The planned soccer game at Providence Park was canceled — but supporters of the Portland Thorns still showed up Saturday, Oct. 2, to demand accountability in the wake of a major sexual misconduct scandal.
Just two days earlier, The Athletic revealed a pattern of accusations against former Thorns coach Paul Riley alleging sexual harassment, coercion and abuse in incidents dating back to 2010. Moreover, the article reports that leaders of the team and the National Women's Soccer League were aware of the accusations but did not disclose them publicly, even after the Thorns dismissed Riley in 2015.
On Monday, Oct. 4, Thorns team owner Merritt Paulson released an open letter with his thoughts on the allegations against Riley.
â€œFâ€” your silenceâ€— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) October 3, 2021
Portland Thorns fans are calling for accountability tonight outside Providence Park stadium
Tonightâ€™s soccer game is canceled after allegations of sexual misconduct were revealed against a former coach pic.twitter.com/xjaEcyjaKw
Riley has denied everything, but in the fallout from the bombshell report he was quickly fired from his new job leading the North Carolina Courage while the U.S. Soccer Federation suspended his coaching license.
On Saturday evening, several hundred Thorns supporters mobilized outside the downtown stadium as drummers led chants of "F—k your silence!"
"We need action. The people who knew — they need to go," said K. Sealler, a fan who's rooted for the Thorns since moving here from Australia in 2013.
Highlighting reporting detailed in the exposé, Sealler said that former Thorns midfielder Sinead Farrelly's shot at the World Cup was essentially derailed by Riley's behavior. Farrelly was one of two Thorns players to go on the record with The Athletic, alongside Meleana "Mana" Shim.
Sealler called on general manager Gavin Wilkinson to step down and said that Paulson, who owns both the Portland Timbers and the Thorns, should sell the teams. That sentiment was echoed by many in the crowd, who held signs reading "Believe Players" and "Merritt is complicit."
"They need to be held accountable," Sealler said.
Officials with the Rose City Riveters cheering section said their message was simple: support the players.
"The No. 1 priority for us is to hold the front office, hold our ownership group, accountable," said Gabby Rosas, Riveters chair and president of the 107IST.
Rosas said she had backed the team since it was founded, but now believes that personnel changes are necessary to move forward.
"It's just appalling that Gavin (Wilkinson) would talk to a player in such a way. To say, 'Don't be yourself, shut up and dribble.' That's horrible," said Rosas, referring to revelations in The Athletic report. "To know that this isn't a safe work environment — I think the front office has a lot of rebuilding to do of trust."
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