Former National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) player Mana Shim has accused former coach Paul Riley of being a “predator” who “sexually harassed” her.
Riley was fired by the North Carolina Courage last week after an investigative report by The Athletic that cites players on the record alleging that for years, Riley used his influence and power to sexually harass players and in one incident, coerce a player into having sex with him.
Riley denied the accusations in the Athletic report. CNN has not been able to reach Riley for comment.
The commissioner of the NWSL Lisa Baird resigned and the league called off all matches scheduled for last weekend as a result of the report detailing allegations of sexual coercion and misconduct against Riley, who coached three NWSL franchises over eight seasons.
In the Athletic report, former player Sinead Farrelly described how a married Riley coerced her into his hotel room to have sex. Another reported incident describes Riley coercing Farrelly and teammate Shim back to his apartment and pressuring the two to kiss each other.
The Athletic asked Riley to comment on his alleged misconduct, to which he replied the former players’ claims were “completely untrue.” According to The Athletic, Riley told them in an email: “I have never had sex with, or made sexual advances towards these players.”
Speaking to NBC on Tuesday alongside Shim and US Women’s National team striker Alex Morgan, Farrelly said the damage Riley has caused “seeps into every part” of their livelihoods.
“I think it’s just really important and why we wanted to share our story and share in so much detail the damage that was done to our careers, but who we are as people,” Farrelly, who played for Riley on three different teams, explained.
“The damage to my self-confidence and how I saw myself and how I approach life, it seeps into every part of your livelihood,” Farrelly told NBC.
“There is a lot of loss that comes with that and things I will not get back and I think when we can tap into the emotional impact of just showing up to try and be your authentic self, it really can hit home for lot of people because it’s bigger than the sport. This is about safety in our own lives and our bodies and the players deserve that. We all deserve that. And that’s something that we will fight for.”
The NWSL matches scheduled for Wednesday will proceed as planned, the players union announced on Tuesday.
Steve Baldwin, the CEO and managing partner of the NWSL’s Washington Spirit, resigned on Tuesday amid the fallout. Baldwin’s statement on Twitter referenced a recent request by the players as part of the reason for stepping down.
And while Shim said on NBC she was “so just overcome with gratitude at everyone who has spoken out and supported us,” she says she wants “more justice.”
“I want more,” she told NBC. “I want more justice, I want better policies, I want players to be protected.”
The Athletic reported that it interviewed over a dozen players who played under Riley since 2010 and others who are involved with women’s soccer.
Shim said that the support of her friends is what got her through.
“From early on, there was a possession, not just from Paul, but the team that I was playing for,” she told NBC. “They silenced me about multiple issues, my sexuality being the most important one.
“And I just was very, very uncomfortable the whole time and every day I showed up to work, every day I practiced, every game I played, I didn’t have confidence and I was scared. I was scared and the only thing that got me through was my teammates. And Alex and Sinead, they’re two of my best friends. Thank god I had them.
“I don’t know what I would do without them. Alex was the first person I told who said: ‘I will do anything to support you.’ She was loyal from day one. That’s really the only way I got through it. And I’m still damaged.”
Morgan, a former teammate of both Shim and Farrelly, said she will “continue to amplify their voices and just show this systemic failure from the league and how wrong they did in handling Mana’s case and complaint and then investigation.”
“I think when I look back, I tried to be as good of a friend and teammate as possible to Mana in helping her file a complaint when there at the time was no anti-harassment policy in place, there was no league HR, there was no anonymous hotline, there was no way to report,” Morgan told NBC.
“We have now started to put these things in place by demand of players, not by being – not by the league being proactive. So something we ask is for the league to start being proactive, not reactive. We ask for transparency.”
The NWSL did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment regarding the comments made by Shim, Farrelly and Morgan.
In a statement released on Sunday, NWSL announced it was “immediately launching several critical investigative and reform initiatives to protect players and staff, and the environments in which athletes live, train, and compete to give athletes the agency and ability to safely report misconduct of any form.”