NWSL Report on sexual harassment


Graphic by Peyton Anderson.

Peyton Anderson, Staff Writer

Former Thorns Football Club  players Meleana Shim and Sinead Farrelly shared their stories of harassment and abuse by their former coach Paul Riley in September of 2021. An investigation that recently concluded revealed that Portland Thorns CEO Merritt Paulson and other members of the program took part in interfering with the investigation. After news spread of the scandalous secrets involving Paulson, fans of the team and the National Women’s Soccer League spoke out about their disappointment towards the program and their fear for the players. 

As fans of women’s soccer and the Portland Thorns, Tualatin social studies teacher Sean Haley and seniors Nic Sammond and Sarah Freedman were open to sharing their knowledge and opinions on the scandal. 


How do you feel after hearing the news about the scandal and the Thorns’ involvement? 

Sammond: “I would say that I felt very disappointed and sad, and obviously my heart goes out to those players because that’s an unimaginable position to be in not only for the players that had to experience that kind of harassment but also for the rest of the team having to deal with the club not seeing this as a real issue that needs to be solved. The club’s responsibility is to ensure that all of the players are able to do their jobs in a safe environment. Instead, these managers turned their backs on the players and thought they could just sweep it under the rug and nobody would care. This is disturbing  because it seems to be a reoccurring issue recently.” 

Haley: “I feel terrible, and I think that the ownership of the Thorns and Merrit Paulson need to take responsibility for their actions, and I believe he needs to step down because the mess was in his house. The team should be sold to somebody else and the coach should be held accountable, potentially with criminal charges.”  

Freedman: “I was really shocked that stuff like this still happens and goes unnoticed or pushed away by the league. It made me really worried for all the girls up and coming into the league for what they might have to go through, and especially future players of the Thorns team.” 


What do you think the Thorns’ management can do to improve for the future of the program? 

NS: “I think there needs to be a pretty complete overhaul of any senior management and those types of positions. Merritt Paulson needs to sell the Thorns so he can stop profiting off of the players that he turned his back on. The club needs to take more feedback from the players and let them have more control over their team because, at the end of the day, the fans are here for the players and not for the management.” 

SH: “I think that the Thorns’ management needs to admit culpability, go to sensitivity training and also train their entire staff on how to not be misogynistic.” 

SF: “I think the team needs to make an anonymous report system available so the players don’t get in trouble, and they need to take every report seriously and do check-ins on the players.”

Paulson released a statement revealing his decision to sell the Portland Thorns football club on Thursday, Dec. 2. He plans to pledge $1 million to create a player safety office for the team, which will give players an outlet to report concerns and install mandatory monitoring and training. 

Although this change would allow the team to restart with new management, Paulson would still profit from the Thorns’ matches at Providence Park. Fans of the Thorns are going into this next season filled with curiosity and excitement to see how this change will benefit the team and the program in their successes.