Football

MLS’ Don Garber sees no reason Paulson should sell Timbers

MLS’ Don Garber sees no reason Paulson should sell Timbers
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LOS ANGELES — Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber said on Thursday that the league doesn’t « see any reason at all » for Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson to sell the club.

An independent investigation into abuse in women’s soccer concluded that Paulson, as owner of NWSL club the Portland Thorns, enabled and supported former Thorns coach Paul Riley after Riley was accused of harassment and sexual coercion by players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim.

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The investigation also found that Paulson and Thorns president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson made inappropriate workplace comments to women.

Wilkinson and president of business Mike Golub, who was accused of making inappropriate sexual remarks in 2013 to form Thorns coach and now US Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone, were relieved of their duties with both the Thorns and Timbers last month. A week later, Paulson announced he would step down as CEO of both clubs.

« At this time, we don’t see any reason at all for Merritt to sell the Timbers, » Garber told members of the media during his State of the League address ahead of Saturday’s MLS Cup final between LAFC and the Philadelphia Union. « Obviously, Merritt has very publicly acknowledged the mistakes that he and the organization have made.

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« 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. »

In February, MLS launched a review into the Timbers’ handling of the domestic violence allegations against midfielder Andy Polo. The Athletic reported at the time that Portland didn’t notify the league of a 2021 domestic violence call at Polo’s home, as is customary in these types of situations.

That month, Garber gave Paulson his backing, saying « I have enormous faith and confidence in Merritt Paulson. »

Fans of the Timbers, Thorns and two other NWSL clubs named in the Sally Yates investigation, the Chicago Red Stars and Racing Louisville, have since regularly protested the ownership of their teams.

Information from ESPN’s US soccer correspondent Jeff Carlisle was used in this story.

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