WAKE COUNTY, N.C. – After North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley was fired amid sexual misconduct allegations, the National Women’s Soccer League announced its commitment to systemic transformation.
What You Need To Know
N.C. Courage head coach Paul Riley was fired after sexual misconduct allegations published Thursday by The Athletic
Over the weekend the NWSL announced it will investigate and develop initiatives to improve player safety
The team’s assistant coach, Sean Nahas, will take over as interim head coach for the remainder of the season
The Courage cancelled its home game on Friday at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. Its next game is Wednesday.
The NWSL board of governors announced Sunday the formation of an executive committee to manage oversight of the league’s operations.
It includes an independent review of practices and policies at league and club levels to “ensure moving forward that there is a systematic, transparent, and effective execution of any harassment or workplace conduct issues,” the announcement said.
The NWSL will also reopen a 2015 investigation regarding Riley, including a review of the teams he has coached.
Courage season ticket holder Dr. Mike Edwards is also an associate professor of sports management at N.C. State.
“It was gut-wrenching for us, for having been fans and cheering on and just did we enable any part of this because of our support of the coaching staff and everything else?” Edwards said. “Just a lot of emotions going through. But again, ultimately it wasn’t about us, it was about what had happened to the victims of Paul Riley in this case.”
Edwards says sports are often a high-pressure performance environment, and that can create tension and sometimes fear.
“You have very powerful individuals that are the gateway to that success and those teams. And it just creates a power dynamic that can lead to manipulation, that can lead to abuse, and can also lead to not wanting to report that or concerns that that is going to blow my chance to succeed,” Edwards said.
Edwards and a colleague are beginning a study to look at how sports organizations facilitate or inhibit safe psychological spaces for female athletes. And while he says he doesn’t know the solution to a situation like this, he thinks there needs to more diversity in sport leadership and athletes need to have a larger voice.
“If you have a culture of safety and you have a culture focused on really protecting those individuals within the organization that are victims, then you are going to be transparent,” Edwards said. “You are going to want to change. You are going to look at that and say, ‘What did we, as an organization, do wrong and how can we make it so it doesn’t happen again?’”
The Courage released a statement on Twitter on behalf of the team owners, the staff and players commending the women who came forward in the allegations against Riley.
The team has appointed assistant coach Sean Nahas as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.