US women's soccer league postpones matches after abuse allegations

Los Angeles (AFP) –


The top professional women's soccer league in the United States, under fire for its handling of allegations of sexual misconduct against a head coach, announced on Friday that it was postponing its weekend matches.

"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," National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) commissioner Lisa Baird said.

"I am so sorry for the pain so many are feeling," Baird said in a statement. "Recognizing that trauma, we have decided not to take the field this weekend to give everyone some space to reflect."

The postponement came after the North Carolina Courage fired head coach Paul Riley on Thursday for what the team called "very serious allegations of misconduct."

Riley's dismissal came after The Athletic website detailed wide-ranging sexual misconduct by the 58-year-old Englishman spanning multiple teams and leagues since 2010.

Riley was the second NWSL coach to be dismissed this week after the league terminated Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke's contract following an investigation into allegations of verbal and emotional abuse.

In her statement, Baird, the NWSL commissioner, said "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."

Baird said the decision to postpone the weekend matches was made in collaboration with the players association.

"This pause will be the first step as we collectively work to transform the culture of this league, something that is long overdue," she said.

US internationals Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe were among the players who criticized the league's handling of the allegations against Riley.

"Bottom line: protect your players. Do the right thing NWSL," Morgan tweeted.