2015 Open Thread: “If They Did It”

Goddamn it, here we are again.

Jeffery Carlisle has a damning piece up at ESPN.com on the question of “who knew” what and when about Paul Riley (spit!):

“When the managerial post for the national team became open in July 2019 and Riley’s name appeared on a shortlist by incoming USWNT general manager Kate Markgraf, the impulse to protect Riley’s professional reputation, as well as the teams involved, kicked in again. Sources tell ESPN that in a phone call between Paulson and Malik, Paulson told the Courage owner that Riley was fired for cause and that it would be good if Riley withdrew from USWNT consideration.”

~ Jeff Carlisle, ESPN.com

This is after the Oregonian released a deep dive into the local legal investigation into the Peregrine actions in 2015, that concluded that:

“…the National Women’s Soccer League and the U.S. Soccer Federation wanted strict limits on the scope of PTFC’s internal investigation, and that the league and federation were seeking to “wash their hands of responsibility” for how allegations against Riley were ultimately handled by the league and federation as Riley was still allowed to coach professional women’s soccer.”

~ Ryan Clarke, Oregonlive

Back in 2021 when I wrote about this sad, sickening mess I said:

“It’s….well, unbelievable…that Riley seems to have gotten by with all this for two seasons completely on the down-low. Nobody 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!!!???

~ me, here

If you believe the Oregonian and ESPN reports, the silence of the Peregrine organization stemmed from:

  1. Advice from counsel to protect themselves from a Riley lawsuit,
  2. Pressure from the league and US Soccer to stumm to protect everyone’s ass, and
  3. Probably, the “old boy” network of guys who had all known each other since the WPS/USL days or before.

It seems to me that if I worked for a soccer team and I knew the manager was mackin’ on my players, forcing them to put up with his skeevy shit, and I could stop that, but some league or federation suit told me to sit down and STFU?

That seems like a hill I’d happily fucking die on.

I mean, what’s that shit about how evil wins when good people do nothing?

But. I’m not some office pogue whose livelihood depends on my rich boss not firing me for making him sound like a real asshole. Maybe I’m not that brave.

I won’t ever know until I’m there, and I don’t ever want to be there.

Now. Here’s the real question: what do we as fans do about that?

Back in 2021 I concluded the piece with this:

“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. But…what? How?

And I added in the comments (regarding boycotting attendance and cancelling season tickets):

“Agree that a boycott simply punishes everyone (including the current players, who don’t deserve that); I don’t see the utility of it.

I guess I’m too old and cynical to believe that chants – or silence – have any real leverage on the FO. To be there to chant or stand silent means that they’ve got your money and your attention. I’m not sure if there IS a way, short of truly angry public demonstration, which is in itself troubling.

But it seems like I, we, need to do SOMEthing to impact the club and the league, to show how angry and betrayed we feel. That’s why I think reaching out to the PA rep(s) is a good start.

Let’s hear from them; what do THEY think would clout the FO and the league on the ear?”

So far the PA and the current Thorns players have been silent about this latest news – which I understand; they’ve got a living to make and matches to play. They need this distraction like a hole in the head.

But short of something from them it seems like we’re in the same place we were a year ago, except it seems clearer that some of the Peregrine management DID know what Riley (spit!) had been up to and said nothing.

You can argue the reasons. But the ESPN piece makes it damnably obvious that Paulson, at least, knew it was a bad idea to let Riley (spit!) loose around women who he could coerce, and that if that got out it’d be bad for Paulson, too.

So here we are again, dammit; faced again with the knowledge that “they knew”.

And, again, with the troubling choices of how to respond to that.

I want to say how much I hate writing this. I desperately want to ignore it. I want to enjoy the game and the current squad and the league, argue about #TheCoachOut only because she plays Christine Sinclair for 90 minutes rather than skeeving on the players.

But this fucking elephant has once again bulled its way into our room, confronting us again with the question of; what do we do about that?

And much as I want to, I cannot simply ignore that.

Update 9/2: Merritt Paulson took to Twitter to slam the Carlisle piece:

I’ve never met the man, but Paulson’s public persona has always struck me as “thin-skinned rich kid”. But this is just…clueless.

You’ve just been revealed as a man with “guilty knowledge” of a serial abuser, who used that knowledge to keep him from possibly being exposed as such…but were perfectly happy to leave him there in Cary with the power to do to the players there what he did to yours here.

And your response is, basically, “You weren’t supposed to SAY that!”?

Needless to say, Twitter has utterly flamed him:

Look; I get that the club’s attorneys are freaking out at the potential litigation Riley (spit!) could throw at the club if Paulson comes out and says “Yeah, we found out he was a skeevy bastard in 2015, but the league and USSF had their thumbs on us and, frankly, we were worried about lawsuits, so we dummied up until Sinead and Mana forced us to admit it…”

But there comes a time when eliding and deflecting makes you look worse, not better.

There comes a time to get on your knees and repent. Confess. Do your penance.

All of that HAS to come before absolution. It’s right there in the missal.

So. C’mon, Paulson. Do the right thing.

John Lawes
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5 thoughts on “2015 Open Thread: “If They Did It”

  1. I’ve acknowledged that the legal ramifications where why he stayed quiet and even put myself in his shoes. This is not an easy issue to manage, but when I saw his response to Carlisle. My initial reaction was “How stupid can Merritt be? Did he suffer a stroke and his judgment is clouded? Is that nimrod actually related to Hank Paulson? I guess a Harvard degree doesn’t always equate to intelligence.”

    Why not acknowledge that you took legal advice instead of what you should have listened to, your morality. Instead he comes across as a entitled brat. You are going to be BLAMED no matter what you say. Own it, say you made mistakes, and I’m trying to learn. Show some damn humility.

    You are pushing to me to my second favorite team from my hometown.

    1. I’m going to update the post, but Paulson flamed Carlisle on Twitter for the ESPN piece…but the “flame” comes across completely as “YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO TELL ON ME!”; Paulson’s whine is that the guilty knowledge was supposed to stay a secret because the legal team’s presentation to the club’s employees was confidential.

      I get that the club’s attorneys are telling Paulson & Co. not to say anything, but, JEsus wept. At some point you look MORE guilty trying to dodge accountability than if you just take your lumps. It’s not so much Paulson sounds entitled. It’s that he sounds guilty and defensive. It makes it sound like “he knew”.

      And, yes. Be ashamed. Be humble. Repentance, confession, and penance must come before absolution. If you want forgiveness, show you deserve it.

  2. So I guess the open question is still “what do we as fans do about all this?”

    There are going to be some whose reaction is “nothing – I just want to cheer for the team” and y’know what? I can understand that.

    I think the problem comes trying to find a way between “#MPOut”/”Sell the Team” (since I tend to agree that while Paulson is kind of a thin-skinned clueless git he’s WAY less bad than he or some future owner could be) and just giving Paulson a shrug and a pass. It’s really not okay that his seeming reaction to ANY criticism is a defensive crouch and a cloud of squid-ink.

    But how the hell as a mere face in the North End crowd can I do anything to change that? And without shortchanging the players’ livelihoods?

  3. From Bill Cornett via e-mail:

    Merritt Paulson’s witlessness was evident before the Thorns ever ran out onto the field. Recollect the bungled rollout of the “Feeling Thorny” t-shirt in March, 2013, and his responses to critics in a long-since deleted twit:

    “…not worth engaging with someone who thinks a t-shirt is a statement. My statement on women’s sports was launching the Thorns.”

    That first line provoked a dizzying number of walkbacks over the past decade—witness, oh, the front office response to a t-shirt worn by Madison Shanley, stalwart anthem troubadour last seen sometime in April. Or, for that matter, how the club pivoted to a less MLS lapdoggy stance after Christine Sinclair walked through the gates wearing an Iron Front t-shirt in 2019. Just to nod at two examples.

    Paulson’s always been a blustering rich boy, and he’s surrounded himself with other (deferential to him) blustering boys. And so PTFC has gotten it wrong time after time after time, for the simple reason nobody in authority there grasps the simplest of concepts: When the same shit keeps happening to you over and over, you’re the common denominator.

    He probably still feels his statement on women’s sports was launching the Thorns, but five years ago his club was viewed as the gold standard for women’s soccer in this solar system.

    Now….? A whole lotta folks think it’s fool’s gold. And that’s on management.

    We all hope this latest goatfuck does not derail the team’s performance over the final month and a half of the season, and we all dread the eventual release of the NWSL and USSF investigations into the matter, which, given Paulson’s caped villain clown act, will blithely pass over any real self-appraisal for their own complicit roles in these matters.

    I don’t know what to do, either, John. Show up and support the players and hope the coach doesn’t reproduce tactically on the field what the club seems culturally incapable of changing behind the scenes: Making the same mistakes over and over. I’d like to hear less about “living on the ball” and see better movement off the ball.

    Meanwhile, for the men behind the curtain, “Change takes time” is the rallying cry of smug complacency, fellas.

    About all that’s left to hope for this season, I guess, is that the Thorns attain some winning mojo despite whatever happens off the field. Because those boys in the head office, they will take their time, you know, changing. Telling us what hard work it is all the while.

    Fool’s goldbricking.

    1. Yeah, what bugs me about Paulson’s repeated inability to see how blind and stupid he sounds is the implication that the blind stupidity that let 2015 happen is still the top-down ethic inside the club. The Golub story seems to go with that, too; that this dumb jock is acting like, well, a dumb alpha-jock and the “little people” are supposed to laugh along with and “get over it”.

      I honestly don’t know if that’s the case. I HOPE it’s not. But it’s hard to feel comfortable kicking back and just enjoying the show.

      But…what other options do we have? Sounds like you don’t have any good ideas, either…


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