misconduct in the league.