Owner of Portland Thorns and Timbers steps down as CEO following NWSL abuse investigation

Merritt Paulson, the CEO of the Portland Thorns and their Major League Soccer counterparts, the Timbers, said he was removing himself effective immediately, following a report that detailed abuse in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL).

An investigation released earlier this month said that abuse and sexual misconduct were systemic throughout the NWSL and that the league and U.S. Soccer failed to put in "basic measures" to safeguard players.

The report also said that the Thorns failed to be transparent about the 2015 firing of a former coach, who was accused of abuse, and that U.S. Soccer and the NWSL did not stop him from coaching elsewhere.

"I apologize to our players, the organization, and the Portland community for the mistakes we made, including not being publicly transparent about Paul Riley’s termination," Paulson said in a statement.

"It is devastating to me that my goal of creating the shining example of what a women’s sports team could be, has now become synonymous with abhorrent and predatory behavior."

A report in The Athletic a year ago detailed allegations of misconduct against Riley, prompting a reckoning throughout the league. Riley denied "the majority" of the allegations to The Athletic.

It was not immediately clear if Paulson planned to sell either team.

"Looking ahead, our organization is at a crossroads, and the future is not necessarily a clear path," he said. "No matter what happens, ensuring the long-term health and success of the Portland Thorns is critical to me, as I know it is for our players and the community."

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New YorkEditing by Toby Davis)

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