NWSL players pause games in demonstration in wake of Paul Riley sexual misconduct revelations

·2 min read

Play resumed in the National Women's Soccer League on Wednesday night, but the fallout from the league's ongoing sexual misconduct, harassment and coercion scandal remained at the forefront.

During the sixth minute of each of the NWSL's games Wednesday night, players stopped the game, gathered at midfield and locked arms in solidarity.

"Teams will stop play in each of tonight's games at the 6th minute. Players will join together in solidarity at the center circle for one minute in recognition of the 6 years it took for Mana, Sinead, and all those who fought for too long to be heard," the NWSLPA said in a statement. "We call on fans to stand in silence with us. During that time, we ask you to stand in that pain and discomfort with us, as we consider what too many of us have been asked to sit with for too long.

"We call on you to consider, in that minute, what is demanded of each of us to reclaim our league and our sport."

Players from Racing Louisville FC said they had initially discussed pausing for the game’s first six minutes — for even more emphasis — but opted not to, citing the emotional challenge it would’ve posed for players.

“You may not see it in the way teams are playing right now because this is a league of strong, strong women,” Louisville goalkeeper and co-captain Michelle Betos said. “But people are hurting. I had so much respect standing in that circle looking at those North Carolina girls, knowing what they’re going through. You could see their eyes swell up, even for that time period.”

MORE: NWSL to resume play, CEO and managing partner of Washington Spirit steps down

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Last week, former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim went on the record with The Athletic detailing the trauma they experienced while playing under now-former North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley on NWSL clubs including Western New York and the Portland Thorns.

Riley was immediately fired, and in response the NWSLPA released a statement demanding the league conduct an independent investigation, noting that the "systemic abuse plaguing the NWSL must not be ignored."

Players stop the match during the first half of a NWSL soccer match between NJ/NY Gotham FC and the Washington Spirit in a protest at Subaru Park.
Players stop the match during the first half of a NWSL soccer match between NJ/NY Gotham FC and the Washington Spirit in a protest at Subaru Park.

On Friday, Lisa Baird was forced out as NWSL commissioner. That move came hours after the NWSL called off its games this weekend at the request of players.

As play resumed Wednesday night, the NWSLPA also listed a number of demands for the league moving forward.

Later Wednesday night, the Portland Thorns announced that general manager Gavin Wilkinson was placed on administrative leave pending the results of an independent investigation. Wilkinson also serves as general manager of Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers. He will not be suspended from those duties, according to ESPN.

Contributing: Nancy Armour, Chris Bumbaca, Hayes Gardner

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NWSL players pause games in protest over Paul Riley allegations