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Alaska Airlines redirecting sponsorship funds from Timbers, Thorns in wake of investigation

The announcement comes after a scathing report that found the Portland Thorns interfered with an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Credit: AP
FILE - Portland Timbers team president and general manager Gavin Wilkinson, left, speaks as team owner Merritt Paulson, right, listens during an MLS soccer news conference on Jan. 8, 2018, in Portland, Ore. Wilkinson and Paulson have been removed from any decision-making roles with the Portland Thorn's National Women’s Soccer League club until the findings are released from an ongoing investigation into numerous scandals around the league. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Alaska Airlines, a primary sponsor of the Portland Timbers and Thorns FC, is redirecting the teams' sponsorship funds this quarter following an investigation into scandals within the National Women's Soccer League.  

The funds will go to the NWSL Players Association "Support the Players Emergency Trust" and to youth sports in the Portland area. 

U.S. Soccer commissioned an investigation by former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates and a team of lawyers after former Thorns players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim came forward with allegations of harassment and sexual coercion involving former coach Paul Riley. 

Yates' team found that the Thorns interfered with access to witnesses and documents in the team's 2015 investigation into Riley. 

RELATED: Portland Thorns interfered with investigation into alleged sexual abuse and misconduct, report says

“Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players,” Yates wrote in her report on the investigation.

On Sunday, Alaska Airlines — which has its logo displayed on the front of Timbers jerseys — issued a statement announcing the redirection of funds. 

"As we stated following release of the Yates report, we are deeply concerned about its findings. Our foremost priority is to support players through actions that push for a safe, respectful, and transparent culture at the Portland Timbers and Thorns FCs," the company said. 

The statement continued, "We will continue to seek input from players and the community to ensure our actions support meaningful change, and will reevaluate our sponsorship based on clear evidence of progress."

RELATED: Thorns, Timbers dismiss two top officials in wake of damning report

Following the release of Yates' report on Oct. 3, the Portland Timbers fired president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson and president of business Mike Golub two days later. 

Thorns owner Merritt Paulson has said he will step back from "all Thorns-related decision making," turning over decision-making to Thorns general counsel Heather Davis.

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