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Thorns’ owner Merritt Paulson breaks silence: ‘truth and facts do matter’

Wilkinson (left) and Paulson. (Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Portland Thorns’ owner Merritt Paulson is speaking out on Twitter, addressing former General Manager Gavin Wilkinson’s presence in the Portland Timbers organization.

Fans have criticized Wilkinson’s affiliation with the Timbers after the former General Manager was placed on administrative leave following an investigation into the Thorns’ handling of Paul Riley’s departure from the team in 2015.

The club has since named Karina LeBlanc as the Thorns’ next General Manager, replacing Wilkinson, whose continued role with the MLS-side Timbers has yet to be addressed.

Responding to a Twitter user’s Tweet saying they had “opted out” of their Timbers playoff tickets because Wilkinson “is still there,” Paulson said, “with some people truth & facts & due process do not matter.”

The Thorns owner added, “For us, and for me, truth and facts do matter…and they always have mattered. Trying to do the right thing also matters. We have always done that and will always do that.”

Soccer writer and host of the Diaspora United Podcast André Carlisle pushed back on Paulson’s use of the term “always,” pointing to the Thorns owner’s open letter published in October, which conceded that the club could have done more in reference to Mana Shim’s reports of abuse against coach Riley.

In the letter, Paulson apologized for making an “opaque announcement” about Riley’s departure in 2015, “as opposed to explicitly announcing his termination.”

Paulson cryptically replied to Carlisle on Twitter, writing, “Wait for info to come and then make your own conclusions.”

Paulson isn’t the only Thorns official to coming to the apparent defense of Wilkinson on social media. Portland Thorns goalkeeper coach Nadine Angerer previously made headlines when she took to Twitter to send her support to the former General Manager.

Angerer wrote, “I can only speak for myself, but since my arrival in Portland, I have felt fully supported by Gavin and the Thorns.”

The public defense of Wilkinson hasn’t quieted fans’ demands for more transparency and accountability, echoing some player demands from early October, when NWSL sources told Just Women’s Sports that many athletes in the league wanted Wilkinson fired, with some anonymously suggesting that Paulson should sell the team.