- Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.
North Carolina Courage owner Steve Malik said on Wednesday that the National Women’s Soccer League club knew of the 2015 investigation into coach Paul Riley but said they were “assured” he was in good standing.
The league was rocked last week by sexual harassment and misconduct allegations involving Riley, a situation that prompted commissioner Lisa Baird to resign on Friday.
– Murray: NWSL’s Riley controversy points to larger league failures
“When we bought the Western NY Flash in 2017, we conducted due diligence to continue with Mr. Riley and the coaching staff,” Malik said via statement. “We were made aware of an investigation into Mr. Riley’s behavior in 2015 and were subsequently assured that he was in good standing.”
Malik apologized to the players for failure to create a safe environment but specified that “during [Riley’s] employment with the Courage, we had no knowledge of allegations of sexual harassment or coercion.”
Riley was fired by the Courage last week after allegations emerged that he engaged in sexual coercion and harassment of players during his time with the Portland Thorns.
As a result of an investigation initiated by the Thorns in 2015, Riley’s contract wasn’t renewed, although the reason wasn’t made public. Riley was hired soon after by the Western NY Flash, who were later sold to Malik and the team was moved.
The Courage has not yet responded to an ESPN request for clarification as to whether it was the league that provided the assurances to Malik about Riley’s standing.
The NWSL opened an independent investigation into its handling of the accusations against Riley. U.S. Soccer and FIFA also are looking into the reports. Riley has not responded to a request for comment by The Associated Press but has denied the allegations.
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