Paul Riley, the coach at the center of the minute-long protests at matches this week, rose from a youth soccer coach to become one of the highest-profile coaches in the women’s game, winning two championships in the N.W.S.L., with the North Carolina Courage.
In 2015, three years before winning his first championship, Riley left the Portland Thorns N.W.S.L. team. The Thorns now say he was fired for cause, though the club made no such announcement at the time. Riley showed up months later coaching another N.W.S.L. team, the Western New York Flash. When the Flash, which eventually moved to North Carolina, announced the hiring, an executive of the team praised Riley for being “very well respected around the globe.”
Last week, in a report in The Athletic, two former players said Riley abused players at will and that they had reported it to team management and the league. Riley denied most of the allegations to The Athletic, and did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Sinead Farrelly, who played for Riley with the Philadelphia Independence in 2011 and then again with the Portland Thorns in 2014 and 2015, said Riley used his power as her coach to coerce her to have sex with him. Meleana Shim, who also played for the Thorns, said that after a night of drinking Riley pressured her and Farrelly to kiss each other. If they did so, the team would not have to run sprints the next day. Other players have accused Riley of making inappropriate comments.
In September 2015, Shim emailed the owner of the Thorns, Merritt Paulson, as well as other team executives, about the kissing incident. She also emailed Jeff Plush, then the commissioner of the N.W.S.L.
The next week, the Thorns announced that Riley would not coach the team the next season, thanking him for his service and making no mention of any misbehavior. In a statement this week, Steve Malik, the owner of the Courage, wrote that upon hiring Riley, he “assured that he was in good standing.”