Portland Thorns owner Paulson won’t attend NWSL Championship

National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Portland Thorns and Major League Soccer (MLS) Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson has announced he will not travel to Washington for Saturday’s NWSL championship game between the Thorns and Kansas City Stream. in the statement.

Paulson resigned as CEO of the Thorns and Tigers on October 11 following the release of the Yates Report, which found that the two teams were under pressure to sell the teams and that there had been systematic sexual and emotional abuse of players in the NWSL.

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The report detailed several instances of abuse of players by managers and found that some managers ignored player complaints or concealed the reasons for a coach’s dismissal. Those allegations against former Thorns manager Paul Riley also included 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 excited to see the Portland Thorns play for another NWSL championship,” the statement read. “Considering the recent changes in the organization [Paulson] will watch the game on CBS.”

Interim CEO Heather Davis, interim COO Sarah Keane and general manager Karina LeBlanc will represent Washington ownership, the statement added, adding, “We hope the Thorns win their third league title in 10 years.”

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

It was unclear whether Paulson played in Sunday’s 2-1 semifinal win over the San Diego Wave. Paulson was not seen in his room, and when ESPN asked several Thorns employees if he was, each said they did not know.

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– Yeats report explained: Holly, Riley and Dames main findings on violence

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

During the scandal, Paulson tried to portray his blunders in 2015 as a single mistake, when the club hid the real reason for Riley’s departure from the public, instead claiming Riley’s contract was not renewed for off-field reasons.

In his letter announcing his resignation as CEO, Paulson vowed to “never repeat what happened in 2015” and added that the mistakes included “a lack of clarity about the removal of Paul Riley.”

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But the Yates report says player complaints about Paulson’s abuse and neglect by Riley date back to 2014, before Shim’s complaint led to Riley’s termination.

The records obtained by Yates also show that Paulson maintained Riley’s approach to other team owners, and in late 2019, Shim’s allegations were downplayed and instead supported Riley, allowing the coach to work in the NWSL. Paulson is also accused of making inappropriate comments to players.

With some fans urging Paulson to sell both teams and sponsors such as Alaska Airlines diverting sponsorship dollars away from the organization, Paulson fired two top executives – president of football Gavin Wilkinson and president of business Mike Golub – before stepping down as CEO.


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