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Alex Morgan speaks on systemic sexual harassment in the NWSL

An icon of the women's game, Morgan has added her name to a growing number of women who have had enough.

USWNT star Alex Morgan has spoken out on the systemic harassment in the NWSL and in turn the league's failure to do something to solve the problelm.
Brad Smith/ISI PhotosGetty Images

As women's football in the US attempts to exorcise it's demons, an icon speaks up

Alex Morgan calls for change

USWNT star and Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan called for the National Women's Soccer League to end the systemic sexual harassment that has allegedly persisted for more than a decade. Morgan spoke on the failure of the league to protect a number of players from varying league coaches.

The world cup winner's comments come on the back of the recent firing ofThe North Carolina Courage's coach, Paul Riley. Riley - who has coached for 10 years - is accused of a decade's worth of sexual coercion and inappropriate comments pertaining to player's weights and sexual orientations. In fact on Tuesday, Morgan was joined by two players who were named in an investigation that was published by the Athletic, Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly. The pair both went on record with their allegations against Riley and subsequently spoke on air about the league's failure to take decisive action.

Morgan was candid about her feelings, "I'm here to support Mana and Sinead and to 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. When I look back, I tried to be as good a friend and teammate as possible to Mana in helping her file a complaint, when at the time there was no anti-harassment policy in place, there was no league HR, there was no anonymous hotline, there was no way to report."

"We've now started to put these things in place, by demand of players, not by the league being proactive. Something we ask is for the league to start being proactive, not reactive. We're asking for transparency."

Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly share their stories

Shim called for improved policies and player protections. Speaking on Riley, she did not hold back. "He's a predator. He sexually harassed me, he sexually coerced Sinead, and he took away our careers," Shim said. "From early on, there was a possession not just from Paul but from the team that I was playing for. They silenced me for multiple issues, my sexuality being the most important one, and, yeah, I was just very, very uncomfortable the whole time...and every day I showed up to work, every day I practiced, every game I played, I didn't have confidence and I was scared. The only thing that got me through was my teammates."

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Farrelly added her perspective saying, "The support and the validation of this story by everyone globally has just been, has blown me away and really has felt like it has given my pain a purpose," she said. "Mana and Alex and a couple of other women we worked with, and every person who's reached out and shown support, has turned this moment into a movement and made this matter."

"...They have truly amplified our voices and just made this what it should be, which is a huge deal, and demanding change."

Change is coming to the NWSL

In the wake of the allegations made against Riley last week and the subsequent public outcry, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned and last weekends' matches were postponed. On Tuesday, the NWSL's Players Association(NWSLPA) issued a statement in support of the players and confirmed that matches would continue as scheduled. "Today, we stand with Mana, Sinead, and Kaiya [McCullough] as they continue to tell their stories. We have made the decision to proceed with Wednesday night's scheduled competition, but our demands will be forthcoming. #NoMoreSilence," the statement read.

FIFPRO also weighed in on the situation saying it was "stunned by the statements of the players regarding their treatment in the NWSL" and called for "long overdue rights" for players in the league. "We at FIFPRO have seen some of the absolute worst case scenarios that can manifest when women's football players are disempowered," FIFPRO said. "In almost every case, the root cause goes far beyond the actions of any one individual, and therefore the remedy must do so as well."

The NWSLPA said it was creating an anonymous hotline for players, allowing them to report abuse. In addition they to this the league has also made a sports psychologist available. U.S Soccer has since opened an independent investigation and have taken the step of appointing former acting Attorney General Sally Yates to lead the effort.

FIFA also said its judicial bodies have opened an investigation into the matter.


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