Alex Morgan Discusses NWSL, Clubs' Systemic Failures to Set Up Players for Success

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVOctober 10, 2021

United States forward Alex Morgan (13) plays the field during an international friendly soccer match against Paraguay, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Cincinnati. The United States won 8-0. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
AP Photo/Aaron Doster

USWNT and Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan was among the players who stopped Saturday's match between her team and the NY/NJ Gotham in a show of solidarity for those who said they were harassed and abused in the National Women's Soccer League.

Morgan discussed the "heavy" moment that included Mana Shim—one of the women who said former North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley abused her—and highlighted the systemic failures of the league while hoping positive change is on the way, per ESPN:

"That moment was heavy. I think the whole match was heavy, and obviously it was just amazing to have Mana here and just be able to be here with her during this time and show our support for her.
"I think it's just important to note that we have stood up for the failures of our employers. The people that have put things in place for us, it wasn't set up for success. For us players, all we want to do is play the best soccer in the U.S. We want to play soccer for a job, and we want to love playing it, too. That's not the case when you're being pulled away from that because of those failures, because players' careers have ended due to harassment or abuse, to certain levels.
"So, as tough as it is to feel like you've pulled away from soccer due to that, I think as much support as we can give for the women who have endured that, and who are enduring that right now, is extremely important. It's important for us to stand up for ourselves and be vocal about it.
"I think that's kind of what we've shown in the last two weeks. It's something that I'm really proud to be a part of because I think that the players have been more unified than ever before in these last nine years, and I hope that positive change comes out of it. I'm really optimistic with how the players have responded, but there's also so much work to do. I hope that in the future we're set up for success."

Morgan has been at the forefront of the players' demands for more transparency and better support from the league.

After former commissioner Lisa Baird released a statement saying she was "shocked and disgusted" about the reports of abuse, Morgan responded with screenshots of emails between Baird and former player Sinead Farrelly in which the latter asked the league to reopen a 2015 investigation into Riley.

The commissioner refused.

Morgan called for the league to accept responsibility:

Alex Morgan @alexmorgan13

(1/3)The league was informed of these allegations multiple times and refused multiple times to investigate the allegations. The league must accept responsibility for a process that failed to protect its own players from this abuse. <a href="https://t.co/KDRBhhVBcT">https://t.co/KDRBhhVBcT</a>

On Saturday, the NWSL Players Association released a list of demands that called for "systemic transformation" that would "end the culture of silence."

NWSLPA @nwsl_players

Systemic transformation is not something you say. It is something you do. We, as players, are continuing our efforts to end the culture of silence and ask fans to stand with us as we demand the following: <a href="https://t.co/JytK4b92k5">pic.twitter.com/JytK4b92k5</a>

NWSLPA @nwsl_players

<a href="https://t.co/KDa3Dqpxx8">pic.twitter.com/KDa3Dqpxx8</a>

Baird resigned as the NWSL commissioner on Oct. 1 after The Athletic's Meg Linehan reported about alleged misconduct by Riley. Steven Goff of the Washington Post also reported that Baird resigned from the board of directors for the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Linehan reported that Shim said Riley pressured her to kiss Farrelly in front of him. Shim also said Riley was wearing only underwear when he invited her to his hotel room to study film and asked her out on a date.

Farrelly said she felt coerced into having sex with Riley.

Outside of the allegations against Riley, OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore told reporters former coach Farid Benstiti resigned because he made inappropriate remarks in front of the players. Molly Hensley-Clancy of the Washington Post reported former Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke verbally abused his players.

The Spirit also allegedly had "a toxic work culture for female employees," per Hensley-Clancy.

Many players have spoken up about the patterns of abuse and harassment:

Megan Rapinoe @mPinoe

Never once during this whole time was the right person protected. Not Mana, not Sinead, not us not the players not the little girls who will become us not the big girls who already are us not any of US. This statement is beyond disrespectful. <a href="https://t.co/HDPkFhFEc6">https://t.co/HDPkFhFEc6</a>

Becky Sauerbrunn @beckysauerbrunn

<a href="https://t.co/XrV2EQA0oL">https://t.co/XrV2EQA0oL</a> <a href="https://t.co/PjMt8l20ZC">pic.twitter.com/PjMt8l20ZC</a>

Meghan Klingenberg @meghankling

We Deserve Better (Part II) <a href="https://t.co/c1MIAnrOde">pic.twitter.com/c1MIAnrOde</a>

Margaret "Midge" Purce @100Purcent

Not nearly enough. <a href="https://t.co/drqrCsUkh5">https://t.co/drqrCsUkh5</a>

The NWSL announced last Sunday it is "launching several critical investigative and reform initiatives to protect players and staff and the environments in which athletes live, train and compete to give athletes the agency and ability to safely report misconduct of any form."