Soccer Abuse Lawsuit Investigation

An independent investigation into women’s soccer detailed many stories of abuse and harassment. The report also confirmed what many players have been saying for years: when they report being abused, coaches just get passed around or protected by team executives and the NWSL.

It’s time to hold NWSL and U.S. Soccer accountable for these systemic failures.

Abused playing Soccer at any level?

Our award-winning sexual harassment attorneys are here to listen and help. Contact us to discuss your options, free.


U.S. Soccer report by Sally Yates investigates women's soccer

On October 3, 2022, the U.S. Soccer Federation released its independent investigation into abuse in women’s soccer, led by former deputy attorney general Sally Yates and her law firm King & Spalding. Read a copy of the report here.

Both U.S. Soccer’s investigation and a second forthcoming investigation commissioned by NWSL and NWSLPA came in direct response to multiple players speaking up about abuse in the summer and fall of 2021.

The report described the abuse as being rooted in a “deeper culture” in women’s soccer, saying it begins as far back as youth leagues that verbal abuse and blurred boundaries between coaches and players are “normalized.”

The report called for USSF to require the NWSL to implement basic protocols for reports of abuse: to investigate the allegations in a timely matter, to give discipline where appropriate, and to immediately share outcomes of the investigation.

The report also recommended eliminating nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements, so that information about abusive coaches would no longer be shielded.

In many sports, coaches have immense power over athletes’ lives:

  • Control: players know coaches can bench or cut them, and this can make it harder to report them for misconduct
  • Athletic career: players must work closely and intimately with coaches to improve their performance
  • Time commitment: because players must devote so much time to training, they have less access to relationships outside of their sport community

Players can’t turn down sexual advances from coaches without risking big repercussions. Similarly, even if a player initiates contact or feels receptive at first, they can’t end the sexual dynamic without running the same risks. When two people don’t have an equal shot at saying no to sex, any sexual contact between them may be inherently coercive.

NWSL Coach Scandal

NWSL has ten teams. Many outlets covered how five of those teams had head coaches resign or get fired in the 2021 NWSL season. Reported abuse included groping, homophobic comments, racist comments, manipulation, and sexual assault.

In 2021, The Athletic featured former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim speaking about abuse by their coach Paul Riley.

When Mana Shim first reported abuse by Riley to the Portland Thorns back in 2015, the team fired him. But shockingly, Riley was rehired just a few months later by another NWSL team, the Western New York Flash.

It wasn’t until The Athletic published its story in 2021 that Riley’s coaching license was revoked by US Soccer and he was fired by his latest team, the North Carolina Courage.

Former USWNT star Alex Morgan, who assisted Mana Shim in reporting Riley’s abuse, explained to The Athletic: “There definitely has been this shared idea that because two leagues have folded in the past, the NWSL is kind of the last hope for a women’s soccer league. Because of that, I feel like there’s this idea that we should be grateful for what we have and we shouldn’t raise important questions – or ask questions at all.”

But thanks to players speaking up and banding together, a light is starting to shine on systemic abuse in the NWSL. In response to the independent investigation commissioned by U.S. Soccer, the players’ union NWSLPA said: “As difficult as this report is to read, it has been even more painful for Players, whether known or unknown, to live it… By sharing our stories, Players are reclaiming the League and the sport.”

Our promise to you

Our award-winning sexual harassment and employment attorneys represent clients across the country. Our team is committed to empowering you to regain control, achieve justice and begin to heal.

  • We believe you can heal. The journey may look different for everyone. But know this: what happened to you wasn’t your fault, and you aren’t alone.
  • We believe in your power. Experiencing harassment in the sport you love can feel personal and traumatic, and we honor the courage and strength it takes to share your story.  If you have questions, feel ready to pursue a legal claim, or just need someone to talk to about your experience, you can confide in our team of experienced professionals.
  • You’re in control. As your advocates, we’re dedicated to helping you gain your power back. You can choose to work with attorneys and staff of the gender of your choosing. Whether you prefer phone calls, videoconferencing or texting, we can communicate in a way that’s comfortable for you. You are in control and you decide what you want to do.
  • We’re with you, every step of the way. We’ll keep you updated on your case—in non-lawyer terms.  We will explain the legal process and next steps in a clear way you can understand.  Our client-centered approach is rooted in a sincere focus on our clients’ wellbeing, and is intended to empower clients’ pursuit of justice.
  • Our results are unmatched. Our award-winning lawyers take on some of the biggest, most powerful entities across the country—and win.  We have the resources, experience and skill to fight for you and other survivors of sexual assault. Our attorneys have received numerous honors for their work, including “Top Women Lawyers in California,” “Top Plaintiff Lawyers in California,” “Consumer Protection MVP,” and “Best Lawyers in America.”
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Our Sexual Harassment Attorneys

Micha Star Liberty

Micha, Of Counsel to Gibbs Law Group, is a nationally recognized trial attorney and represents survivors of sexual abuse and assault.

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Eileen Epstein Carney

Eileen represents investors and consumers harmed by financial fraud and other corporate misconduct. She also executes on the firm's strategic vision.

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Amanda Karl

Amanda represents employees, consumers, and sexual assault survivors in complex class actions. She also leads the firm’s Voting Rights Task Force.

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About Us

Gibbs Law Group is a California-based law firm committed to protecting the rights of clients nationwide who have been harmed by corporate misconduct. We represent individuals, whistleblowers, employees, and small businesses across the U.S. against the world’s largest corporations. Our award-winning lawyers have achieved landmark recoveries and over a billion dollars for our clients in high-stakes class action and individual cases involving consumer protection, data breach, digital privacy, and federal and California employment lawsuits. Our attorneys have received numerous honors for their work, including “Top Plaintiff Lawyers in California,” “Top Class Action Attorneys Under 40,” “Consumer Protection MVP,” “Best Lawyers in America,” and “Top Cybersecurity/ Privacy Attorneys Under 40.”

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