So since the horrible news of Paul Riley’s atrocities broke last week we’ve all been saddened, angry, and sickened to some degree or another at what was happening beneath the flags and songs of matchday.
Since then we’ve had a protest outside the stadium with it’s own flags and songs, as angry as the temper of the fans. I’m reading that there will be more signage at the Timbers match tonight…at the very least.
So here’s my question:
What do we want from the club now?
Clearly Riley is beyond our grasp…although without his coaching license he’s hopefully been separated from the chance to savage other women. I suspect that he may never face more than that, unfortunately unless someone somewhere has the actual physical receipts that can prove in a court of law what in my heart I know he did.
It would seem practical for us as fans to come up with some objectives before we go any further (like boycotts and/or demonstrations on matchdays, etc.)
I’m seeing a LOT of #GWOut – which I expected. The guy 1) is a shit-magnet for lots of supporters and always has been, and 2) was genuinely a dick to Mana Shim (I totally believe her when she says he tried to lean on her about speaking out back in 2013, and then he totally gaslighted her when he was confronted about that).
What we DON’T know is how much he knew about Riley. I know what I THINK he should have known…but that and six bucks’ll get me a latte at Starbucks.
Do we want him out, regardless?
And is that enough? Are we at a “Sell the team, Merritt”? point? Something short of that – some sort of combination of changes in the Peregrine FO (A separate Thorns GM?) with additional oversight to protect future players…what?
I get the anger and frustration. I feel it, too. But it seems like we are at the point of going from there to “what do we do about that?” and I’m kind of curious to hear what folks are thinking.
So let’s discuss in the comments.
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5 thoughts on “Now what?”
I posted this in response to the same question from John on Stumptown Footy, so if you saw it there, no need to read again.
Here’s my two cents.
I’ve been on the fringes of a major sex-abuse scandal, that is, I know some of the people involved and have talked with some of them in depth about it. So, I’m not an insider, but I have a couple of takeaways that I think are relevant.
First, the people who get away with this stuff over years or decades are really good at covering their tracks and instilling in their victims such feelings of shame and fear that reporting, even to trusted friends, is extremely difficult.
Second, following from the first, people you would expect to be aware through scuttlebutt, osmosis, or workplace atmosphere are often totally in the dark. If the abuser is not able to keep quiet, he gets caught sooner rather than later. The victims of serial abusers can have a PTSD level of hypervigilance about letting slip any indication of the abuse.
So I find it plausible that other people in the organization might not know what was happening. The atmosphere may go rancid, but that doesn’t mean you can figure out why.
All of this is to say that, based on what I know now, which is what everybody knows, I think the Thorns organization is salvageable, even under its current leadership. The thing that bothers me the most about their response is Wilkinson’s gaslighting of Shim. He owes her a real apology.
On an institutional level, here’s a minimal list of remedies I want, for starters:
1) A mechanism for players and other employees within the league to confidentially trigger an independent investigation. If there are significant findings, there should be a public report.
2) Protection from retaliation for whistleblowers.
3) A mechanism for players to leave their team without jeopardizing their ability to play professionally in the US.
4) Player participation in the league’s governance .
5) Ongoing training for everyone in the organization, and especially coaches, at every level, in appropriate behavior and relationships, maintaining boundaries, and how to respond to violations.
Ideally I would like to see these in place throughout sports, but we have to start where we are. To me that means a league-wide policy, with written minimum standards for all teams. There should also be pressure on the NCAA and youth soccer to adopt standards.
Sorry to be long-winded, and even so there’s lots I haven’t touched on. Anyhow, you asked.
As I agreed at Stumptown; these are all good ideas.
What I’m a little concerned about is that this looks like it’s becoming fixated on #GWOut. While I’m not a Wilkinson fanboi, we don’t know what he knew or when he knew it. It’d look pretty dumb if we raised all this hell and the USSF investigation came back and agreed that the 2015 investigation didn’t reveal any of the horrific details so Wilkinson was pretty much constrained by litigation from following Riley with a rocket.
And Paulson..? That’s another “be careful what you wish for”, I think. There are lots of rich people out there who could be a lot worse. The idea of fan ownership is wonderful, but the practicalities are appalling.
I sure wish we knew more about what happened back in 2015…
I didn’t go to the rally at PP, partly for those reasons. I think the options are 1) fix the NWSL or 2) no pro women’s soccer in the US for a long time. I’m all in favor of the outpouring of support for the players, but I think the fix will be long and tedious and involve a lot of negotiating over details. IMO though, that’s generally how lasting change happens; often starting with a catalytic event, but always involving a lot of work and input from many sides.
I think it’s important to have a core of people applying steady pressure over the long haul, and a patient group of supporters behind them. I hope the PA is up for a sustained leading role.
I’m so grateful to Linehan, Hensley-Clancy, Morgan, and especiallyMcCullough, Farrelly and Shim, for sticking their necks out. This time I hope that Paulson and the other owners will find that after the emotional catharsis, the issue has not gone away.
That’s kind of my concern, too; the immediate #GWOut flare of anger is likely to crest soon and pass early. I’m not sure that we as fans have the patience to see this out to the conclusion it needs to have – that structural changes you detail above…
Thanks John for asking this question and Wow what a great post by Constant Weeder! I can’t think of anything to add to that other than agreement. Right now Gavin Wilkenson really makes me angry. I think I would like to hear from the players and most of all the victims as to what they think and what they would like to see happen next. At the very least Gavin owes Mana a much better apology than that half assed statement he made.
Some of what the Thorns organization did was classic business CYA and so not surprising, just incredibly disappointing that the organization and league seemed to be covering themselves at the expense of the players. Constant Weeder had some great next steps but again I would like to hear more from those impacted.