According to a statement released via the National Women’s Soccer League’s website, all games this weekend “will not occur.” The statement did not provide clarity on whether the games would be cancelled entirely or rescheduled to a later date.
The statement included a quote from NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird that read:
“This week, and much of this season, has been incredibly traumatic for our players and staff, and I take full responsibility for the role I have played. I am so sorry for the pain so many are feeling. Recognizing that trauma, we have decided not to take the field this weekend to give everyone some space to reflect. Business as usual isn’t our concern right now. Our entire league has a great deal of healing to do, and our players deserve so much better. We have made this decision in collaboration with our players association and this pause will be the first step as we collectively work to transform the culture of this league, something that is long overdue.”
This announcement comes in the wake of an investigative report published yesterday by The Athletic’s Meg Linehan, which details alleged emotional and sexual harassment by former Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley. The report details a toxic environment created by Riley that included inappropriate relationships with players, sexual coercion, and homophobia. Paul Riley was fired by the North Carolina Courage yesterday afternoon. The report also revealed the NWSL was aware of allegations made against Riley by players, and chose to do nothing about it.
It is worth noting that the trauma endured by NWSL players, according to the report, spans far beyond this week or this season. The NWSL statement says that the “entire league has to do a great deal of healing,” but the league has yet to acknowledge their own failures and systemic issues that allowed this abuse to happen.
Yesterday, Alex Morgan tweeted a series of screenshots of emails informing the league of Riley’s behavior sent earlier this year, which undermined the NWSL’s official statement that they had “reacted swiftly in response to these new allegations.”
All of this comes mere weeks after a Washington Post report by Molly Hensley-Clancy revealed a toxic environment at the Washington Spirit leading to the firing of coach Richie Burke.
Defector reached out to the NWSL players association for comment but did not hear back. This post will be updated if they respond.
UPDATE (1:45 p.m. ET): The NWSLPA tweeted a statement regarding this week’s game postponement clarifying that the players asked the league for the games this week to be postponed.