This new scandal is heartbreakingly familiar.
Another major sexual misconduct scandal is rocking the sports world. In late September, two former National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) players, Meleana “Mana” Shim and Sinead Farrelly, publicly revealed allegations of sexual misconduct against their former coach, Paul Riley. Riley has denied all accusations. While it can be incredibly difficult for survivors to come forward with their stories, Shim and Farrelly received support from all sides — including from some world-class athletes who understand what they’re going through. On Oct. 5, Simone Biles tweeted out a message supporting soccer players, and it shows just how important solidarity between survivors is.
Shim and Farrelly first made their allegations public in a Sept. 30 report from The Athletic, in which they accused Riley of sexual coercion and verbal abuse as their former coach. Riley has denied all accusations as “completely untrue,” telling The Athletic that he had “never had sex with, or made sexual advances towards these players.”
However, both former NWSL players claim Riley had a “pattern” of alleged sexual misconduct. “He’s a predator,” Shim said during an Oct. 5 interview on the TODAY show. “He sexually harassed me. He sexually coerced Sinead, and he took away our careers,” she added. The same day The Athletic article was published, Riley was fired from his position as head coach for North Carolina Courage FC, and U.S. Soccer suspended his coaching license.
Amid the bombshell allegations, many athletes have stepped forward to support Shim and Farrelly, including world-class Olympic gymnast Simone Biles. “I stand with all the players,” she wrote in an Oct. 5 tweet. Biles herself has also undergone the grueling process of sharing her story of abuse, in order to hold wrongdoers accountable. On Sept. 15, Biles, along with three other prominent gymnasts, testified in a Senate hearing about the FBI’s mishandling of sexual abuse allegations again Larry Nassar, a former U.S. Gymnastics doctor. Biles, one of the young gymnasts Nassar abused, testified about her experiences and the FBI’s failings in protecting her and other athletes.
Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman testified alongside Biles during the Sept. 15 Senate hearing, and also showed her support for Shim and Farrelly in a series of Oct. 4 tweets. “The problem is bigger than any one abuser, like Nassar — it includes ALL enablers,” Raisman wrote, emphasizing how the systemic failures that enable this kind of abuse must be addressed. “Without a real investigation, we can’t know who they are, what they knew and what they did or didn’t do,” she added. In her tweets, Raisman specifically called attention to Lisa Baird, a former marketing chief at United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee who had moved over to the NWSL in 2020. On Oct. 1, Baird resigned from her position as NWSL commissioner amid reports of Riley’s alleged sexual misconduct. In an Oct. 1 statement, Baird said she took “full responsibility for the role [she] played” regarding the events of the week, and that she was “so sorry for the pain so many are feeling.”
“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 told TODAY. “This is about safety in our own lives and our bodies, and the players deserve that, we all deserve that,” she added.