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A Letter from Club Owner and Chairman Steve Malik

By Steve Malik, 10/06/21, 11:00AM EDT

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Following this past week’s appalling revelations, we as a club have taken the past few days to focus internally on supporting our players and staff as we move forward as a unified group. As we continue to process difficult emotions, let me begin by saying that I am deeply sorry for our part in the failure to create an environment where players feel safe and comfortable coming forward. As soon as we were aware of the serious allegations against Mr. Riley, we immediately terminated his employment. There is no place for that behavior and abuse in our sport and society. Firing Mr. Riley was the first step, and we continue to reflect on how we could have been better.

In efforts to create a safer space for our players and staff, we have provided mental health resources, including a trauma psychologist available for our players and staff. We fully support the three new investigations by NWSL, USSF and FIFA. We support a third-party expert approach to examining how we can all get better. We are continuing to collaborate with players and staff to discuss and create action plans to further ensure that an open and respectful environment exists in all areas of the club. We are committed to learning from the past and growing together towards a better future.

Following the news of last week, many of you were left with a key question – what did we know?

When we bought the Western NY Flash in 2017, we conducted due diligence to continue with Mr. Riley and the coaching staff. We were made aware of an investigation into Mr. Riley’s behavior in 2015 and were subsequently assured that he was in good standing. During his employment with the Courage, we had no knowledge of allegations of sexual harassment or coercion. When we learned of the horrific allegations in last week’s reporting, we took those seriously and immediately terminated Mr. Riley.

To Mana Shim, Sinead Farrelly and all players who have come forward in sharing your stories, you have shown us what true courage is. Your actions have sparked this vital need for positive, systemic change, and I commend you for your strength in doing so. Such abuse has no place in our society or in our sport, and it will never be tolerated by the North Carolina Courage organization. Our primary responsibility, and our top priority, is the safety, security, and respectful treatment of our players, without exception. Our commitment to this promise is unconditional.

Professional women’s soccer is profoundly influential among girls and young women everywhere. It is incumbent on us to set a standard of conduct that earns their trust.  Soccer demands and deserves a culture of mutual respect, free of sexual harassment, intimidation, and predatory coercion of any kind.

We stand in support of our players taking their power back as they return to the field tonight.