That faith and confidence may be shattered by allegations that the Thorns ignored complaints of sexual and verbal abuse against Riley, covered for him despite firing him for his behavior and encouraged his moves to new teams, and then worked to thwart Yates’s investigators.
On Wednesday, Garber said that he supported the investigation and the report’s recommendations, and that its findings “made clear that there are elements of the soccer system that are broken and in need of urgent repair.”
He added that he has been in contact with Paulson, and supports the steps he has taken, including removing himself from Thorns operations and firing two executives. “I believe these are appropriate initial steps for their organization, their community, and the sport of soccer,” Garber said.
For a year, Thorns fans have been torn about how to straddle the line between supporting the players on a team run by people they believe are failing them, with some still attending games but boycotting merchandise and concessions stands, and others simply not going.
“Many friends and volunteering colleagues stopped attending games long ago,” said Rachel Greenough, 39, who is a member of the Rose City Riveters, a Thorns supporters group that has called for Paulson to sell. “They felt like they could not be in that stadium because it felt like an emotional burden they didn’t want to take on, or they didn’t want to give money to the organization. I totally understand that.”
The team’s inaction over player complaints about Riley, and the steps several Thorns executives — including Paulson — took to help him find another N.W.S.L. job, cannot be blamed on ignorance. As the report makes clear, the team knew everything.
The Thorns, in fact, dismissed Riley after the 2015 season, days after a player, Meleana Shim, made a formal complaint to the team that Riley had sexually harassed her, presided over a toxic workplace and coerced her and another player to kiss in front of him.