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Thorns, Timbers sponsors drop partnerships following report of abuse in women's soccer

Protesters outside Providence Park on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (KATU)

Sponsors are starting to pull out of the Portland Timbers and Thorns organizations following an investigation revealing systemic emotional abuse and sexual misconduct in women's soccer, including in the Rose City.

The latest sponsor to drop out is Union Wine Company. Lake Oswego-based Directors Mortgage is also moving forward to cut ties.

"We are deeply disheartened by the behavior as described in the report. We have decided to move forward with efforts to end our sponsorship with the Portland Thorns and the Portland Timbers," Directors Mortgage said in a statement.

The companies are axing their sponsorship following the damning investigation that dropped earlier this week alleging Portland Thorns leadership not only knew of the harassment problems within their organization but also played a role in allowing that kind of behavior to continue across the country.

The report also alleges the Thorns organization tried to prevent investigators from getting pertinent information about former coach Paul Riley. Riley has been accused by multiple former Thorns players of harassment.

RELATED | Portland Thorns head coach responds to report of abuse in women's soccer

Over the past week, Portlanders have been demanding change within the club.

President of Soccer Gavin Wilkinson and President of Business Mike Golub have both been fired.

The owner of both the Timbers and the Thorns, Merritt Paulson, stepped aside from a decision-making role following the Yates investigation, saying: "I cannot apologize enough for our role in a gross systemic failure to protect player safety and the missteps we made in 2015. I am truly sorry."

There has been no indication he plans to sell the clubs, though, which is a major sticking point for some of the current sponsors.

Tillamook says is it "dismayed" by the investigation results and "will only reconsider future sponsorship if the organization makes meaningful, institutional changes."

Union Wine Company agrees change is crucial. In a statement about dropping its sponsorship, the company said it “will only reconsider future sponsorship if the organization makes meaningful institutional transformation that help lead to positive systemic change."

Laurelwood Brewing had a one-year contract with the team. General Manager Brandi Williams said it's past time for Paulson to say goodbye to Portland.

"At this time we are standing behind what the players want, which is for Paulson to sell the team," Williams said. "That's our way of showing solidarity with the players, is that we are looking for the same results that they are."

These companies say they know firing the top executives is not enough to address the systemic issues within women's soccer. They also want to see real change from within the Thorns and Timbers organizations and the NWSL.

"Some of these things might take time, but I think seeing and hearing from leadership, to show that they are at least happening, would be a good first step," said Marcus Harvey, owner of Portland Gear.

"For me, personally, I would really enjoy to see the league step up in showing some measure of systemic change as far as protecting not only current players but future players," Williams said.

Providence has its name on the stadium in Portland. Its CEO says he was deeply disturbed by the report and that they're following the situation closely.

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