Fans protest Thorns, Timbers owner, promote group ownership
PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Protesters gathered in Providence Park on Saturday afternoon to demand that Portland Thorns and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson sell the teams to a fan-created collaborative.
Paulson’s ownership has been under fire since a report came out detailing sexual misconduct by former coach Paul Riley.
Chris Bright, a protester, said everyone was there to protect their teams.
“I can hardly go to other professional sports nowadays because of what we have right here in our own backyard,” he said.
Tina Ettlin said she was there to “support the players and give them your voice.”
“Hey,” Bright added, “we’re all connected by this one passion, and you don’t find that in a lot of places.”
They said Paulson had a chance years ago to stop what has come out as sexual misconduct allegations against former coach Riley, who then coached for another team after being let go from Portland.
Ettlin said she wants their voices heard in hopes they’re “making a change and seeing some accountability for what has happened to these players.”
Two executives have since been fired, but Ettlin and Bright say that’s not enough. They want Paulson gone.
“What he has done to damage this club and how we don’t want him here anymore,” Ettlin said. “We can save young players that are looking to come into the league this type of hurt for the future.”
Bright added, “We need new ownership. It has to happen.”
They’ve taken their protests and grievances from Providence Park to the internet, making a website where people can pledge money to demonstrate there is real interest in Portland for a club owned by fans.
“Soccer is called the people’s game,” Bright said. “And I think it’s time for the people to take it back. We should have a shot at owning the team ourselves. So, we started a website where people can symbolically pledge what they’d invest to buy shares of the team.”
The website has gathered about $5 million in pledges from more than 1,000 people in the 24 hours it has been up.
With the playoffs underway and coming home, Ettlin understands if people don’t want to come, but she “hopes you can provide your voice with us and lift up the team with us.”
The season may come to an end at any point, but Ettlin said that it doesn’t end there. They plan to take the momentum into the off-season.
“Make some change and make our voices even louder,” Ettlin said.
The group will be holding a rally Sunday for the players at 11:30 a.m. at the stadium and according to a flyer they were handing out, they’re going to be bringing signs that read ‘For Sale’ to the match to hold up before players come out.
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