Portland Thorns captain Christine Sinclair thanked embattled owner Merritt Paulson for his leadership hours after Paulson announced his plans to sell his stake in the team.
Paulson has led the Thorns since the founding of the team and the league, and Sinclair has played for the Portland club since the inaugural NWSL season in 2013. But Paulson and the the Thorns’ front office were at the center of the NWSL abuse scandal in the wake of the Sally Yates report released in October.
“For 10 years I have proudly represented the Portland Thorns. Merritt, thank you for taking the chance on women’s soccer 10 years ago that so few were willing to make,” Sinclair wrote in a message posted on Twitter. “With your leadership, Portland has shown what is possible when our game is invested in.”
Thank you Merritt 🌹 @ThornsFC pic.twitter.com/8uDTJZsJsk— Christine Sinclair (@sincy12) December 2, 2022
Thank you Merritt 🌹 @ThornsFC pic.twitter.com/8uDTJZsJsk
Paulson stepped down as CEO of the Thorns and his MLS club, the Portland Timbers, in October, after the U.S. Soccer-commissioned report implicated him in perpetuating a culture of abuse in the league.
Amid the turmoil, the Thorns won their third NWSL championship. During the playoffs, when asked if Paulson should sell the Thorns, Sinclair gave an oblique response.
“I’ve been part of this team proudly for 10 years,” she said at the time, noting that over the past year she’s seen “significant changes” that were “for the better.”
Her comments came in contrast to those of teammate Becky Sauerbrunn, who has repeatedly called for owners and executives who helped to cover up abuses to exit the NWSL.
“It is my opinion that every owner and executive and U.S. Soccer official who has repeatedly failed the players and failed to protect the players, who have hidden behind legalities and have not participated fully in these investigations, should be gone,” she said.
Crystal Dunn and Lindsey Horan have noted that it is hard to find pride in playing for the club in light of the report.
Sinclair, though, wrote Thursday that Paulson will be “missed greatly.”
“I can only hope, that as you step aside, the next in line will continue to raise the bar for this organization, community and league,” she continued. “I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done for women’s soccer and I wish you all the success in the future.”
Thorns teammate Emily Menges, who has played for the club since she was drafted in 2014, also took to Twitter to thank Paulson.
“I cannot thank you enough for all you have done for the Portland Thorns,” she wrote, adding that she has felt “nothing but support” from Paulson for the entirety of her Thorns career.
Menges, a member of the NWSLPA, has played a large part in pushing for players to have a role in the investigations into systemic abuse around the league.