An independent investigation into reports of verbal, emotional and sexual abuse within the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has found widespread problems and a league culture that failed to adhere to SafeSport Code to protect its athletes. This culture was reinforced from the top down as evidence was uncovered that the league commissioner was aware of inappropriate behavior by coaches and instead of instituting discipline, allowed them to move from one team to another.

Female coaches, front office staff and players from several teams within the NWSL have reported an atmosphere of disrespect and intimidation towards women and working mothers. For example, employee complaints related to the Portland Thorns included inappropriate comments, jokes, unwanted physical contact and hostile behavior from members of upper management.

A timeline of sexual abuse and inappropriate conduct dates back as early as 1998 according to a summary compiled by after review of the independent investigation findings published by former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Q. Yates. The timeline also indicates several instances of sexual misconduct perpetrated by Paul Riley who served as head coach for teams in Women’s Professional Soccer and later for teams in the National Women’s Soccer League. Paul Riley served in various coaching roles for ten years and was eventually fired in 2015 by the NWSL after three separate players came forward to report inappropriate behavior and sexual misconduct by the coach.

Several other coaches were mentioned in the investigation including Rory Dames who served as a high school girls soccer coach and was later hired to serve as the head coach of the Chicago Red Stars, Mike Golub the president of business for the Portland Thorns and Timbers, and Western New York Flash head coach Aaran Lines. Each of these coaches was accused of creating a hostile environment for players and staff through emotional, verbal and/or sexual misconduct. All the while, leaders within the NWSL turned a blind eye to complaints.

Justice for athletes who have suffered sexual abuse

Athletes put their trust in coaches to help them perform at the peak of their abilities. When a coach breaches that trust by initiating inappropriate sexual contact with an athlete, the impact can be devastating. Our attorneys have experience handling sexual abuse claims against sports organizations and groups and can help you on your path to healing. We understand the sensitive nature of this type of lawsuit and prioritize our clients’ privacy and trust while fighting to get them the compensation they need to assist them in healing and coping with sexual abuse. Contact us now for a no-cost consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.