(The following is a blog by Rachel Greenough, a member of the Riveters Steering Committee. Individual opinions may not be reflective of the whole group.)
I joined the Rose City Riveters to support the players of the Portland Thorns, and I also joined because I love what the Riveters stand for and what we do in our broader community. I imagine I speak for more than myself when I say that Monday’s statement from the players raised a lot of mixed emotions for me. First, I am genuinely glad if the current Thorns players feel that they are being treated with respect and supported by the club. I respect their individual agency, and that they are professionals who may make an informed judgment of their professional environment and their treatment there. I believe that we, as supporters, also have a distinct perspective. I want to support a front office that is transparently sharing information. I have to look at what I know in the context of what has come before and may come after the present time. The actions of the front office are still opaque, and they have not shared any communication with supporters or the 107IST that allows me to regain trust and rebuild my support for the club.
I would always prefer to be cheering in the stands. Many of us would prefer that to just about any other activity in our daily lives. It has been heartbreaking to spend our time and energy protesting abuse and lack of transparency. We know the players want the Portland Thorns to be the best club in the world. So do we. But that is not the reality at this time.
I would like to hear directly from the front office regarding what has taken place since the Paul Riley allegations came to light on September 30. I would like our front office to directly address how a player could leave a meeting believing she had been told to hide parts of her identity in public, and how they will ensure that never happens again. My trust is broken. I respect and support the players – past, present, and future – but the supporter perspective is different, and my wishes are different. I want direct action and transparency from the front office of the Portland Thorns. It is telling that in the midst of such serious allegations the only statement we have heard from our front office (since Merritt’s letter of October 4th) is one condemning the actions of the supporters who are fighting for better conditions.
To the front office: We shouldn’t have to hear from the players about what is or is not being done. That does not satisfy our desire for transparency from you. I am not satisfied by what I have heard, and I call on you, the leadership of PTFC, to communicate transparently about the scope of the inquiry that has taken place and why Gavin Wilkinson has been reinstated in a leadership role with the Thorns. We, the supporters, have been here telling you what will bring us back, joyfully, into your stadium, and you have not provided any of it – or at least have not shared it publicly. I do understand that there are limits to what can be shared at any given time, but you have cut off high-level communications and have not responded to the concerns we have raised. You have not engaged in any discussion or public actions that would convince us that you acknowledge the need for accountability and change within the club. You have not told us why we should trust you again. I look forward to learning the results of the NWSL/NWSLPA investigation – which I hope will be a truly independent and thorough investigation into abuse in this league, including within PTFC – but I continue to call on you to be proactive and do better. Again, I am glad players’ demands are being met to their satisfaction. I am glad if these players feel safe and happy. However, this does not erase the harm of the past, nor ensure that it will not happen again in the future. One concrete action that will ensure player safety on a league level is the passage of a CBA that supports all players in the league. I hope that our club leadership on the NWSL Board of Governors has been meaningfully and supportively involved in that process, but I cannot, with the information publicly available, assume this to be true.
To my fellow supporters: I absolutely respect the individual decisions that supporters are making at this time, and understand that people will be making different decisions regarding tickets, support, and collective action. It’s really hard, and I’m going through it too. I recognize that these decisions are deeply personal and rooted in your own experiences. The Riveters are here to support you, too, and to represent your collective point of view the best we can. I encourage you to continue engaging with us, as you are able. I want you to know that our fight is not over to build a better club and a safer club for everyone who comes here in the future: players and supporters alike.