Portland Thorns owner Paulson won’t attend NWSL Championship

Merritt Paulson, the owner of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Portland Thorns and Major League Soccer (MLS) Portland Timbers, will not travel to Washington, D.C., for Saturday’s NWSL Championship between the Thorns and the Kansas City Current, the team Announced. In a statement.

Paulson was under pressure to sell both teams, and resigned as CEO of both the Thorns and the Timbers on October 11 following the release of the Yates Report, which found systemic sexual and emotional abuse of players in the NWSL.

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The report detailed several cases of managers abusing players and found that some executives ignored complaints from players, or hid the reasons for a coach being fired. This includes allegations against former Thorn manager Paul Riley, as well as Paulson’s role in concealing the reason for Riley’s firing, which allowed the coach to continue working in the NWSL.

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“Merritt is excited to have the Portland Thorns play in another NWSL Championship game,” the statement read. “Given the recent changes implemented in the organization [Paulson] Will watch the game on CBS remotely.”

The statement added that interim CEO Heather Davis, interim COO Sarah Keen and alum Karina LeBlanc will represent ownership in Washington “as the Thorns hopefully win their third league title in 10 years.”

The statement continued: “As Merritt shared with the team and organization, he is committed to ensuring the long-term health and success of the Portland Thorns.”

It is not known whether Paulson was present for Sunday’s 2-1 semifinal victory over the San Diego Wave. Paulson was not seen in his suite, and when ESPN asked several Thorns staffers if he was present, each said they did not know.

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– Yates report explained: Key findings on Holly, Riley and Dames abuse

Riley was fired by the Thorns for cause in 2015 after a complaint filed by former Thorn player Mana Shim alleged sexual harassment and coercion.

Throughout the scandal, Paulson sought to frame his own missteps as a single mistake in 2015, where the club kept the real reason for Riley’s exit hidden from the public, instead claiming that Riley’s contract was not renewed for on-field reasons.

In a letter announcing his resignation as CEO, Paulson wrote that he vowed to “make sure what happened in 2015 never happens again,” adding that mistakes included “not being publicly transparent about Paul Riley’s termination. “

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But the Yates report cites Paulson as having received player complaints that Riley was abusive and ignoring them in 2014, the year before Shim’s complaint resulted in Riley’s termination.

Records obtained by Yates also show that Paulson continued to maintain the manner of Riley’s exit from other team owners and downplayed Shim’s allegations until 2019, instead expressing support for Riley, which allowed the coach to remain employed in the NWSL. Paulson is also accused of making inappropriate comments to players.

With some fans demanding that Paulson sell both teams, and with sponsors such as Alaska Airlines redirecting sponsorship dollars away from the organization, Paulson fired two top executives – president of football Gavin Wilkinson and president of business Mike Golub – before resigning as CEO.


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