First, The Athletic reported on Thursday about allegations of sexual coercion and misconduct by North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley.
By Thursday afternoon, Riley was fired by the NWSL team.
Friday, the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association announced that its members had asked and been granted their request that the league postpone this weekend’s games, “to give players space to process this pain,” not just of the abuse perpetrated by Riley, but systemically.
“This was not an easy decision, as there is nothing we love more than playing for our fans,” the players said in a statement. “Suiting up for game day under the lights in front of wildly supportive fans is what brings us joy. We refuse to let that joy be taken from us. We also recognize, however, that mental health struggles are real. We know that many of our fans made travel plans, scheduled the night off, or juggled family commitments to attend our games and that this decision impacts you, too. We hope that fans will understand and support us through this time. This is far from over for any of us.
“As players, we hope that those who read this statement will hear that it is ok to not be ok. It is ok to take space to process, to feel, and to take care of yourself. In fact, it’s more than ok. It’s a priority.”
And then, Friday night, NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird was out.
It’s hard to process all of this unfolding within 36 hours, but as jolting as it is, it’s unquestionably a positive thing to have these problems laid bare, to see actual accountability in a world where it’s so often sorely lacking, and to see the power that players have collectively. The latter will be important going forward, to make sure that as the NWSL and women’s soccer in America forge their path, the players’ well-being is at the forefront.
There still are more stories yet to be told, surely, and some that will remain untold. For now, a tip of the cap to the players who came forward to get Riley out of the game, and to their union compatriots who made sure that the league could not simply move on without addressing this.