Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly aren’t done sharing their stories, and they’re not content with the few changes that have already taken place in the NWSL. They want more, and they appeared with Alex Morgan on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday to demand further justice not just for themselves but for women’s athletes everywhere.
Five days after having their stories told to the world via Meg Linehan and Katie Strang’s reporting, Shim and Farrelly once again shared their vulnerabilities on national TV. Last week, The Athletic detailed the shocking alleged verbal abuse and sexual coercion by Paul Riley, who was fired as N.C. Courage coach after this report came to light on Thursday. Riley is accused of trying to coerce Shim and Farrelly into having sex with him, among other complaints. (For more details, click here.)
Following the publication of the article from The Athletic, Riley was fired, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird stepped down and the weekend’s matches were not played. On Tuesday morning, the NWSLPA announced its players would proceed with Wednesday’s scheduled matches, but only while continuing to demand more reform.
#NoMoreSilence pic.twitter.com/4UYiMDAIWL— NWSLPA (@nwsl_players) October 5, 2021
It is, sadly, a story that has repeated itself over and over in women’s soccer, and Shim, Farrelly and NWSL players want more to be done to prevent this from happening again. Savannah Guthrie of “Today” interviewed Shim, Farrelly and Morgan on Tuesday morning where they laid out a few demands.
“I want more,” Shim said. “I want more justice. I want better policies. I want players to be protected and at the same time I feel like we’re on the right path and I’m grateful for everyone who has reached out and supported us.”
(Full interview available at the top of this page.)
There is new fallout inside the National Women’s Soccer League after athletes publicly accused prominent coach Paul Riley of sexual coercion, and the league of failing to protect its players. @SamBrockNBC reports. pic.twitter.com/3pHEQR8IKR— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 5, 2021
Both Shim and Farrelly said they have been appreciative of the support they’ve received since the article was published but made it clear the pain is still there.
“The support and the validation of the story by everyone globally has blown me away and really has felt like it has given my pain purpose and that has been a liberation for me that I have not been able to feel for almost 10 years,” Farrelly said. “It seeps into every part of your livelihood and there is a lot of loss that comes with that and things we won’t get back.
“It’s bigger than the sport; this is about safety in our own lives and our bodies. The players deserve that; we all deserve that and it’s something that we will fight for.”
“It’s bigger than the sport. This is about safety in our own lives ... the players deserve that.”Watch @SavannahGuthrie’s full interview with soccer stars Mana Shim, Sinead Farrelly and Alex Morgan on the sexual abuse allegations rocking the National Women's Soccer League. pic.twitter.com/2RD98k7lWp
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 5, 2021
One thing that must improve across the board, the players said, is eliminating the code of silence many of these players are forced into just to make ends meet and continue their professional careers.
“From early on there was a possession, not just from Paul but from the team I was playing for,” Shim said. “They silenced me about multiple issues, my sexuality being the most important one. And I was just very, very uncomfortable the whole time. … I’m still damaged. This isn’t something that goes away overnight because we talk about it.
“I’m just so grateful for this opportunity to get these bad people out of the league and really shine a light on this issue, because it’s so prevalent. It’s not just this team, it’s not just this coach, it’s across the league, it’s across the sport; we have to do something about it.”
As frustrating as it is that this is the only type of story national news media pays attention to, the players hope it brings about change. In part, this is why Morgan was involved in the interview as one of the most popular faces in U.S. soccer.
“First and foremost, I’m here today to support Mana and Sinead and continue to amplify their voices and just show the systemic failure from the league and how wrong they did in handling Mana’s case and complaint and investigation and where they failed Mana and Sinead and probably many other women,” Morgan said.
It was through Morgan’s support that the NWSL even instituted an anti-harassment policy earlier this year — in the league’s ninth year. But it will take far more changes before NWSL players are safe.