NWSL teams pause games: “this is not business as usual”

During the sixth minute of the first two NWSL games since accusations against Paul Riley were published, players paused and gathered in "solidarity."
Bill Streicher USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday night, NWSL teams returned to competition for the first time since Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly‘s allegations of abuse against former North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley were published by The Athletic.

In the week since, there has been a reckoning around player treatment and safety, and that conversation continued into Wednesday night’s games.  During the sixth minute of the first three matches, players paused and gathered in a circle at the center of the field.

“Tonight, we reclaim our place on the field, because we will not let our joy be taken from us. But this is not business as usual,” the NWSL Players Association (NWSLPA) said in a statement.

The statement went on to explain that the moment of solidarity was “in honor of the 6 years it took for Mana, Sinead, and all those who fought for too long to be heard.”


The NWSLPA also expanded its list of demands. Here are the eight items in their entirety:

1.) Every coach, General Manager, representative on the Board of Governors, and owner voluntarily submit to the Players Association’s independent investigation into abusive conduct. They may notify Executive Director Meghann Burke of their agreement with this demand by the close of business on Wednesday, October 13, 2021.

2.) The scope of NWSL’s investigation announced on Sunday evening, October 4, 2021, be expanded to include an investigation of each of the twelve NWSL Clubs represented on the Board of Governors to determine whether any abuse, whether presently known or unknown, has occurred at any point in time.

3.) The scope of NWSL’s investigation further be expanded to determine whether any League Office staff, NWSL Club, or person in a position of power within NWSL neglected to investigate concerns of abuse raised by any player or employee at any point in time.

4.) NWSL adopt an immediate “Step Back Protocol” whereby any person in a position of power (e.g. owner, representative on the Board of Governors, General Manager, or Management Supervisor) at the time that a Club either hired or separated from employment a coach who was, is, or will be under investigation for abuse be suspended from any governance or oversight role within NWSL pending the conclusion of an independent investigation, effectively immediately. For any Club that took swift action to protect players upon the discovery of facts that were not previously known to the Club, the immediate disclosure to the Players Association of the circumstances and the policies or practices implemented to prevent the same from happening again may be grounds to restore that person to their position quickly, with the Players Association’s agreement.

5.) NWSL immediately agree to disclose all investigative reports referenced in its statement of October 3, 2021.

6.) NWSL immediately agree to disclose to the Players Association any and all findings, conclusions, and reports are obtained pursuant to their statement of October 3, 2021, including but not limited to the reopening of the 2015 Paul Riley investigation.

7.) NWSL agrees to cooperate with the Players Association’s own independent investigation by a written email to Executive Director Meghann Burke by the close of business on Wednesday, October 13, 2021.

8.) NWSL agrees that representatives of the Players Association have an opportunity to meet with potential Commissioner candidates and have a meaningful opportunity to be heard in the selection of the next Commissioner.

Also on Wednesday night, players on the Portland Thorns issued their own joint statement on social media, demanding that the team’s GM, Gavin Wilkinson, be placed on administrative leave until the investigation concludes.

Within an hour, the Portland Thorns issued a statement that Wilkinson was on administrative leave “from Thorns duties,” but as ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle pointed out, Wilkinson is not suspended from his role with the Timbers.


Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC