Portland Thorns owner Paulson won’t attend NWSL Championship

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

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

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The report detailed numerous cases of managers engaging in player abuse and found that some managers ignored complaints made by players, or concealed the reasons for sacking a coach. This included allegations against former Thorns manager Paul Riley, as well as Paulson’s role in covering up the reason for Riley’s firing, which allowed the coach to continue working in the NWSL.

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“Merritt is pleased that the Portland Thorns are playing in another NWSL Championship Game,” the statement read. “Given the recent changes implemented in the organization [Paulson] I’ll watch the game on CBS remotely.”

The statement added that interim CEO Heather Davis, interim COO Sarah Keane and GM 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 if Paulson was present for Sunday’s 2-1 semifinal win over the San Diego Wave. Paulson was not seen in his suite, and when ESPN asked multiple Thorns employees if he was present, each said they did not know.

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– The Yates Report explained: Key findings on the abuse of Holly, Riley and Dames

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

Throughout the scandal, Paulson has sought to position his mistakes as a single mistake in 2015, where the club kept the real reason for Riley’s departure from the public, instead claiming that Riley’s contract was not renewed for reason in the field.

In a letter announcing his departure as CEO, Paulson wrote that he was committed to “making sure that what happened in 2015 does not happen again,” adding that mistakes included “not being publicly transparent about the termination of Paul Riley”.

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But Yates’ report cites Paulson as having received complaints about players alleging Riley was abusive and ignoring them in 2014, a year before Shim’s complaint resulted in Riley’s termination.

Records obtained by Yates also show that Paulson continued to guard Riley’s estrangement from other team owners and downplayed Shim’s allegations until 2019, instead voicing support for Riley, which allowed the coach to was employed by the NWSL. Paulson is also accused of making inappropriate comments about 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 key executives — president of football Gavin Wilkinson and president of business Mike Golub — ahead of to resign as CEO.

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