OSN Column: What The Hell Is Going On With The NWSL?

By: Miriam B. Dye/Oregon Sports News

The news about Paul Riley having been terminated for misconduct, sexual harassment, and abuse of his authority dropped today. This announcement and report make him the third coach fired since August of this year. Therefore with that said… What in the hell is going on at the NWSL?

Who is running the place? And what are they so busy on that they have not noticed the abuse of their female soccer players? As an employee, people show up to do their job in exchange for a salary and an opportunity to grow within the organization they belong to. Women have for long been trying to earn the privileges that only men seem to be “worthy” of receiving. Nonetheless, we get up every day and show up to work. We don’t want any handouts; we do not want any free passes. We want to do our job and get treated with respect just like you treat men.

It is infuriating to read the stories of the women who have been assaulted, coerced, and bullied into sexual “favors” by Paul Riley.

I am a mother of two girls. My oldest is a college graduate, and my youngest is nine years old. Every day I make sure I tell them to be careful, to be safe. Every day I remind them to beware of people, especially of men who may ask them to do something uncomfortable in exchange for something they need or have earned.

The fact is that being a professional/working woman is not easy. I have been the subject of sexual harassment throughout my professional life.

I have had anything from a guy sharing a lewd joke to me disguising it as a way to “break the ice” to having someone literally reach to my knee and leave their hand there for several seconds beyond a tap as if it was not a big deal!

My personal space has continuously been invaded. My body approached me in ways that I had not asked or accepted in any way. I have had male colleagues get so close to me while talking that for any conversations with them, I have had to strategically plan in my head how to start the conversation if I needed support or collaboration, preoccupied with things like where I should stand if he comes to my space or if I have to go to his space. How can I put distance to avoid him from touching me even though we have to be face to face?

Do you think that’s pretty bad? Well, I am only telling you what I can think of right now. But perhaps the worst was when I caught a colleague standing right behind me in my office space leering at me as if it was no big deal. How did it happen? Well, I felt someone else’s presence, and I turned around, and when I noticed him, I stupidly said: “Oh, I am sorry I did not see you, did you need something?” Only for him to reply with “Nah, I am just watching you.” This happened multiple times. He truly would grab a cup of coffee and stand right behind me and stare. Yes, I shared it with management, but nothing changed in that or any of the cases above. Some places I have left, some I have had to stick it out because I have a family to support. But it is not easy to walk away from something you are good at or love because of a man who cannot control himself or knows how to respect women in the workplace. So what you do is survive. You navigate and work even harder to cope and ignore the toxic environment we are often in the middle of.

Why am I sharing my story as part of this piece? Well, because I need you to understand that the society we live in is highly misogynistic, and it continuously crosses the line in every aspect of every woman regardless of their background, public or financial status. Sadly enough, that’s how things roll for us women in this world.

This brings me to the story at hand. While it is still developing, I could not just sit back and not share my thoughts. I know it’s only been a few hours, and these women are already being judged for opening up. They are being judged because they waited too long to report. They are being judged for “consensually” engaging in sexual relationships and crying about it now. They are being judged because to most, “She slept her way up to become a soccer star.”

If you are thinking about disputing the report and taking Riley’s response to the report, please rethink your stance. Even though Riley has denied any wrongdoing, including sexual advances, sexual relationships, bullying, coercion, and intimidation, the report says otherwise. I honestly can’t think of a man who has been under these types of accusations ever admit they have done wrong. He issued a weak PR prepared apology as any other abuser in the public eye usually does. This, of course, is not surprising, just like it is not surprising that there had been formal complaints about his behavior to none other than our very own Portland NWSL team, the Thorns.

Mana Shim filed a complaint to the Thorns’ office in 2015. The investigation records show the Thorns opted not to renew his contract after that.

Note the keyword here “not renew.” He wasn’t fired. He wasn’t terminated. It seems as if he was just sent away, as advised by legal counsel.

I am sure the legal counsel represented the team’s best interest, not the victims in the case.

Without any consequences, this, of course, left him free to seek employment elsewhere. Not overseas, not in a small village in the middle of nowhere, but once again within the league. As many abusers do, he went on with his life. As if nothing had happened. After all, the NWSL is no different from any other corporation globally; it is mainly run by and for men with a history of clearly dismissing this type of behavior. Riley is the prime example of that.

Today, however, it is essential to note there was action. The North Carolina Courage dismissed Riley upon the publication of a report by Meg Linehan published in The Athletic.

The Thorns, of course, followed with a statement of their own stating they took complaints seriously and completed an investigation. They also apologized to the players for the pain they had gone through. For the full Thorns statement, click here.

The overwhelming support of current and former NWSL players, of course, poured throughout the day. It is essential to note this group of women is one of the best female soccer leagues in the world.

As a culture that is often excluding women, we have had to fight and figure out ways to stay active in different fields and arenas.

Therefore through the NWSL, players have shown the world that a girl can kick as no one else can. The US team has taken the country’s name across the globe and has brought titles, medals, and even records.

None of that, however, seems to have mattered much. As they continue to lead in their sport worldwide, they have also had to fight for equality, including but not limited to salaries, support, and all the things their male counterparts players get that they do not.

You would think that even though they get very little but have done much, they would at least be respected and safe.

This story is, of course, developing, and the NWSL has ordered investigations be opened. I hope that said investigations will be thorough, and action, not words, will create new policies and rules that will protect the players. I hope that the NWSL will once and for all make clear that female athletes matter. Women Matter.


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