I’m not talking about you, Merritt Paulson. Or you, Gavin Wilkinson.
It is not your turn yet.
I’m also not talking about you, the supporters and cowards who worked behind the scenes to foment a culture of unimpeded abuse and brutal misogyny. Self-protectors who practiced a sport that teaches our daughters strength, builds it and allows it to be surpassed by stumblers and creeps who have done nothing but tear them down.
Your turn will come.
I’m talking about You are.
You are the thorns The fan who protested in every match. You, the Timbers fan since the ’70s who refused to renew season tickets. You and the army of Timbers and Rose City Riveters who cheered players and coaches but drew a steady line in the front office.
You are Portland.
You knew there was a need for greater accountability from Paulson, Wilkinson and the NFL leaders. I demanded it relentlessly.
You knew there was no justice for Mana Shem, Sinead Farrelly and the other women who came forward to say Paul Riley had been groomed, manipulated, and coerced.
You knew that all accountability initiatives could be nothing more than words as long as Thorns and Timbers were run by men who could not pass a simple multiple-choice morality test:
a. Take responsibility for your mistakes
B. Protect the alleged predator
And today, after the release of A sweeping and devastating report to the American Football Association That confirmed every one of your biggest fears, you also know this: They should all go away.
Gavin Wilkinson should be fired. today.
Merritt Paulson should sell the difference. Yes, both.
I’m not saying this seriously. It is no small matter to call for the end of a professional career or the surrender of an empire.
But Paulson’s utter lack of transparency and back-haggling to keep the allegations against Riley buried make him an improper overseer of public trust in professional football in Portland.
No, Paulson isn’t the one who, when Riley was working another job months after he was fired by The Thorns, told Western New York Flash he would hire him in a “heartbeat.”
Or the one who amazingly blamed the victim by saying that Riley “put the player in a bad situation”.
Or the person who, according to Flash’s general manager in an interview with investigators, invited the team to bring him on board.
“His comment at the time was to get it if we could,” Aaron Laines said.
It was all Wilkinson. Even Paulson must realize by now that he needs to be fired. His actions were cruel and brazenly despicable.
But Wilkinson must have been gone long ago. There is no honor in his dismissal today.
Depending on how you look at it, Merritt either empowered Gavin or used Gavin to protect himself from him,” one MLS executive said Monday.
No explanation is better than the other.
After Flash hired Riley in 2015, according to an investigation by former US Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Paulson congratulated the team leader, saying, “I have a lot of affection for him.”
Is this how you talk about a coach who allegedly intimidated his players? Boss you had to fire him? But again, none of this makes sense. Why did Thorns go to such lengths to act as if Riley’s contract wasn’t renewed, not the truth: he was fired for a reason?
Years after Riley left Portland, according to the report, Paulson misrepresented the allegations against the coach for the North Carolina Courage owner.
So no. Paulson cannot solve this problem simply by firing Wilkinson. He doesn’t get credit for waiting that long to do the right thing. This is not justice for Shem, Farrelly, or the other women whose names were not disclosed in the report, who detailed the allegations against Riley.
Not for others that might be out there or for little girls who just want to play soccer and have no idea what kind of world they’re stepping into.
Paulson, who the report said was aware of non-sexual allegations against Riley as early as 2014, made his disdain for all these women excruciatingly, brutally and heart-wrenchingly clear with the lengths he went behind the scenes to maintain the allegations. hidden.
But that is what Merritt Paulson has proven to be.
Every time he faces his failures, he shrugs off blame and tries to keep the truth out of public view.
Despite his pledge last year in an open letter to the masses that he would be transparent, nothing has actually changed.
Here’s what Paulson’s transparency looks like today, from the investigation: “The Thorns refused documents for months, made misleading arguments…causing months of delays and obstructing interviews with key witnesses.”
In short: “The Thorns’ lack of cooperation delayed our investigation.”
For Paulson, that open letter to the masses was a PR tactic. We know that now. “Transparency” was a buzzword to buy time for oneself. It was not an organizational value or mandate. If that was the case, Thorns would have made business chief Mike Golub – found he made a file Sex note for former Thorns coach In addition to allegations of inappropriate behavior in the workplace Reported by the Oregonian this summer – Available to investigators.
Yates’ team wouldn’t have publicly noticed that they were uncooperative.
Make no mistake, woods and thistles would not exist today without Paulson.
But they no longer need it to grow. The identity of Thorns and Timbers is not a property group. It is a strong and enthusiastic fan base that has made Portland a football hub despite Paulson’s presence, not because of it.
Just as with disgraced Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, none of the leagues is likely to take a team from Paulson, especially given the way MLS Commissioner Don Garber beat Paulson and his father, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. In February, Garber said he had “great faith and confidence in Merritt Paulson, who has built one of the greatest sports teams of any sport in our country”.
No wonder Paulson seemed brazenly confident of the fallout.
But that cannot be the last word. Paulson should be pressed to sell. By players who refuse to play and sponsors who refuse to pay.
Does Alaska Airlines condone this kind of driving? Will Widmer, Toyota and Danner boot? If their logos are anywhere in Providence Park when Thorns come home after the season, I’d have no choice but to assume yes.
Our city and state deserve better than this addressable embarrassment of a civilian figurehead. It’s not good enough for a city that has built its progressive and welcoming identity on inclusion and a commitment to human rights.
Paulson does not reflect any of the values our city cherishes. He should sell and live with shame because he has failed not only the best fans in American football, but also the most courageous women in the sport.
Yates’ investigation has revealed some very dark truths, not just about women’s football and the forks, but also about the kind of country we are.
If we are unable to provide opportunities for women in professional sports without sexualizing them, we are not as advanced in society as we think. Without trying to sleep with them, make them kiss each other or ask them to send in nude photos – the investigation also found that the former Racing Louisville FC coach had done so.
We have failed a lot of women. As a culture, we’ve been let down by Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly.
But Paulson let them down as a business owner.
He let them down by putting their professional success in the hands of a coach who was allegedly focused on getting them drunk and trying to have sex with them. A coach allegedly bench players did not submit to their inclinations.
And by leaving this man’s fate and future to a general manager, his ruthless neglect of the victims exposes countless women to potential abuse.
He must go. They all have to go.