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Portland Timbers, Thorns announce accountability, equity initiatives

(Jesse Louie/Just Women's Sports)

The Portland Thorns announced a series of accountability, engagement and equity initiatives on Wednesday, one day after the Timbers were cleared of intentional wrongdoing in the case involving former player Andy Polo.

The investigation found that the club did not entice Polo’s estranged wife, Genessis Alarcón, to forgo pressing charges after an alleged instance of domestic violence by Polo.

Among the initiatives is the hiring of a new executive who will focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. A vice president of community and social impact will also be hired.

There will also be more direct and transparent lines of communication between fans and the front office.

“Over the past several months we have sought input, counsel and feedback from our players, supporters, staff and outside experts, and have completed a full-scale internal audit,” the clubs said in a release. “Our action plan to bolster accountability, equity and engagement that we’re sharing with you today is the result of that process.”

Other initiatives include:

  • Compliance resources meant to ensure that all reporting, training and due diligence is applied and followed.
  • A new scholarship program focused on women’s rights, gender equity and aiding those impacted by domestic violence. Beneficiaries are Bradley Angle, New Avenues For Youth, Saving Grace and Clackamas Women’s Services.
  • Creating a more open dialogue between the front office and its players.
  • New fan engagement programs, including team Town Halls, monthly newsletters, surveys, and open house meetings.
  • Girl-focused programming that will continue partnerships with local nonprofits.
  • Discrimination education training for all staff members.
  • SafeSport training for all staff members.
  • Expanded background checks during the hiring process.
  • An anonymous internal reporting system and an anonymous reporting system for reporters.

The new initiatives also come on the heels of a league-wide reckoning in the NWSL that stemmed from a report in The Athletic that heavily featured the Thorns. Former head coach Paul Riley was with the Thorns from 2014 to 2015, during which he is alleged to have sexually assaulted players. Former Thorn Mana Shim also said that then-Thorns GM Gavin Wilkinson pressured her to keep her sexual identity quiet.

Wilkinson was later placed on leave and Karina LeBlanc was named GM in his place. Wilkinson has since been reinstated as the club’s president.

The club came under further fire when they drafted Sydny Nasello, whose past social media activity raised concerns amongst fans.