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NWSL Players Association Announces Plan to Return to Play on Wednesday

The NWSL Players Association announced Tuesday morning that the league's players have decided to return to competition starting Wednesday.

This past weekend's games did not take place in the aftermath of a report from The Athletic detailing former players' accusations of sexual coercion against now former North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley. The league and players agreed to call off the matches before determining next steps, following the revelations brought to light by former players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim.

"We have taken the weekend's pause to evaluate," the NWSLPA said in a statement. "We acknowledge that we will not process the pain of the last several days in one weekend or one week. In the midst of statements that leagues and clubs are quick to release, we have been listening to ourselves, and to one another.

"Today we stand with Mana, Sinead and Kaiya (McCullough) as they continue to tell their stories. We have made the decision to proceed with Wednesday night's scheduled competition, but our demands are forthcoming."

Farrelly, Shim and Alex Morgan appeared on the Today Show on Tuesday to discuss the allegations and fallout in greater detail. Morgan called on the league to end the systemic failures that led to a decade of alleged sexual harassment of players by some league coaches, and for the league to be more proactive in protecting its players.

Former players also said Riley made inappropriate comments about players' weight and sexual orientations, with allegations spanning multiple teams and leagues over a decade.

He was fired on Thursday afternoon, hours after the story was published. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird also resigned on Friday in the wake of the report.

“This week, and much of this season, has been incredibly traumatic for our players and staff, and I take full responsibility for the role I have played. I am so sorry for the pain so many are feeling," Baird said in a statement last Friday.

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On Monday night, she shared a new statement with NBC, saying she was "proud of what I did to make the league better."

Shortly after The Athletic's report was published, the NWSLPA called for an investigation into the allegations and into how Riley was rehired in the league in 2016 by the Western New York Flash (which relocated to North Carolina), just months after complaints were first brought against him. 

FIFA is conducting its own investigation into the allegations against Riley as will the U.S. Soccer Federation. 

The NWSLPA has engaged Lighthouse Services to provide players with access to an anonymous hotline for reporting abuse. The league also announced a number of systemic changes, including "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."

The league additionally announced the formation of an executive committee that will include Amanda Duffy (Orlando Pride), Angie Long (Kansas City NWSL), and Sophie Sauvage (OL Reign).

On Wednesday, NJ/NY Gotham FC is set to play the Washington Spirit, the North Carolina Courage face off against Racing Louisville and the Portland Thorns host the Houston Dash.

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