Last Friday, October 1st, managing partner and employment attorney at The Noble Law, Laura Noble, appeared on WRAL News to discuss FIFA’s recently announced investigation of former NC Courage Coach, Paul Riley. Riley was let go on Thursday, September 30th, after players of the women’s soccer team alleged multiple instances of sexual harassment against Riley, and the league announced an investigation of the former head coach shortly after.
Debra Morgan: Well, here’s a closer look at what the former head coach, Paul Riley, is accused of doing. In an investigation by The Athletic, more than a dozen players raised concerns about his behavior. At least one player accused him of sexual coercion, two say he sent them unsolicited photos, and multiple players say he made inappropriate comments about their weight and sexual orientation. We want to bring a little more perspective to the table now, and joining us is employment attorney, Laura Noble. She has experience in fighting for workplace rights and with the #MeToo movement. Laura, let’s start there, do you think this is the start of a #MeToo movement in women’s sports, or at least for women’s soccer?
Laura Noble: Well, I certainly hope so. It is a long time coming. Unfortunately, in sports leagues in particular, you have, sort of, a perfect environment to allow a sexual harasser or abuser to take place. You know, the atmosphere is really one where you have a prominent male coach, who is almost a god-like figure, who is protected by the organization, who doesn’t want to lose the benefit of his coaching and his skill and expertise, and then you have women who are much lower paid, who are worried about losing game time or letting down their coplayers, and so you create this culture of silence and fear that permeates the team.
Morgan: So let’s talk about that. Some of the biggest names in the game have come out saying that they feel the weight of the league on their shoulders, that they need to keep the complaints quiet or risk contributing to the possibility that the league could fold. So, what do you say to women who feel that in any career, really?
Noble: Well, unfortunately we’ve seen this play out again and again in many other industries, right? We look at Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and Andrew Cuomo. There is sort of a phenomenon of a protect the prominent man at the top who has the vision, the skill, and the expertise, and we want to support that person in seeking our common goals, so we’re going to push aside these complaints and allegations which are inconsistent with us reaching our goals. And, who suffers are the women who don’t have power in those organizations to be heard.
Morgan: Yeah, and this has been a very successful coach in what he’s done. Now, the player’s association says that they asked the league postponed the games this weekend, which they did, as Chris Lovingood was telling us, does this signal change in how we’re handling mental health in this country, do you think?
Noble: Again, I hope so. I feel like this is a little too little, too late, maybe a little performative. If the league had paid attention back in 2015 when these allegations were first made and put forth proper reporting protocols and investigation procedures and real disciplinary action for those who violate that, then perhaps we wouldn’t be having this conversation today. So, if they truly care about the mental health of their players, then I would like to see those protocols be placed and be strenuously enforced.
Morgan: We will continue to follow this. Laura Noble, thank you so much for your insight tonight.