The views of the author are not necessarily those of the 107IST or its Board of Directors.
“This is soul-crushing.”
That’s what I told my wife before my son and I headed down to the stadium Sunday afternoon. She had helped me put together one last sign just a couple of hours before kickoff — “Do the right thing.”
It had been 45 days since Meg Linehan’s article was first published and we all learned about the horrible acts inflicted upon two former Thorns players by a former Thorns coach. It was appalling. How does this even happen? In this club? Our club? And how had no one been held accountable for six years? Six years!
Parting ways with Paul Riley in 2015 was the right thing to do. That said, he continued coaching — in the same league, no less. I believe that Portland had an obligation to bring this to the league and take whatever available steps there were to prevent him from continuing to coach in the NWSL. It is mind boggling to think that a coach could do these things, a team could find out, and he would still coach at all, let alone in the same league.
The piece of the story that has not been addressed by the club are the actions – or lack thereof – of Gavin Wilkinson, Nancy Garcia Ford, Mike Golub, and Merritt Paulson. Part of being an employer is to make a safe work environment for your employees. Disregarding a player is not making a safe work environment. Keeping people safe goes beyond physical injury. It means taking steps to protect a player’s physical safety, mental and emotional wellbeing. It means being human to other humans.
I have been a season ticket holder for the Timbers and Thorns since they joined MLS and the NWSL respectively. For more than a month, it has been difficult to hold tickets to either, especially the Timbers. While Gavin Wilkinson has been on administrative leave from the Thorns, he has remained in his role for the Timbers. This is not the “One Club” that has been touted by the front office for the last eight years. One Club would remove Gavin from his role in both teams.
I’ve realized how little joy I am finding in my relationship with One Club when I received the “Know before you go” email ahead of the match against San Jose. One, I had forgotten there was a game, so that says something. But more importantly, I didn’t see attending the game as something to look forward to. It was an inconvenience. Why would I want to attend a game for a club that appears to be doing so little despite the voices of so many. There are many actions that can be taken, and many demands to be met. There is one that is the simplest of all, and would be felt immediately:
Fire Gavin Wilkinson from the entire organization.
I desperately want to want to renew my Timbers and Thorns season tickets. Right now, I don’t think they want me to want to. If they did, they would listen as One Club. To the supporters. To the players. To Mana and Sinead.
Right now, they are barely hanging on to two Half Clubs. They need to make a choice. As it stands, what the Timbers and Thorns are telling me is that I am not a valued season ticket holder, fan demands are not a priority, and player safety does not matter. Three things that can quickly end in No Club.
Like I said, this is soul-crushing.
-- Kyle Jones, Timbers & Thorns supporter