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NWSL fans hold protest in Portland


A group of protestors gathered outside the Portland Thorns’ stadium on Saturday in response to allegations of sexual coercion and emotional abuse leveled at former Thorns head coach Paul Riley.

Rose City Riveters, the Thorns’ official supporters, organized Saturday’s rally for NWSL players. The protestors carried signs reading “Believe Kaiya McCullough,” “Believe Sinead Farrelly” and “Believe Mana Shim,” in reference to the players who came forward this year with their accounts of abuse under former NWSL head coaches.

The Athletic’s bombshell report, published Thursday, detailed Riley’s alleged pattern of abuse, stemming back to his two seasons with Portland from 2014-15.

After former Thorns players Farrelly and Shim reported Riley’s behavior to the team, the Thorns did not renew Riley’s contract for the 2016 season. At the time, most believed the club had severed ties with the coach due to poor on-field results. The Thorns, however, say the investigation into Riley’s behavior with players factored into their decision not to bring him back.

Some of the fans’ ire on Saturday appeared to be directed at Portland GM Gavin Wilkinson, with multiple signs reading “Surrender Gavin.” In Meg Linehan’s story for the Athletic, Shim recounts Wilkinson encouraging her to be less vocal about off-field matters. The Portland GM initially denied such a conversation. He later backtracked on that statement, saying that he does not “question Mana’s feelings surrounding our conversation.”

The NWSL halted the weekend’s competitions amid the saga, with NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigning from her position.