The team has not played a game since the report was published.
“We did a lot of talking as a team,” Thorns Head Coach Rhian Wilkinson said about how they handled the report internally. “We gave them time and space, we provided them support, and then we gave them what they really wanted — which was to get back on the field.”
Among other things, the report said that the Thorns enabled and supported Paul Riley, the team’s former head coach, after he was accused of harassment and sexual coercion by his players. The Thorns also did not publicly announce that Riley was let go due to this conduct in 2016 and reportedly helped him get another job in the NWSL.
Although Riley is obviously no longer around the squad, still some of the key players remain, including Timbers owner Merritt Paulson. Paulson stepped down from his CEO position after the report but still owns both the Portland Timbers and Thorns.
“Something I think the women’s game has always had to do — and I think it’s something that our players are proud to do — they like being role models. The majority of them want to be,” said Wilkinson. “There’s a time when it gets tiring. This team in particular has had two years of constant demand to be spokespeople for really huge things.”
Speaking of the team, veteran leader Christine Sinclair was asked if she wanted owner Merritt Paulson to sell the squad, to which she said she just wants to focus on soccer right now.
When asked about the team’s mentality currently, she took a similar refrain.
“Unfortunately, for a lot of us, we went through this same thing this time last year, so for a lot of us, there’s nothing new,” said Sinclair, who was a member of the Thorns when all the events in the Yates Report are said to have occurred. “We’ve really tried to focus on us, focus on the Thorns, focus on your teammates, your staff, kind of stick together. We’ve got playoff games to win. That’s the focus right now. Everything else can be dealt with in the offseason.”
The majority of fans though have been dealing with this in the moment, with some not sure if they want to continue cheering on the Thorns or the Timbers.
“Everyone has their own story and their own traumas, and if they can’t come to the game, that is completely understandable. These players deserve the fan support. They’ve earned it through the season. They love the fans. There’s a crazy connection there that’s amazing to watch,” Wilkinson said. “What’s getting lost in the media right now is the fact that there’s a semifinal game with a team that has done no wrong, and that just wants to play for their fans, and for those who feel like they can show up, we’re very grateful, and we look forward to seeing you there.”
As for Sinclair, she remains certain that soccer — and soccer fandom — in Portland will continue to thrive.
“I’m actually 100% confident in that,” Sinclair said. “No matter what happens, the passion for the Thorns and Timbers, it’s bigger than one individual person. This city has always represented and come out to support their soccer teams. I don’t see that changing.”