Cary, N.C. — In the sixth minute of Wednesday’s game between the North Carolina Courage and Louisville City FC, players from both teams paused the game and huddled in a circle as a sign of solidarity.
Players stood around in a circle, arms around each other, at midfield in solidarity in a measure that extended across the NWSL to show solidarity towards Sinead Farrelly, Mana Shim and others who recently came forward with their allegations of sexual coercion by former Courage coach Paul Riley.
Wednesday’s game was the first the Courage had played since Riley was fired last week. Riley told WRAL’s Pat Welter on Wednesday, “I will tell my side of the story for sure someday. Not sure when.”
A tweet from the NC Courage official Twitter account simply read “Together.” with a picture of players standing in a moment of silence.
The scandal impacted the entire NWSL, leading to players demanding more accountability from the league. Fans at WakeMed Soccer Park were asking for more as well.
“Tonight we really want to support the players and let them know we’re here for them,” said Jessica Turner, Vice President of the Uproar Supporters Group.
“You’re seeing this pop up over and over again, and what is it going to take for it to actually stop?” said Courage fan Katie Vessell.
The Courage went on to win the game 3-1.
Also in the sixth minute of Wednesday’s Gotham FC and Washington Spirit match, the players and coaches all paused the game. The benches cleared out and everyone linked arms in the center of the field.
The six-minute mark was representative of the six years it took for the accusers to have their voice heard.
“We’re here to back up anything that the players need from us right now,” said Mary Pruder, President of the Uproar Supporters Group.
The gestures came after the NWSL Players Association released their list of demands of the NWSL as promised. Those demands mostly center around transparency of hiring practices, demands for more independent investigations of coaches and league executives and new protocols.
The NC Courage decided not to meet with the media after their game against Louisville Thursday night, instead, allowing the NWSLPA to speak for them through their demands. They also paused in the sixth minute of their game in a show of solidarity.
Here are the demands as released by the NWSLPA:
Tonight, we reclaim our place on the field, because we will not let our joy be taken from us. But this is not business as usual.
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 honor of the 6 years it took for Mana, Sinead, and all those who fought for too long to be heard. 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 we 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.
Following the game, the media are advised that players will refuse to answer any questions that do not relate to abuse and systemic change in NWSL.
Systemic transformation is not something you say. It is something you do. We, as players, demand the following:
1. Every coach, General Manager, representative on the Board of Governors, and owner voluntarily submit to the Players Association’s independent investigation into abusive conduct. They may notify Executive Director Meghann Burke of their agreement with this demand by the close of business on Wednesday, October 13, 2021.
2. The scope of NWSL’s investigation announced on Sunday evening, October 4, 2021, be expanded to include an investigation of each of the twelve NWSL Clubs represented on the Board of Governors to determine whether any abuse, whether presently known or unknown, has occurred at any point in time.
3. The scope of NWSL’s investigation further be expanded to determine whether any League Office staff, NWSL Club, or person in a position of power within NWSL neglected to investigate concerns of abuse raised by any player or employee at any point in time.
4. NWSL adopt an immediate “Step Back Protocol” whereby any person in a position of power (e.g. owner, representative on the Board of Governors, General Manager, or Management Supervisor) at the time that a Club either hired or separated from employment a coach who was, is, or will be under investigation for abuse be suspended from any governance or oversight role within NWSL pending the conclusion of an independent investigation, effectively immediately. For any Club that took swift action to protect players upon the discovery of facts that were not previously known to the Club, the immediate disclosure to the Players Association of the circumstances and the policies or practices implemented to prevent the same from happening again may be grounds to restore that person to their position quickly, with the Players Association’s agreement.
5. NWSL immediately agree to disclose all investigative reports referenced in its statement of October 3, 2021.
6. NWSL immediately agree to disclose to the Players Association any and all findings, conclusions, and reports are obtained pursuant to their statement of October 3, 2021, including but not limited to the reopening of the 2015 Paul Riley investigation.
7. NWSL agrees to cooperate with the Players Association’s own independent investigation by a written email to Executive Director Meghann Burke by the close of business on Wednesday, October 13, 2021.
8. NWSL agrees that representatives of the Players Association have an opportunity to meet with potential Commissioner candidates and have a meaningful opportunity to be heard in the selection of the next Commissioner.
The reckoning has already begun. We will not be silent. We will be relentless in our pursuit of a league that deserves the players in it.
Editor’s note for full disclosure: Capitol Broadcasting Company holds a non-voting membership interest of less than 5% and no board position in NCWFC, LLC (which owns and operates the North Carolina Courage).