Merritt Paulson Apr 27, 2022; Portland, OR, USA; Timbers owner Merritt Paulson before a Peace Charity soccer Match between player with the Portland Thorns FC and Portland Timbers at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

A day after a bombshell report on rampant sexual abuse and abuses of power in the National Women’s Soccer League, as well as an astounding number of team executives and owners looking the other way or siding with the abusers, fans of the Portland Thorns have said that they’ve had enough of team ownership and would like them to sell.

The NWSL’s Thorns are owned by Peregrine Sports LLC, which also owns the MLS’s Portland Timbers. Specifically, the ownership group is led by Merritt Paulson, who, along with team president Gavin Wilkinson, are said to have enabled former Thorns manager Paul Riley’s abuse of their players and protected him after it was reported. Thorns team officials are also accused of interfering in the investigation behind the report, which was commissioned by the US Soccer Federation and led by former US Attorney General Sally Yates.

Per the report, former Thorns coach Paul Riley reportedly “leveraged his position” to coerce at least three players into sexual relationships” while investigators received “credible reports of sexual misconduct with other players.” Sexual misconduct allegations were brought against Riley every year between 2015 and 2021. He was the Thorns’ head coach in 2015.

Thorns and Timbers president of business Mike Golub was also mentioned in the report, having made a sexual remark to then-Thorns coach and now U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone.

“Cindy Parlow Cone reported that in 2013, while serving as coach of the Portland Thorns, Golub asked her, ‘what’s on your bucket list besides sleeping with me?’ Parlow Cone told Golub never to speak to her like that again, and she reports that he did not,” read the report. “Several months later, when she was leaving the Thorns, she reported the incident to Thorns owner Merritt Paulson, who told her he wished she had told him about the remark at the time it happened. Per the Thorns, ‘there was no formal complaint made, and the concerns were addressed with Golub at the time.’”

Supporters of the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns, dubbed the 107IST, have called on the organization to fire Golub and Wilkinson, as well as for Paulson to sell the teams.

“As a leadership group, we were lied to,” the statement from 107IST read. “… They said they couldn’t speak freely until the investigation results were public. ‘Wait until the results are in before reaching any conclusions,’ they said. Well, we honored that request. The results are in. And those results are far worse than even the initial reports had indicated.

“The time for waiting has passed,” the statement continued. “The toxic culture that allowed these behaviors to exist and continue in our clubs’ organizations runs too long, too deep, and too high. Mike Golub and Gavin Wilkinson have no place in the Timbers and Thorns organization, or in Soccer City, USA; and Merritt Paulson and Peregrine Sports need to sell the teams. That’s the bottom line.”

Paulson released a statement on Tuesday, apologizing for the contents of the report and saying that he is removing himself, Wilkinson, and Golub from all Thorns-related decisions until the joint NWSL/NWSLPA investigation is complete. 

As you might imagine, the lack of any kind of significant punishment left many in the Thorns and soccer community upset with the lack of accountability, which appears to be an ongoing theme with the team owners and executives.

It’s hard to believe this matter is closed for the club ownership, as much as they seem to want to try to weather the storm.

[Ryan Clarke]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to