Just yesterday I wrote this on one of the comment threads at Stumptown Footy:
“Much as I rage against them I respect The Damned. Riley took a good WNY club and built on it to create a legitimate champion (one that if the league was honest about it would have three stars, hard as that makes me gnash my teeth…). I felt the same way about our first true rival club, Vlatko’s FCKC Blues. Loved to beat ‘em, hated losing to ‘em…but always respected ‘em.”
And then, this morning, I read this:
“Toward the end of the (2015) season, Shim (with her partner’s help) started working on an email detailing the major incidents between her and Riley. After the end of the regular season, on Sept. 16, 2015, she sent the email to Merritt Paulson, the team’s owner, Wilkinson, Garcia Ford and Riley. She also forwarded it to Jeff Plush, who was then the NWSL commissioner.”~ The Athletic, September 30, 2021
By now you know the rest; that the NWSL has a new player-abuse scandal. That then-Thorns coach Paul Riley has been accused of misbehavior – at least! – that extended back to his pre-NWSL career through his tenure with Portland.
And, striking closest and most personally home, it turns out that the Thorns “investigation” of Shim’s accusation found trouble…and then said nothing; to the players, the press, or the public:
“Immediately when we became aware of these allegations at the end of our 2015 season, Paul Riley was placed on administrative leave and a thorough investigation advised by outside counsel was conducted, working closely with the NWSL league office,” the team said in a statement provided on Wednesday. “The investigation found no unlawful activity, but that Mr. Riley had violated our policies (emphasis mine). As a result, we chose not to renew his contract. The findings of the investigation were shared with the NWSL league office.”~ The Athletic, September 30, 2021
Here’s the thing that troubles me the most about this whole story.
Let’s assume you’re a senior HR supervisor in a big corporation.
For some time now you’ve noticed that the section chief of one of the production teams is doing a lot of after-work socializing with the team. You’ve heard stories of some pretty heavy drinking. There’s rumors of some personal interactions involved that seem sketchy. Several of the team members have alluded to work practices that seem marginal.
Wouldn’t you – at least – spend some time looking into this person? Talking to team members off the record? Spending some time keeping an eye on the shop floor?
And – if the situation seemed as sketchy as the first reports indicated – wouldn’t you take the manager aside and give them a talking-to? A reminder re: appropriate workplace behavior (to include outside-of-work socializing) and corporate policy? Maybe even write them up so there was a paper trail in cast this ever turned into a bigger issue?
It’s….well, unbelievable…that Riley seems to have gotten by with all this for two seasons completely on the down-low. No body knew. When he got fired the team thanked him for his service. Like probably 99% of Thorns fans I just assumed Riley got canned for screwing up 2015.
But it sounds like he was pulling this shit for years. And to believe that the FO all the way up to Paulson had literally no clue until the 2015 post-season?
G’wan, pull the other one.
So nobody – NObody – in the FO knew this guy was off the rails until Shim dimed him off in the fall of 2015? Not a peep? Not a clue?
And then, when the “investigation” turned up “violations of our policies”, the club did nothing substantive that prevent turning the guy loose to have dictatorial authority – which is close to what a head coach has – over other women? Because maybe that was a fucking BAD IDEA!!!???
The Thorns organization failed through inaction to perform their duty to provide a safe workplace. This included failing to supervise their staff, failing to provide a safe and secure way for employees to report incidents of harassment and abuse, and in general failing to provide even the most basic level of oversight expected of an employer.
Or – worse – the organization made all these arrangements, inspections, and oversight, and then disregarded to evidence they found. This version assumes that (at least) rumors and similar talk were being circulated no later than the end of 2014 and that either the FO deliberately didn’t pursue them and when, in 2015, when they did, did nothing to warn other potential victims.
Either way…I’m still sick at heart.
This is just too close to home. My heart broke for Shim’s struggles. I loved Farrelly’s sass. To hear that these two were living a nightmare so I could enjoy myself watching them play, cheering for them on the field, writing and talking and thinking about their exploits? While all the time they were being torn apart, ripped and mauled and harrowed by the coach we all thought was leading us all to glory?
Now I feel like a sickening voyeur.
And I’m furious about that.
At Riley. At the Thorns FO. At the league. At the commissioner.
And not just for what they did themselves, not just what they did to the players, but for taking a part of my sports memories and making a filthy mockery out of them.
These people – Riley, Wilkinson, Paulson, Baird – have not only stolen the dreams and hopes and lives of the players savaged by Riley’s acts.
Through that they have also stolen my memories of glory, cherished memories and soccer passions; my outrage over the ‘16 semifinal, my joy over the ‘17 Final, my sizzlingly intense desire to beat Riley’s Damned because he was so good and beating his teams so satisfying…all now tainted with disgust and outrage that at the heart all was rotten and corrupt.
Somehow this coming weekend seems smaller and dingier and grayer.
As a fan I want to do something. As a supporter of the game, and the team, and the women’s game, I think I should do something.
And that’s a discussion I think we need to have in the comments.