Alex Morgan E:60 interview: Serving to Mana Shim, NWSL failures and extra

Monday noticed the discharge of the impartial investigation commissioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation and carried out by former U.S. deputy legal professional normal Sally Yates, which chronicled the extent to which abuse and sexual misconduct within the Nationwide Girls’s Soccer League (NWSL) was missed and ignored “systemically” by executives, coaches and membership house owners.

The report’s findings focus closely on three coaches within the Nationwide Girls’s Soccer League who’ve been accused of great sexual misconduct and abuse: former Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly, former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley and former Chicago Pink Stars coach Rory Dames. It sheds new mild on the alleged misconduct by these three coaches, in addition to the repeated failures by crew house owners, U.S. Soccer officers and others to heed warnings and complaints from gamers about them.

– Yates report defined: Key findings, why the abuse was so widespread, what’s subsequent for the NWSL
Two NWSL house owners step again following Yates report

With the discharge of the E:60 documentary, “Reality Be Instructed,” the highly effective story of the reckoning in girls’s skilled soccer from the perspective of those that skilled it first hand, we’re publishing the complete interview from USWNT worldwide Alex Morgan, who spoke at size concerning the scenario in Portland in addition to her position in attempting to escalate and elevate the allegations round Riley throughout his time on the membership. Morgan was additionally a teammate of Mana Shim (2013-17) and Sinead Farrelly (2014-15) throughout her time with the Thorns from 2013 to 2015.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This has been evenly edited for readability.

ESPN: What do you keep in mind of your teammate Mana Shim in Portland?

Alex Morgan: I keep in mind Mana as a rookie in 2013, as somebody who was simply so comfortable and in addition so good at soccer. The ball simply caught to her foot. She was somebody that simply made me smile and made me instantly comfy being round her — I might simply be myself. And he or she simply was a folks particular person — like, folks gravitated in direction of her.

ESPN: What do you keep in mind of the teaching change that will come after Cindy Parlow Cone?

Morgan: I keep in mind Cindy deciding to not proceed, and us type of feeling like we’re on high of the world profitable in 2013 after our first season of the NWSL. And listening to a few teaching change with Paul Riley entering into place. And it was a giant rent by the membership. He had been profitable. He had lots of gamers that spoke extremely of him, lots of gamers that did not communicate extremely of him. And so there was lots of query marks, however he was positively extremely regarded within the soccer group.

ESPN: What do you keep in mind of what it was like when Riley did are available in and begin teaching the Thorns?

Morgan: When Paul got here in and began to implement his fashion of teaching, there was not the mutual respect, I’d say, from gamers and himself that I feel he was used to, possibly. As a result of he was used to coming in and instantly controlling the whole lot and everybody inside the crew.

He did not like massive personalities. He favored those who had been going to say sure and gamers that had been going to do something he mentioned, something he needed us to do. And I feel that there have been some gamers, together with myself, that requested questions, possibly too many questions. And he did not like that. And I feel that with that, it was a wrestle, the primary season underneath Paul — and it solely bought worse.

ESPN: If you would ask questions… I imply, you had been a extremely regarded nationwide crew participant. What sort of response would you get?

Morgan: It was attention-grabbing, being coached by Paul and figuring out that he did not like folks asking questions, and he did not need myself or fellow nationwide crew gamers questioning him as a coach. I feel he had his fashion of desirous to win over gamers and ensure gamers knew that he was the rationale for his or her success, however he struggled with gamers that had been already profitable.

And so coming in, Paul, he simply struggled to seize the guts of the crew as a result of he needed to implement his path of the crew. When he was questioned, he then used manipulation ways to attempt to break down the crew and present that he was the one and solely particular person that would create success on the crew.

It wasn’t the gamers going to one another or us going to different coaches: It was him. The whole lot went by Paul. And so it was a extremely totally different means of teaching that we weren’t used to, with Portland or for me in any respect in my historical past of enjoying soccer.



Alex Morgan shares her frustration on the failure of the NWSL to assist Meleana Shim after talking out in opposition to Paul Riley. E60: Reality Be Instructed airs October 4 at 7pm ET on ESPN & ESPN+.

ESPN: Was there something that you simply keep in mind that stands proud to you of how he used his energy to, such as you mentioned, manipulate these gamers who had been the perimeter gamers?

Morgan: Paul would have this teaching tactic of — on the finish of the day, it is verbal abuse — however he would break down gamers… Mana, a few different gamers that had been simply combating to get some enjoying time. He would break them down in a means that in the event that they weren’t enjoying as much as a regular in a coaching or in a recreation, he would rip into them at halftime.

One time with a participant who was with us in 2015, [Riley] simply tore into her and about how dangerous of a mom she was and the way all of those private assaults that had completely nothing to do with the sport and it made all of us uncomfortable. However he would do this after which two days later, we’d be again at coaching after an off day and he would simply be smiling as if nothing occurred.

He did not simply verbally assault someone. Like, he did not simply assault our personalities, us as folks, quite than soccer gamers. And it was bizarre since you had been like, “I am sorry, I used to be there if you did this, however had been you there? Do you keep in mind this?” And he would undergo this sample of breaking somebody down after which lifting them up and being like, “I might allow you to get to the place you need to be.”

And so it was a manipulation tactic that I feel wore on lots of gamers, however particularly gamers who had been struggling to get enjoying time or get [on the roster]. All they needed was validation that they deserved to be there, and he would do it in a means that actually made them really feel like they may solely believe when he gave them confidence.

ESPN: When was the primary time that you simply do not forget that Mana confided in you about what was taking place along with her with Paul Riley?

Morgan: Early 2015 is when Mana confided in me that Paul was actually crossing the road. He did a few issues particularly, like asking her to go over to his lodge room to look at movie, after which opening the door in his boxers and shutting the door behind her and asking her to take a seat in his mattress. Or asking if she needed to come back to the World Cup last in Vancouver, with him sending alongside the reservation of the lodge that had a king-size mattress and never two rooms or two beds.

So, a few issues that he did and mentioned by way of textual content message that she relayed to me and this solely progressed, and Mana actually struggled with it in 2015. I attempted to assist her as a lot as potential, however I used to be gone quite a bit with the nationwide crew so I actually did not get a way of how dangerous it was till I got here again from Vancouver and she or he confirmed me textual content messages and shared with me the issues that he did that crossed the road and had been simply straight-up sexual harassment. And we type of began from sq. one on: Nicely, how will we strategy this? How will we report this? How will we maintain somebody like this accountable?

ESPN: And what did you do?

Morgan: When Mana informed me that she was able to report him, though she was scared to lose her job as a soccer participant, she did not know the proper means to do this. She needed to anonymously report him as a result of then she would not be vulnerable to retribution, and I informed her that I’d do the whole lot I might to discover a contact for HR inside the league or inside the Portland Thorns and Timbers group.

On the league, I could not discover something. I could not discover [an] HR contact, I could not discover an nameless hotline. I could not even discover an anti-harassment coverage which may structure precisely what he was doing that was reportable. So I finally needed to go to the Portland Thorns group and name and simply ask round if there was anybody at HR that they will share a contact with me for, and that I did not actually need to share what it was about, however I actually would really like the contact data of that particular person.

I lastly bought that data and shared that with Mana, and at that time she reported him. And that was late 2015.



Jeff Carlisle breaks down the small print of U.S. Soccer’s impartial investigation into participant abuse within the Nationwide Girls’s Soccer League.

ESPN: What was it like listening to Mana inform you these items that had been taking place to her?

Morgan: It was actually laborious to see a teammate going by what Mana was going by in 2015 as a result of to begin with, I had by no means personally skilled that earlier than, however I additionally by no means had a teammate expertise that and speak in confidence to me in the best way that she did, and all I needed to do was assist Mana. I deeply cared for Mana. She nonetheless is one in every of my finest associates immediately, however I did not know what to do aside from assist her by me being there.

I knew I needed to get Paul out of teaching. I needed to carry him accountable. I needed to carry the Portland Thorns group accountable, however I did not understand how. I simply needed to take Mana’s path and assist her in any means potential, but it surely was laborious navigating that and displaying as much as coaching and video games day-after-day, figuring out that Paul was attempting to make use of his place of energy to harass and assault Mana.

She was in an unimaginable place.

ESPN: When she does ultimately report him and the Thorns say that they will care for it, what do you keep in mind of the sequence of occasions after that?

Morgan: I keep in mind Mana reporting Paul to the league in late 2015, and the one motive she waited that lengthy is as a result of she did not need to be reduce from the crew earlier than the tip of the season. She did not need Paul to search out out and for him to both bench her, or waive her or reduce her. So she waited, and she or he shared with me the e-mail that she was drafting to the league — to Jeff Plush, the commissioner on the time. And he or she additionally, I imagine, CC’d both Merritt [Paulson, Portland Thorns owner] or Gavin [Wilkinson, Thorns GM] as properly. And we went over that e mail collectively earlier than she despatched it, and she or he laid all of it on the market. And at that time then I imagine Jeff Plush responded.

I imagine Portland had an investigation with a really slim scope. I used to be interviewed, I imagine, for 15 or 20 minutes — such a brief interview that I truly cannot even recall the questions from the interview, and that was it. There was no conclusion from the investigation, nothing reported again to us primarily based on the findings or suggestion. Paul Riley and Portland Thorns went their separate methods, and Gavin and Merritt wished Paul properly.

ESPN: What was going by your head as they launched that assertion?

Morgan: It was actually tough to see that the Thorns “parted methods” with Paul Riley quite than firing him — I do not even know if it was launched that they had been letting him go, I feel it was that they parted methods. And at the moment it was actually devastating as a result of I had helped Mana do the proper factor, which was reporting Paul to the league and hoping that they’d take motion and maintain him accountable, and she or he went by all the proper steps to report somebody who was sexually harassing her, to cease what was being finished that was extremely unsuitable, and she or he was failed.

She was failed by the system, and I feel that was the toughest factor on the time was: What will we do now? Does Mana simply transfer on? How do you progress on from this? And Paul simply quickly after bought picked up by North Carolina and — was it North Carolina?

ESPN: Western New York.

Morgan: It was Western New York, they usually moved. He bought picked up by Western New York as the pinnacle coach and at that time, like, is Mana speculated to proceed to play in opposition to this coach within the league, and see this coach probably do the identical factor to gamers on a brand new crew? It was devastating. We did not know what to do.

ESPN: Mana informed me that it meant quite a bit to her that you simply had informed her, “I am by no means going to shake his hand once more.”

Morgan: Yeah, I by no means shook his hand. And he began to — folks caught on that I didn’t respect Paul within the slightest, that I’d not shake his hand. I’d not have a look at him on the finish of the sport after we had been enjoying in opposition to Western New York and what got here to be North Carolina, as a result of I used to be disgusted and I used to be saddened by Mana’s scenario.

I simply knew that he wanted to be held accountable sooner or later and that it could occur sooner or later, but it surely took years for that to occur. And I informed Mana that I had her again it doesn’t matter what. I simply needed to assist her and assist her in holding folks accountable that wanted to be held accountable. It is simply unhappy that it took years and years of us forcing folks’s hand to take away him from his place of energy.



Alex Morgan calls out former NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird for her failure to answer Paul Riley’s abuse. E60: Reality Be Instructed airs October 4 at 7pm ET on ESPN & ESPN+.

ESPN: Mana informed us that she felt like she’d finished the whole lot, you each had finished the whole lot that you simply felt like you possibly can on the time. And it wasn’t till 2020 when Sinead [Farrelly] truly opened as much as her about her personal experiences that Mana felt the empowerment once more to attempt to go at this once more. Did she ever discuss with you about her reattempt to guarantee that Riley was held accountable for his actions?

Morgan: In July of 2020, Mana known as me, and she or he mentioned that she had had a number of conversations with Sinead, and she or he mentioned that she could not imagine Paul was nonetheless in energy, but when folks wanted to listen to her story to take away him from his place of energy, then that is what wanted to occur.

She requested if I might assist her discover a authorized crew to take him down, to do the proper steps, to lastly power him to be held accountable. And that is what we did from July 2020 on, till the article was launched by The Athletic. We labored on it meticulously and spent so many hours with our authorized and technique crew, along with her authorized and technique crew, to discover a technique to put the NWSL in a nook the place they needed to transfer ahead by defending gamers, restructure a league that so desperately wanted to guard us and develop and evolve as a result of it was caught. This league was caught in a spot that did not defend gamers, that did not serve its gamers at the start.

And that is what we set our mission on in July 2020, and that developed ultimately into the article that was launched and the firing of Paul within the fall of 2021.

ESPN: What had been you feeling when that article was launched?

Morgan: On Sept. thirtieth when the article was lastly launched, I keep in mind the place I used to be. I used to be in Seattle, and I used to be speaking to Mana on the telephone day-after-day for per week main as much as that. And it was simply so many feelings however principally a sigh of aid as a result of our purpose was for Paul to not even step on the sector as a head coach in 2021, but it surely took so many extra months to place collectively, to research, for The Athletic to research the whole lot, for us to essentially work with our authorized crew find the easiest way for Mana to share her story and for Sinead, too.

And so it took months longer than we anticipated for the article to lastly be launched, however as soon as we knew it was, and I imagine inside hours of that occuring, Paul was fired. It was simply an enormous sigh of aid.

ESPN: You set in lots of work to assist Mana, to guarantee that this occurred. Why?

Morgan: With me being somebody that Mana confided in initially, again in 2015, I informed her that I needed to assist her and assist her in any means potential, whether or not that was to neglect it, whether or not that was to take down Paul and all that wanted to be held accountable — I informed her, no matter she wanted. She’s one in every of my finest associates, and in 2020 after I bought the decision that she had spoken with Sinead and that she was able to share her story and take down Paul, I used to be able to do something and the whole lot potential figuring out that I deeply look after Mana, and I deeply look after the state of soccer within the U.S., for the NWSL and the way forward for the NWSL. I knew there wanted to be change.

I felt like on the time in 2020 after we began on this mission, to get Paul fired and to implement insurance policies inside the NWSL that also had not been carried out after 9 years — fundamental office insurance policies, anti-harassment insurance policies that had been non-existent within the NWSL — we realized that there was a lot extra work to do than attempting to get Paul fired. We realized that the NWSL was in a state that was not solely fragile and short-staffed and in dire want of fixing and itself within the mirror; we realized that it simply did not defend gamers.

On the finish of the day, gamers weren’t protected. I felt like in my place, I am ready the place if I stood up and mentioned that issues weren’t adequate, I feel folks would pay attention, and I knew that Mana wanted me to assist her share her story and do what we wanted to do. So that is what I did. I simply informed her that I used to be all-in — I am probably not a half-in kind particular person — and if she wanted me and this league wanted me, then I used to be right here to power their hand in altering the league.

ESPN: Lisa Baird put out a press release proper after this information broke saying that she was “shocked and disgusted.” What did you assume studying that?

Morgan: We talked with our authorized crew weekly. I hold saying “our” as a result of I truly really feel like for 2 years, we talked weekly, so I used to be a part of it. We talked with our authorized crew weekly and we considered each angle. We considered what if they are saying this? What in the event that they do this? What if they are saying, “Oh, there’s fundamental office insurance policies?” Okay, properly, present us.

So we did issues the place I’d ship off emails to Lisa Baird. I’d ask for a name with Lisa Baird. I used to be on a name along with her and [President of the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association] Tori Huster and [NWSL General Counsel] Lisa Levine, and requested for these fundamental office insurance policies. Lisa Levine mentioned, “They’re someplace. I am positive I will be capable to discover them.” And I used to be like, “Okay, nice. We’ll be ready.” Weeks glided by, nothing occurred.

We drafted insurance policies for the NWSL with our authorized crew and handed them to the NWSL, after which nonetheless needed to ask our PA [Players Association] to place a timeline on after they wanted to be carried out and given out to all gamers and workers. Earlier than the season of 2021, we requested them earlier than the primary recreation of season begins, “We’d like these insurance policies to be in place.” They pushed again, the league pushed again, the Lisas pushed again. Sinead and Mana each despatched emails that all of us checked out, a number of drafts of those emails asking them to look into the sexual harassment and assault from Paul Riley from years again.

Lisa Baird’s e mail again: “We’re doing what we are able to. We’ll look into it. We’ll get again to you.” Nothing.

So when this text was lastly launched and there is a sigh of aid on our aspect and simply utter shock from the remainder of the soccer group — we had already recognized the whole lot. We tried to provide the league an opportunity and time once more to do the proper factor. I needed so deeply for Lisa Baird to only arise and say, “I am sorry. I did not do sufficient. I did not look into sufficient. I trusted our normal counsel, Lisa Levine, an excessive amount of. We had been too understaffed. We did not have sufficient folks within the room to essentially make calculated choices,” however she did not. She mentioned she was shocked and disgusted, and that was shocking as a result of that was a lie.

ESPN: And what did you do?

Morgan: I bought on a gaggle textual content, one which was very energetic between Mana, Sinead and our authorized and technique crew, and we talked about what wanted to occur, and a tweet was the very best plan of action for that.

ESPN: And what do you keep in mind of the response?

Morgan: I keep in mind Lisa placing in her letter of resignation.

ESPN: How did that make you are feeling?

Morgan: I want I might say that it made me really feel good, but it surely did not as a result of I look after this league a lot. And I simply needed the folks in cost to not solely be held accountable, but additionally to only lead this league out of a darkish time, simply to lift their hand and say that they hadn’t finished issues proper earlier than however, ‘Shifting ahead, we’ll do the whole lot we are able to.’ And it was laborious to know the folks in cost on the time simply would not do this. They nonetheless would not settle for the failures that they noticed and did and come clean with it.

So it was actually laborious seeing Lisa Baird resign as a result of I did not need her in cost anymore, however who was going to step in now? It was a extremely tough time within the NWSL as a result of not solely had been they understaffed, however now, the pinnacle of the league, the commissioner is now stepping down too due to failures on her half, so the place will we go from right here? Who’s going to guide now? It was actually laborious.

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