sport news US soccer's Becky Sauerbrunn leads 'heartbroken and frustrated' players in ... trends now

sport news US soccer's Becky Sauerbrunn leads 'heartbroken and frustrated' players in ... trends now
sport news US soccer's Becky Sauerbrunn leads 'heartbroken and frustrated' players in ... trends now

sport news US soccer's Becky Sauerbrunn leads 'heartbroken and frustrated' players in ... trends now

United States captain Becky Sauerbrunn is leading a chorus of professional women's soccer players in condemning the systemic abuse within the National Women's Soccer League. 

'The players are not doing well,' the 37-year-old defender said during a media session in London. 'We are horrified and heartbroken and frustrated and exhausted and really, really angry.'

An independent investigation into the scandals that erupted in the National Women's Soccer League last season found emotional abuse and sexual misconduct were systemic in the sport, impacting multiple teams, coaches and players, according to a report released Monday.

One coach called in a player to review game film and showed her pornography instead, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, another was reportedly known to berate his players and then quiz them about their sex lives.

Another coach was said to have coerced multiple players into sexual relationships and was fired by his team for the disturbing behavior but the club failed to warn another franchise when he was hired by a rival team only a few months later.

Former acting US Attorney General Sally Q. Yates and the law firm of King & Spaulding released a report Monday after being retained by US Soccer to investigate allegations of abuse in the NWSL following a series of scandals last year.

The NWSL and its players association are conducting another investigation.

Five of 10 NWSL coaches either were fired or stepped down last season amid allegations of misconduct. Among them was North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley, who was dismissed after two former players, Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly, accused him of sexual coercion and harassment dating back a decade. Riley denied the allegations.

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United States captain Becky Sauerbrunn is leading a chorus of professional women's soccer players in condemning the systemic abuse within the National Women's Soccer League

Becky Sauerbrunn #4 of the Portland Thorns FC during a game between Chicago Red Stars and Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park on November 14, 2021 in Portland

United States captain Becky Sauerbrunn is leading a chorus of professional women's soccer players in condemning the systemic abuse within the National Women's Soccer League

Sinead Farrelly

Mana Shim

Five of 10 NWSL coaches either were fired or stepped down last season amid allegations of misconduct. Among them was North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley, who was dismissed after two former players, Mana Shim (right) and Sinead Farrelly (left), accused him of sexual coercion and harassment dating back a decade. Riley denied the allegations 

US Soccer commissioned the investigation by Yates and the law firm King & Spaulding after former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Shim came forward with allegations of harassment and sexual coercion dating back a decade involving former coach Paul Riley (pictured), who has denied the allegations

US Soccer commissioned the investigation by Yates and the law firm King & Spaulding after former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Shim came forward with allegations of harassment and sexual coercion dating back a decade involving former coach Paul Riley (pictured), who has denied the allegations

Yates' report focused on three former coaches, including Riley. Not only did the investigation find misconduct by all three, it also said their teams did not fully cooperate. 

'We are angry that it took a third-party investigation,' Sauebrunn said. 'We are angry that it took an article in The Athletic and the Washington Post and numerous others. We're angry that it took over 200 people sharing our trauma to get to this point right now.'

England's Lucy Bronze offered support to her American counterparts ahead of a match at Wembley.

'Every single one of us [in the team] are in solidarity with all of those players, particularly the ones who have spoken out and told their truths, because I can imagine -- well, I can't even imagine -- how hard it must be to have gone through it, and then to speak out,' Bronze said.

Yates' report focused on three former coaches, including Riley. Not only did the investigation find misconduct by all three, it also said their teams did not fully cooperate.

'I think for so long this has fallen on the players to demand change,' Sauerbrunn said. 'That is because the people in authority and decision-making positions have repeatedly failed to protect us and they have failed to hold themselves and each other accountable. Who are you actually protecting and what values are you upholding? You have failed in your stewardship.

'And it's my opinion that every owner and executive and US Soccer official who has repeatedly failed the players and failed to protect the players, who have hidden behind legalities and have not participated fully in these investigations, should be gone.'

Portland Thorns fans hold signs referencing player abuse during a game in 2021

Portland Thorns fans hold signs referencing player abuse during a game in 2021

As Sauerbrunn was speaking in London, her NWSL team, the Portland Thorns, announced owner Merritt Paulson, general manager Gavin Wilkinson and executive Mike Golub would immediately withdraw from any Thorns-related decision-making until the league investigation is complete.

Farrelly and Shim played for the Thorns when Riley was coach from 2014-15. At the time, the Thorns conducted an internal investigation of the allegations and decided not to renew Riley's contract. But no reason for the decision was made public and Riley went on to coach elsewhere in the league.

Sauerbrunn was asked about increasing pressure on Paulson to sell the team. She said it was her belief the NWSL's joint investigation would make its own recommendation as far as discipline.

'I don't know if anything is going to come out in this other report that's going to make any sort of difference. And so at the end of the day, if people continue to fail the players and they don't comply to anything that gets asked of them or gets implemented because of these reports, then they need to be gone,' Sauerbrunn said.

Shim says she first informed the Thorns front office about Riley's inappropriate behavior in 2015 she discloses the coach's 'sexual harassment towards me'. But while the team declined to re-sign Riley when his contract expired, he was still hired by the NWSL's Western New York Flash the following season and by the Courage in 2017

Shim says she first complained about Riley in 2015 when she played for him on the Portland Thorns. But while the team declined to re-sign him when his contract expired, he was still hired by the NWSL's Western New York Flash the following season and by the Courage in 2017

Some of the details in Yates' report were disturbing.

'I think we're all reckoning with the things that were said in the report. Still kind of working through that, in all the ways that we individually do,' said defender Alana Cook, who plays for OL Reign. 'I think we have such a momentous occasion on Friday playing at a sold out Wembley Stadium, and it's marred by this report, and it's marred by the atrocities that have been condoned and tolerated and allowed to go on.'

The report made numerous recommendations to prioritize player health and safety. Among them is the requirement that teams accurately disclose coach misconduct to the league and the soccer federation to ensure coaches aren't allowed to move between teams. It also calls for meaningful vetting of coaches and timely investigations into allegations of abuse.

US Soccer also said it would immediately implement programs to protect players.

'It was a difficult day, yesterday, lots of emotions, different emotions. Personally, I'm saddened by the report in everything that we saw in it,' US coach Vlatko Andonovski said. 'At the same time, I feel a lot of empathy for the players, and I have tremendous respect for the bravery of the players who spoke out and the players who participated in this report. Soccer is is a game we all love and it should be a safe space.'

Shim, one of the whistle blowers, was failed by her club, league, and the system at large, according to her friend and former teammate, US National Team star Alex Morgan (pictured)

Shim, one of the whistle blowers, was failed by her club, league, and the system at large, according to her friend and former teammate, US National Team star Alex Morgan (pictured)

Shim, one of the whistle blowers, was failed by her club, league, and the system at large, according to her friend and former teammate, US National Team star Alex Morgan.

'She went through all the right steps, and she was failed,' Morgan told ESPN'S E:60 in a segment that aired Tuesday evening. 'She was failed by the system.'

Both Shim and Farrelly claim Riley, 58, often took them drinking and used those moments to pressure them into sex, according to The Athletic's report. In one alleged 2012 incident, Riley, a Liverpool native who was 47 and married at the time, took Farrelly and another player to his hotel room and had sex with both of them.

Riley's refrain, which Farrelly said she often repeated to herself after having sex with her coach, was that they would be 'taking this to their graves.'

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