NWSL players stop matches in league-wide demonstrations, outline demands for first time

In the first night of National Women’s Soccer League matches since the publication of a Sept. 30 report in The Athletic gave rise to allegations of abuse and harassment around the league, NWSL players paused each of the matches played on Wednesday night in a demonstration of player solidarity and support for the victims. The matches resumed after a minute of stoppage and were played out in their entirety.

The allegations have rocked the league, leading to the firing of a coach (Paul Riley), the resignation of the commissioner (Lisa Baird), the resignation of a team owner from his role as CEO and managing partner (Steve Baldwin), open letters from other owners, and the launch of several investigations from different governing bodies. And there’s seemingly more fallout by the day.

Beginning with the NJ/NY Gotham FC vs. Washington Spirit match on Wednesday and followed by North Carolina Courage vs. Racing Louisville, players from both teams stopped play in the 6th minute. The teams joined together at the center circle, locked arm in arm. The crowds at both matches responded with spontaneous applause and a standing ovation for the players.

“Teams will stop play in each of tonight’s games at the sixth minute,” said a player statement read on the air during Wednesday’s CBS Sports Network broadcast of the Gotham FC-Spirit match. “Players are joining together in solidarity for one minute in recognition of the six years it took for Mana Shim, Sinead Farrelly and all those who fought far too long to be heard. We ask that fans join us in this reckoning and in our pursuit of a league that deserves the players in it.”

MORE: Explaining the scandal that has sent shockwaves across women’s soccer

Gotham FC midfielder McCall Zerboni gave more insight into the players’ actions:

Sinead Farrelly, who along with Mana Shim was one of two former players who stepped forward to share her story with The Athletic, was moved after witnessing the demonstrations:

Simultaneously with the first match stoppage, the NWSL Players Association shared for the first time a list of eight demands of the league related to the scope, subjects and findings of the investigations, as well as the search for a new commissioner. 

MORE: After firing and resignation, plenty more to be done in NWSL

Portland Thorns players went a step further and listed their own demands to their club. Veteran players Christine Sinclair, Crystal Dunn, Meghan Klingenberg, Lindsey Horan and their Thorns teammates shared the same post on their social platforms with one of the requests being that general manager Gavin Wilkinson be placed on administrative leave until the conclusion of an investigation. Minutes later the club issued a statement confirming it had followed through:

It was a momentous night in the NWSL as captured by the reactions from fans, media and players on social media: 

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