On Saturday October 10th matches against the National Women’s Soccer League were stopped in the sixth minute as players joined together in the centre-circle and wore t-shirts saying “No More Silence.”
The protest from the players came after allegations of sexual coercion against North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley.
This week legendary French forward Eugenie Le Sommer spoke to Maxime Aubin from Eurosport France. The below is a translated question and answer interview. The questions from Eurosport are in bold. You can read the original in French here.
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CHESTER, PA - OCTOBER 06: Washington Spirit and NJ/NY Gotham FC players meet at midfield during the sixth minute in solidarity following resumption of play after National Women's Soccer League cancelled last weekend's matches amid allegations of sexual mi

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Your match on Saturday (Editor note: October 10 against Chicago) was stopped in the sixth minute, like the other meetings of the weekend. All the players joined in the centre-circle, wearing "NO MORE SILENCE" t-shirts. What was the aim?
Eugenie Le Sommer: The wish of the players was to mark the occasion, by highlighting what had happened. (Editor's note: North Carolina coach Paul Riley was fired on September 30 after accusations of sexual assault by two players in the press). They did so in the sixth minute to symbolise the number of years it took for the league to react. The decision was taken jointly by all the players in the championship. It was a strong gesture and we could see all the solidarity that drives them.
You joined the American Championship and OL Reign in June. Were you surprised by all of the cascading revelations within the NWSL? (Editor's note: after Paul Riley, Washington coach Richie Burk was also fired for moral harassment, before League commissioner Lisa Baird resigned).
ELS: Very surprised, yes. I was not at all aware of this story, although I had heard things about how the league was run. The testimonies of the two attacked players (Editor’s note: Americans Sinead Farrelly and Meleana Shim revealed the abuse they had suffered in an article in The Athletic) are extremely shocking and violent.

Signage supporting NWSL players is seen during a game between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Los Angeles FC at Dignity Health Sports Park on October 03, 2021 in Carson

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I did not necessarily understand all the intricacies of the article at the beginning since it is in English, but the girls on our team were extremely touched. I've seen several cry in the locker room and I understand them. As a professional footballer and as a woman in general, we shouldn't feel that our life is in danger.
You say you heard things about how the League works. Which ones?
ELS: This is not the first story with the NWSL. The girls did not feel listened to by the league until today. Their employment contract is notably very precarious. Negotiations are underway with the NWSL Players Association to change this.
You are the teammate of Megan Rapinoe, who speaks regularly on political and social issues, and in particular on the place of women in sport and society. What role did she play in this affair?
ELS: She has expressed herself, but neither more nor less than anyone else. As you say, Megan uses her notoriety to get messages across on a large scale. But in the locker room, she is a normal teammate, neither too self-effacing nor too overbearing.
What is the state of mind of your teammates and other players in the League today? Are they still devastated by these revelations or proud of trying to get things done?
ELS: They went through all the emotions. They were indeed very depressed the day after the publication of the article. They didn't want to train. Despondency then gave way to anger, and today they are in the process of taking a stand. They want to be respected, no longer feel in danger, and make their contribution to building a healthier women's football.

A view of the NWSL logo pictured before a game between the OL Reign and Chicago Red Stars at Cheney Stadium on June 22, 2021 in Tacoma

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You have spent most of your career in France, especially in the D1 Arkema championship [the women’s top flight in France]. Have you ever experienced or observed sexist or harassing behaviour?
ELS: Sexist comments, every player has heard them at some point in their career. For the rest, I have never suffered what the girls have gone through here in the United States. I'm not saying it never happened to anyone, because I don't know. But I think this is a good opportunity to ask questions, and to do everything possible to prevent such a scenario from happening in France.
Beyond Paul Riley and Richie Burk, the name of a third coach came out during this affair, that of the French Farid Benstiti, your former coach at OL Reign. Officially dismissed in early July for poor sporting results, we learned that his departure was in fact linked to his comments on the weight and lifestyle of several players. Did you notice anything?
ELS: I haven't known him for long since I arrived in June and he left in July, so I have nothing to say about that. I have heard stories, I know in particular that he had already been implicated when he was the coach of the PSG women's team, but I followed that from afar. (Editor's note: American midfielder Lindsey Horan complained in 2019 of misogynistic and degrading behaviour on the part of Benstiti, her coach at PSG from 2012 to 2016).

Eugenie Le Sommer of France Women during the women's international friendly Tournoi de France match between France and The Netherlands at Stade du Hainaut on March 10, 2020

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Football resumed its rights last weekend in NWSL, after the postponement of the previous day. OL Reign qualified for the playoffs and is now aiming for the title of champion of the regular season. It feels like nothing can stop you.
ELS: Everything is going well on the field side, yes. This is also the message I want to get across: football must continue, we must not prevent ourselves from living because of malicious or unhealthy people. I have also read that players in Venezuela and Australia have spoken out about acts of sexual harassment and abuse in their championships. It's good, we have to free up speech, and I have the impression that this is what is happening little by little.
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