all scores

Alex Morgan calls out Thorns for shielding Paul Riley from scrutiny

Alex Morgan played for the Thorns during Riley's tenure with the club. (Jenny Chuang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Alex Morgan spoke out out after a bombshell report from ESPN uncovered an effort by Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson to keep the nature of coach Paul Riley’s firing from going public.

The ESPN report centered on a 2019 phone call between Paulson and North Carolina Courage owner Steve Malik. Riley was the head coach of the Courage at the time.

During the phone call, Paulson told Malik that Riley should withdraw his name from consideration for the position of U.S. women’s national team manager because it would draw attention to the nature of his firing from Portland.

In 2015, the Thorns said Riley’s contract was not renewed due to poor performance, but he was terminated for cause after then-Thorns player Mana Shim accused him of sexual harassment and coercion. Her account, corroborated by then-teammate Sinead Farrelly, only became public in October 2021 via a report published in The Athletic.

Morgan currently stars for the USWNT and the San Diego Wave, but she played for the Thorns from 2013-15. While with the club, she helped Shim email her complaint about Riley to Paulson, per The Athletic.

“We (the players of the NWSL, especially players in Portland) deserve so much better than a boys club protecting their own,” Morgan said.

The Thorns issued a statement in response to the ESPN report, calling it “an extremely biased and misleading article,” but Morgan called the team’s statement “just pathetic.”

Shim also commented on ESPN’s story, tweeting: “The problem was not just that that they knew and said nothing. They did everything they could to keep the truth from coming out. We need to protect players and hold people accountable when they don’t.”

Shim and Farrelly’s account, published in The Athletic, spurred a reckoning throughout the NWSL, leading to new leadership and a groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement.