Paul Riley has been accused of sexual coercion by several former players. (www.AndyMead/YCJPhoto)

North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley has been accused of sexual coercion by former players he has coached on several women’s teams, according to a story in The Athletic.

According to a story by Meg Linehan, one of the players, Sinead Farrelly played for Riley on the Philadelphia Independence, New York fury and Portland Thorns. Farrelly said she “felt under his control.”

In the story that was posted Thursday, Farrelly related several incidents in which she felt she was coerced into having sex with her coach.

Another former Portland player, Meleana Shim, added that “I felt from the beginning like I owed him.”

Here is a link to The Athletic story:

Riley has strong ties to Long Island, most recently as director of soccer with the Albertson Soccer Club.

The Athletic reported that Riley, through an email, responded to 23 questions from The Athletic about the alleged incidents. In the email, he said that the majority of the allegations were “completely untrue.”

“I have never had sex with, or made sexual advances towards these players,” he wrote.

A Zoom press conference previewing the Courage’s next game was postponed.

The NWSL Players Association issued a statement about systemic abuse in the NWSL:

“We, the players of the NWSL, stand with Sinead Farrelly, Mana Shim, Kaiya McCullough, and each of the players who have brought their stories into the light – both known and unknown. Words cannot adequately capture our anger, pain, sadness, and disappointment.

“To the players who suffer in silence, know that the Players Association holds a safe space for you. We stand ready to confidentially offer you resources and support. You are not alone.

“We refuse to be silent any longer. Our commitment as players is to speak truth to power. We will no longer be complicit in a culture of silence that has enabled abuse and exploitation in our league and in our sport.

“The very lack of basic and fundamental protections that ensure dignity at work are part of what has led to stories like those that have come out this season. NWSL and its Clubs must act swiftly to implement changes that would protect current and future players. The opportunity to do this is right now in our first contract negotiation. In the face of systemic abuse, players demand greater control over their lives and careers.”

The NWSLPA also asked for the NWSL disclose how Paul Riley was hired within the league after departing from another club subsequent to an investigation into abusive conduct during the bargaining session scheduled for Friday.

Riley, 57, is one of the most successful coaches in women’s professional soccer and was a candidate for the U.S. women’s national team and England national side positions. He guided the Western New York Flash to the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League crown and the Courage to the 2018 and 2019 titles. He also was named the Women’s Professional Soccer coach of the year in the 2011 and earned similar NWSL honors in 2017 and 2018.

A native of England, Riley starred at Adelphi University and went on to become captain of the Long Island Rough Riders, who won the 1995 U.S. Interregional Soccer League crown. He also directed the Rough Riders to the USL Pro League title in 2002.

Here is a link to The Athletic story: