Last week I asked “what now?”.
What do we, the Thorns fans, want to see from the club (and, presumably, from the league…)
Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but as of yesterday the 107ist wants this:
- Implement a transparent and proactive safety, training, and accountability plan that is approved by the players.
- Create an executive-level Diversity Officer position, which will be filled by a candidate with more than 10 years of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) experience and a proven track record of building and implementing an organizational inclusion roadmap.
- Demonstrate transparency that players’ voices will be prominent in the hiring of the next Thorns coach — and any future coaches — as well as information about who will be responsible for background checks and vetting of any new staff.
- Hire separate general managers for the Thorns and the Timbers.
- Create a Club Culture and Player Liaison position for each team whose sole purpose is to mentor and support players from the academy on up. This role should also help transition any new players when they are signed.
- Disclose who has been secured to complete the new investigation of the 2015 events and subsequent investigation.
- Influence the league’s fulfillment of the NWSLPA demands and take local action to satisfy these demands, including immediate suspension of any staff member who violated the current anti-harassment policy or failed to report the alleged violation.
All of these are phrased as “demands”, and the fan organization is requesting that fans boycott merch and concessions to pressure the FO to give into these demands.
I won’t kid you; I’m very much on the fence about all this.
First and foremost because it’s a “demand”. A demand isn’t a negotiating point, or an opening offer. It’s just that; an “or else” – you do this or we come at you hard.
So…what happens if, say, the FO hires the DO/CCPL positions but insist on a single GM, and insist that Wilkinson, while an arrogant dick, has done nothing that amounts to a fireable offense? Does that mean it’s okay to get one and only one beer per match?
But kidding aside…what happens if they don’t give on any of these? Do we continue to hit Merritt in the wallet? Forever? Keep in mind those $12 Widmers help pay Emily Menges and Nadine Angerer, too. Are these demands a hill we’re going to die on?
This isn’t the Iron Front, it’s not an issue of politics, speech, or opinion but of the fundamental relationship between club and fans; what happened in 2014-15 was appalling and possibly criminal, and it’s entirely possible that people in the organization – including Wilkinson and possibly Paulson – committed acts (including acts of omission…) that rise to actionable levels. This is a huge deal in the future of this club and its fans.
But, here’s the second thing; there’s just a shit-ton that we don’t fucking know about 2015 that makes “demands” seem kind of a rage-quit.
We don’t know exactly what happened in 2015. We don’t have the results of the club’s investigation…or anything about the investigation, including it’s extent and depth. We don’t know what the FO knew about that rapey bastard Riley. We don’t know if Wilkinson was dirty (other than being an arrogant dick, in which case something like 15% of all corporate officers everywhere should be collecting unemployment).
We can certainly suspect and guess – I know what I think, and it’s ugly! – but we don’t know.
The USSF has hired Sally Yates to investigate the league-wide issues, including the Thorns in 2015. (The league has hired Amanda Kramer, whose Greatest Hit was failing to prosecute Riley-on-steroids rapey scumbag Jeffrey Epstein, so I have no confidence in the league’s inquiry.)
But Yates is a bulldog – she got canned from the Georgia federal attorney’s office for telling Trump where to shove his “Muslim Ban” back in 2017 – and I think she’ll chase these people down.
So my other problem with this is that I think these demands are a cry of rage, and rage that runs ahead of what Yates will tell us.
And, like things done in rage, they have a dangerous chance put the fans and the club on a collision course that neither is going to be willing to turn away from.
Should there be a stand-alone Thorns GM? Yes! (And it should NOT be Wilkinson – sorry, dude; when you gaslighted Mana Shim you torpedoed and sank yourself without a trace…)
Should there be an independent oversight position to “mentor and support players” – AND keep a side-eye on the club management? Yes!
Should there be players on a Thorns “governing council” that will be involved in operations, especially hiring? Yes!
Yes! to so many of these demands.
But are we doing this in a way that can make them happen?
Or are we setting ourselves and the club up to fight to the death?
I honestly don’t know.
But the tone of these demands – angry, implacable, unyielding – makes me very, very worried that we might be.
So add to being sad and sick and angry…now I’m worried that we’re headed for a collision between club and fans.
Update 10/6 (p.m.) – This afternoon the Thorns players released a list of their demands in response to the Riley revelations. They are:
- An immediate investigation, for the duration of which Wilkinson will be placed on “adminstrative leave” from the Thorns only.
- A “increase in diversity” in the club’s board, and
- That the players get a “seat at the table” (what this means isn’t specified; presumably meaning player reps in the FO) to “increase transparency, accountability, and cooperation” between the players and the FO
All of which seems eminently reasonable, practical, and workable…although we’ll have to see what “diversity” and “seats at the table” mean in practice.
And to me there’s an open question re: Wilkinson’s “admin leave” – given the small size of the FO and how interconnected the clubs are, is it really workable to have Wilkinson working on the Timbers side of the house but not the Thorns? Seems like it will be hard to keep him out of the way of the Thorns players, which seems like the idea during this time.
We’ll now have to wait and see what the various (and numerous! – fucking FIFA has one, too..!) investigations turn up.
Until then, I think it’s okay to buy a Modelo.
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18 thoughts on “Demands”
What’s the alternative though? Sit back, wait, and hope for the best? Why not make sure that when the flame of disgust righteous anger is highest that at least some push to do more than the minimum be made? I see the optimism for Yates as an investigator, but traditionally these kinds of investigations end up with very little outcome and after a long enough time that inertia of a new status quo has set in.
To me the alternative is to somehow overcome the short attention span that “traditionally” characterizes the fan response. We need to make sure that once the bonfire has died down, the embers are kept alive for as long as necessary. Linehan’s (and her colleagues’) reporting has created awareness. Awareness has created great pressure from the media and prominent public figures, as you say, but that won’t last. It’s up to everyone who cares deeply about women’s soccer (women’s sports, women’s well-being) to maintain vigilance and make sure the half-measures that are sure to come are not accepted. This is hard – that’s why we’re here. And the problems are global.
As for what the supporters groups can do, rather than just feel-good demonstrations and demands, or after those are over, I think each group should establish a standing committee on player welfare to monitor the investigations and any new issues, ask questions, maintain communications with the PA, and keep player welfare on the front burner. That mission should be considered a sacred trust to be passed down with solemnity over the seasons. After all, the SGs are there to support the teams, the players, not the franchises.
Typo: “great pressure from the media and prominent public figures, as you say, but that won’t last.”
Should be: “great pressure from the media and prominent public figures but, as you say, that won’t last.”
I’ve definitely wondered about that aspect of how to make sure the supporters actions are aligned with the players. There’s a lot of things that fans are feeling and saying that are probably not what the players want, but also there are things that the players may wish us to do that they can’t publicly call for.
In any case, imperfect though it may be, right now just having an active ongoing pressure that the current announcements from Paulson aren’t enough and that this is a serious, even existential issue for the organization is what matters to me. In the details of demands, etc. it’s the players, the PA, and possibly outside forces that will matter more.
Agreed. I think we can keep the pressure on without forcing the FO into a “fight or die” position.
Indication of some communication between Riveters Steering Group and some players, hopefully that leads this all in the right direction over the longer term: https://twitter.com/pdxriveterssg/status/1445885757013434369?s=12
In a sense, yes. Keep up the vigilance, keep up the expectations, wait for the facts…and then do what we and the players need and want. It’s worth noting that here’s what the PA wants:
“Any League or Club Staff who are accused of conduct, no matter when it occurred, that violates the current Anti-Harassment Policy for a Safe Work Environment or any mandated reporter who failed to report the alleged violation be suspended immediately, pending the results of the above referenced investigation…”
As of now no one has accused any of the FO staff from 2015. We know what happened…but we don’t “know who knew”. That’s why we need the Yates investigation, AND the details of the 2015 investigation.
I know it’s frustrating. But I’m not sure we want to go right to outright war with the FO…yet. We just don’t have the receipts.
Don’t show up and don’t renew season tickets is the outright war step, right? Many individuals are already there. I think the demands, while perhaps too specific in some cases, are in the right direction. The main thing you could argue is that removing GW is more than players are officially requesting and could wait for investigations. But as you said, Wilkinson shouldn’t be the GM anymore — I can’t imagine at this point it’s fair to ask the players to feel comfortable with him, regardless of the precise degree of wrongdoing.
In the scope of fan response this is decently in the middle: not burn it all down, not even demanding Paulson sell (whereas in the Facebook group aspersions on my character are implied for even recognizing that might be difficult). But also not doing nothing.
If enough people are going to stop paying for the games then eventually there will be no more games. If that’s what “many individuals” want I can’t stop them, but I’ll be sorry to see the team and the league go.
And we haven’t heard a response from the club to these demands. What if they ARE a hill the FO is willing to die on? Then we’re in “burn it down” mode.
Richard’s piece over two years ago in response to the infuriating situation in Canada has, unfortunately, kept all of its relevance today.
Steve Malik’s letter reminds me too much of Paulson’s.
I’ll be interested to see if there’s a public response from the players. So far I’ve see nothing from them beyond support for Shim and Farrelly.
Here’s an idea, instead of making our own separate complicated agenda, why not align with player demands? Didn’t the players come out with a list of demands? The more complicated the goals are, the less the average fan will be willing to engage. I hate to say it , but simple slogans like “GW OUT” are the ones that people will get behind.
Of interest in terms of what the players want specific to the Thorns:
“ Sources tell Just Women’s Sports that several players on the call said they wanted Portland Thorns GM Gavin Wilkinson to be fired, with some even arguing that owner Merritt Paulson should sell the team. Players were particularly upset with the fact that no Thorns employee had lost their job over the scandal, despite the organization having admitted to covering up the details of Riley’s 2015 dismissal.
Thorns players refrained from voicing an opinion on the matter, according to sources.”
If the players think Gavin needs to go, he needs to go. The club needs the players more than they need him, and if you have to choose between the shop floor and the C-suite, well…it’s the workers that make it run.
As for Paulson…if he’s guilty of covering for Riley, yes, absolutely; there’s no gray area there. Otherwise? In a lot of ways he’s just another thin-skinned rich kid. But in some he’s been a decent owner; hasn’t gouged the fans’ wallets too hard, doesn’t play the “gimme this or I’ll move the team” game every year or two.
And…this whole story broke less than a week ago. We still don’t have almost any – not “every” but “any” – details about what happened in 2015. Why are we upset that nobody’s been fired yet? We don’t even know who did what (other than Wilkinson was a dick to Shim…) to know who SHOULD be fired.
Call me overcautious, but it seems like we’re doing this in a “Ready! Fire! Aim!” kind of way.
I tend towards the cautious approach too, but I get where people have seen this kind of thing minimized too many times and have no patience and zero tolerance. That last part matters a lot too for whether you care about the investigation – at a minimum you can say that both Gavin & Merritt knew about a degree of behavior they viewed as unacceptable, but not only didn’t seem to do everything in their power (especially Merritt here, as an owner with plenty of weight to throw around) to prevent him from being in the league, but who’s public comments (Tweets, etc.) towards Riley don’t seem congruous with knowing and caring that Riley had treated players inappropriately. For some (many?), that’s enough to want them both gone.
So the Thorns insisted, and the club agreed, that Wilkinson needs to be suspended from daily operations (“administrative leave”) while the investigations proceed – see the update above.
That seems practical and workable to me. The players also had some asks about “diversity” and getting “seats at the table” that seem likely to take some negotiation. We’ll have to see how that works out.
But in general? Seems like a beginning.
These demands, in the absence of all the facts and a formal response from the players, feels reactionary and dangerous to me. As I mentioned in a comment on the Prediction game for the postponed Reign game, abandonment of or financial damage to the league hurts everyone but those in charge. I agree with the spirit of the demands and appreciate the intent, but would be surprised if the Paulsons are intimidated by a bunch of fans threatening to boycott concessions, merchandising, and season tickets. The folks that produce, distribute and sell all that stuff…or the low-pay players and staff that provide the excitement each week? Definitely another story.
See the update and my comment above; I think the Thorns PA came up with some useful ideas. We’ll have to see how they work out, but I think it’s a bit less contentious start than the 107ist list.
Big question is how willing the club is to negotiate around these ideas. We’ll have to see. I agree that just taking money out of the system hurts everyone, not just Paulson. It’s a very blunt-instrument sort of tool.
The brave moment in the 6th minute of last night’s match was a reminder of what these players are doing. I got tears watching; it felt like hope, like the first glow of dawn after a dark cold night.
Yeah…it sucked to lose. But long after we’ll have forgotten the scoreline I hope we’ll remember that moment, the tangible beginning of these great players rising, lifting themselves and everyone who follows after them. To put an end to the lies, to the cruelty and callous exploitation of these superlative talents.
Whatever they do, wherever they go from here, I will follow them, support them, and honor them.
Alis volat propriis!