Over 24 hours after the release of the U.S. Soccer Federation/Sally Yates investigation into the NWSL abuse scandals, Merritt Paulson has finally released a statement.
The Portland Thorns and Portland Timbers owner and CEO released a statement on Tuesday, stating that he is removing himself from Thorns-related decision making, effective today. Former Thorns and current Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson, and Timbers and Thorns President of Business Mike Golub will be doing the same.
“I cannot apologize enough for our role in a gross systemic failure to protect player safety and the missteps we made in 2015. I am truly sorry.” Paulson shared in his statement. “I have told the NWSL that I will be removing myself effective today from all Thorns-related decision making until the NWSL/NWSLPA Joint Investigation, which we are fully cooperating with, is released.”
Paulson shares that both Wilkinson and Golub will be stepping aside as well, and that Thorns General Counsel Heather Davis will take over Thorns-related decisions.
A STATEMENT FROM MERRITT PAULSON— X - Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) October 4, 2022
The statement has no reference to decisions around the Portland Timbers, of which Paulson is the CEO, Wilkinson is the GM, and Golub is the President of Business. All three will presumably continue their day-to-day roles with the MLS side of Morrison Street.
Wilkinson stepped down as Thorns GM last year after the initial reports around the allegations of Paul Riley’s abuse were released, so it is unclear what Thorns-related decisions he has had influence over during the past year.
The three men will be stepping away from the Thorns effective today, until the completion and release of the joint NWSL/NWSL Players Association investigation. That investigation is ongoing, and no timeline has been shared about when the findings will be released. The statement from Paulson references November— but that is by no means the concrete deadline for the findings being released. It is expected that it will be released sometime after the conclusion of the 2022 NWSL season.
Inbox: Thorns FC owner Merritt Paulson, GM Gavin Wilkinson, and President of Business Mike Golub remove themselves effective today from all Thorns-related decision-making until the join NWSL/NWSLPA Investigation is released. #BAONPDX— Stumptown Footy (@StumptownFooty) October 4, 2022
Full statement from Paulson: pic.twitter.com/Lq1nOVo9wY
All three executives are squarely in the spotlight after yesterday’s release of the findings by the USSF investigation led by Sally Yates. It revealed, among other revelations, that the Thorns impeded and delayed their investigation, calling into question the extent which the Thorns are “fully cooperating” with the joint investigation, as Paulson claims they are.
In addition, the investigation revealed that reports of non-sexual abuse by Riley were brought to Paulson and Golub in 2014, something that is not directly addressed in the statement.
The statement comes after the 107IST, Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters released a statement calling for the firing of Golub and Wilkinson, and for Paulson to sell both the Timbers and Thorns.
The Portland Thorns are set to host an NWSL Playoffs semifinal match at Providence Park on October 23, facing either the Chicago Red Stars or San Diego Wave FC.
You can read Paulson’s full statement here.