Merritt Paulson, owner of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Portland Thorns and the Major League Soccer (MLS) Portland Timbers, will not travel to Washington, D.C. for Saturday’s games between the Thorns and the MLS, the teams announced. The NWSL Championship held between the Kansas City Currents in a statement.
Paulson, who has been under pressure to sell both teams, resigned as CEO of the Thorns and Timbers on Oct. 11 following the publication of the Yates report, which found systemic sexuality and emotion among NWSL players abuse.
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The report detailed multiple incidents of manager abuse of players and found that some executives ignored players’ complaints or concealed the reasons for the coach’s dismissal. That includes allegations against former Thors manager Paul Riley and Paulson’s role in concealing the reasons for Riley’s dismissal, which allowed the coach to remain with the NWSL.
“Merritt is delighted that the Portland Thorns are competing in another NWSL championship game,” the statement read. “Given the recent changes implemented by the organization [Paulson] The game will be watched remotely on CBS. “
The statement added that interim CEO Heather Davis, interim COO Sarah Keane and general manager Karina LeBron will represent Washington’s ownership “when the Thorns are on track to win their third in 10 years. League Championship”.
“As Merritt has shared with the team and organization, he is committed to ensuring the long-term health and success of the Portland Thorns,” the statement continued.
It was unclear whether Paulson was in the semifinals of Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the San Diego Wave. Paulson didn’t show up in his suite, and when ESPN asked multiple Thorns staffers if they were there, everyone said they didn’t know.
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Riley was fired by Thorns in 2015 following allegations of sexual harassment and coercion by former Thorns player Mana Shim.
Throughout the scandal, Paulson has tried to pin his blunder as a mistake in 2015, with the club hiding the real reason for Riley’s exit from the public, instead claiming that Riley’s contract was not renewed for on-field reasons.
In a letter announcing his resignation as chief executive, Paulson wrote that he vowed to “ensure that what happened in 2015 never happens again,” adding that mistakes included “the firing of Paul Riley that does not Open and transparent”.
But the Yates report cited Paulson receiving complaints from players in 2014 that Riley was abusive and ignoring them, a year before Shim’s complaints led to Riley’s firing.
The records obtained by Yates also show that Paulson continued the way Riley left other team owners until 2019 when he downplayed Shim’s allegations and instead expressed his support for Riley, which allowed the coach to continue working in the NWSL. Paulson has also been accused of making inappropriate comments about players.
As some fans called for Paulson to sell both teams and sponsors such as Alaska Airlines to divert sponsorship money away from the organization, Paulson fired two executives — football president Gavin Wilkinson and Business President Mike Golub — then stepped down as CEO.