MLS: MLS won’t force Merritt Paulson to sell Timbers

Major League Soccer will not compel Merritt Paulson to sell the Portland Timbers despite the revelation of sexual abuse under his watch with the Portland Thorns, MLS commissioner Don Garber said Thursday.

A report by former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates released last month found that Paulson continued to support then-Thorns coach Paul Riley despite the fact that players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim reported that Riley maintained “a pattern of sexually charged comments, unwanted sexual advances and sexual touching, and coercive sexual intercourse.”

Paulson and Thorns president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson also made misogynistic comments in the office, per the Yates report. In addition, Thorns president of business Mike Golub was alleged to have made unwanted sexual comments to former Thorns coach Cindy Parlow Cone, now the president of U.S. Soccer.

Since the release of the Yates report, the Thorns fired Wilkinson and Golub, and Paulson resigned as chief executive officer of both the Thorns and the Timbers, though he continues to own both clubs.

Garber, speaking Thursday in Los Angeles ahead of the MLS Cup final between LAFC and the Philadelphia Union, offered his support for Paulson.

“At this time, we don’t see any reason at all for Merritt to sell the Timbers,” Garber said. “Obviously, Merritt has very publicly acknowledged the mistakes that he and the organization have made.

“He’s taken responsibility for those decisions that he’s made, and I think that the steps that he’s made in terms of stepping aside and bringing in a new CEO and the termination of two long-term employees, which we supported, are steps in the right direction.

“So there was nothing that came out in the report that would have us think any differently from what I just stated.”

Paulson’s ownership of the teams is such a hot topic locally that the candidates running for Oregon governor were asked their opinions on it during a recent debate. All three said Paulson should sell.

–Field Level Media

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