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Thorns owner Merritt Paulson deletes friendly tweets directed at Paul Riley

(Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson has deleted tweets that showed him being friendly toward Paul Riley, the coach who was fired by the North Carolina Courage last week amid allegations of sexual coercion and emotional abuse.

On Monday, Paulson apologized for his role in the NWSL scandal. Portland investigated Riley in 2015 when he was coach of the team after former player Mana Shim filed a complaint over his behavior. The Thorns terminated Riley’s contract after finding his conduct in violation of team policies but didn’t say that publicly at the time. The Western New York Flash hired Riley five months later.

In the now-deleted tweets, Paulson congratulated Riley for his work with the Courage, calling it “phenomenal.”

As of Wednesday, the only tweets that remained linking the two were one about a James Bond movie and another sending Riley well wishes after his father passed away.


In the days since the allegations against Riley surfaced, the NWSL has undergone a league-wide reckoning. Lisa Baird resigned as commissioner and the NWSL, FIFA and U.S. Soccer each opened up investigations into misconduct in the league.

Still, players have been calling for more accountability from NWSL leaders, including Paulson and Thorns GM Gavin Wilkinson.