N.W.S.L. and Players’ Union Say Athletes Fearful of Reporting Abuse

In Kurtz’s case, her abuse would less likely have happened if team and league executives had been transparent about Riley’s firing from the Thorns in 2015 for sexual misconduct. That lack of transparency, the report said, let Riley prey on other players, including Kurtz, who only came forward to team management in 2021 after The Athletic published a story about Riley’s sexual misconduct while at the Thorns.

In Wednesday’s report, Kurtz said she agreed to be named because she trusted that the league would protect her, and wanted to help other players.

Fear persists among players that coaches could ruin their careers if they speak up about abuse. Some players, according to the report, remained reluctant to come forward, including one retired player, according to the report, declining to participate in the investigation because of that fear.

The players who have come forward about abuse have already made a difference. The report said that in 2021, six of the league’s clubs “fired or accepted resignations of general managers or head coaches due to misconduct that had persisted for years.”

Among those ousted coaches are Riley, who has been accused of coercing one player into having sex with him, and Christy Holly, who, as the coach of Racing Louisville was accused of repeatedly pursuing and groping one player. Rory Dames was fired from the Chicago Red Stars and accused of harassment and other forms of abuse.

Neither Holly nor Dames responded immediately to messages seeking comment.

And yet another coach, former Kansas City Current Coach Huw Williams, was mentioned in Wednesday’s report as creating “an environment of fear,” a previously unreported accusation.

According to Williams’s Twitter account, he now owns and runs GSI, a company that organizes youth soccer tournaments, camps and leagues in the Kansas City area. He did not respond to requests for an interview.