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NWSL permanently bans four coaches, including Paul Riley, and drops the hammer with team fines and suspensions

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National Women’s Football League Monday Suspensions from coaches and leaders were issued, as well as large team fines. based on league findings joint investigation report released in December on systematic abuse in women’s soccer, in addition to an independent investigation by US Soccer’s Sally Q Yates accusations of abusive behavior and sexual harassment in the past.

Sanctions ranged from the permanent suspension of several coaches from the league to huge fines for governing bodies and clubs. Former Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley, who was accused of sexual harassment by former players, is one of the league’s most notorious coaches to receive an indefinite ban from the league.

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“The League will continue to prioritize implementing and improving policies, programs and systems that put the health and safety of our players first,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman.

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“These actions are fundamental to the future of our league, especially as we build a league that strengthens our players’ ability to succeed and thrive on and off the field. As part of our commitment to accountability and containment, the league has determined that corrective action against certain entities and individuals identified in the Joint Investigation Report is appropriate and necessary.”

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NWSLPA chief executive Megan Burke said “the truth is in the report.”

“Real accountability lies in the actions that have been taken so far and, just as importantly, the choices that people in power are making to move forward,” Burke added in a statement released by the union. “Now it’s time to make the transformation.”

Here’s what you need to know about Monday’s sanctions:

Trainers are permanently banned:

  • Paul Riley
  • Christy Holly
  • Rory Dams
  • Richie Burke

Coaches and leaders banned until 2025:

  • Craig Harrington
  • Alice LaHue

The league says Harrington and LaHue’s continued employment once their ban is lifted will be at the discretion of the commissioner. They will be required to “admit wrongdoing” and “take personal responsibility for inappropriate behavior”, as well as receive training and demonstrate a sincere commitment to correcting behavior.

Conditional Future Employment Coaches:

  • Farid Benstiti
  • James Clarkson
  • Faith Peacock
  • Amanda Cromwell
  • Sam Green
  • Aline Reis

Somewhat like Harrington and Lahue, these six coaches will be required to “admit wrongdoing” and “take personal responsibility for inappropriate behavior” as well as participate in training and demonstrate a genuine commitment to correcting behavior.

Clubs fined:

  • Chicago Red Stars: $1.5 million
  • Portland Thorns: $1 million
  • Racing Louisville: $200,000
  • North Carolina Courage: $100,000.
  • O.L. Rhine: $50,000.
  • Gotham (formerly Sky Blue FC): $50,000

In addition to the fines, North Carolina and Louisville will have to hire sports personnel — coaches and general managers — who are completely different from the men’s teams. Women’s team staff will have to report directly to the owners.

As for the Spikes and Red Stars, the league says Merritt Paulson and Arnim Whisler are selling their clubs and the NWSL will work with them to ensure a quick and proper transition. Paulson pledged $1 million to set up an NWSL player safety office, which could coincide with a $1 million fine issued on Monday.

Clubs not penalized:

  • Washington Spirit
  • Kansas City Current

The league noted that Washington avoided any penalties due to the change of ownership when Steve Baldwin stepped down and sold the team to Y. Michele Kang in March 2022. For Kansas City, the league noted concerns raised by players about “mistreatment”. or retribution for raising these issues.”

Organizational sanctions:

  • NWSL League Office: “None of the former NWSL or US Soccer individuals identified in the joint investigation report are employed by the NWSL in any capacity.” The league also announced that it “incurred millions of dollars in costs” to conduct a joint investigation. The plan is to continue these efforts under new leadership to ensure wide-ranging systemic reforms are in place to create a safer environment for players and staff.”
  • American Football: The league has made it clear that it has no authority over the Member Safety Task Force, which is run by the US Football Federation, but plans to work with the USSF “in its efforts to improve the women’s and women’s football ecosystem.”


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