By Brian Murphy and Chris Lovingood, WRAL
Former NC Courage coach Paul Riley, fired in 2021 after alleged harassment and sexual misconduct and banned from NWSL on Monday, said he is planning to fight "a lot of things" but said he has no interest in ever returning to the women's soccer league, which he described as "political" and "woke."
"We have a lot of plans ahead to fight a lot of things," Riley said in a text message Tuesday to WRAL News. "Absolutely never had any intention of coaching in NWSL again. The political, woke, cancel culture of the league says it all." He declined to elaborate on what specifically he planned to fight.
Riley, who led the Courage to tremendous on-field success during his four years with the team, was one of four former coaches banned by the league Monday as part of "corrective actions" to systemic problems across the league outlined in two comprehensive reports.
A joint investigative report by the league and its players' association was released in December. A previous report, written by former high-ranking U.S. Justice Department official Sally Yates, was released in October.
Both reports alleged harassment and sexual misconduct by Riley that stretches back to 2015 when he coached in Portland, Oregon. Riley became the Courage coach when the team moved to North Carolina in 2017.
Both reports said that the Courage were not made aware of the full extent Portland team's investigation into Riley before hiring him. The club "received only limited details from the Thorns, U.S. Soccer and the NWSL about Riley's misconduct in 2015," according to the NWSL's joint report.
Two former Portland players called him "a predator." Other players detailed "systemic abuse" and alleged sexual coercion by Riley, who one player said created a "culture of fear."
Courage players complained to the team and the league about comments made by Riley that focused on their weight. Courage player Kaleigh Kurtz alleged sexual harassment by Riley in the joint NWSL report as well. Kurtz said she thought Riley had been "grooming" her for sexual abuse, the report stated.
The Courage was fined $100,000 by the NWSL and must hire a sporting staff that is distinct from the men's team with which the Courage shares ownership. Steve Malik is the team's chairman and primary owner. Capitol Broadcasting, which owns WRAL, is a minority owner in the franchise.
"We stand firmly with the league, the NWSL Players Association and fellow clubs in holding player safety and well-being as our top priority," the organization said in a statement Monday. "While we still have much work ahead of us, we have made significant strides as an organization and are committed to making the necessary investments in our club and continuing the positive work for the future of our players, club, and league."