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Thorns owner under scrutiny after urging Paul Riley to withdraw from USWNT job

According to a new ESPN report, owner Merritt Paulson took steps to keep that investigation into the former coach from becoming public.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Merritt Paulson owner of the Portland Thorns and Timbers is facing new scrutiny in the sexual misconduct scandal that has plagued the club. Paulson took steps to keep the investigation into the former coach from becoming public, according to a new ESPN report.

Thursday night former thorns player Alex Morgan expressed her frustration on Twitter saying players "deserve so much better than a boys club protecting their own."

RELATED: Portland Thorns general manager placed on leave pending investigation into handling of sexual harassment claims

The ESPN report said Paulson tried to discourage former Thorns coach Paul Riley from applying to work for the U.S. Women's National Team in 2019. This came four years after Riley was fired after his second season following two sexual misconduct allegations by former players Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly.

Paulson contacted Riley's boss Steve Malik, owner of the North Carolina Courage, in 2019 and said that it was a “a good idea" for Riley to remove himself from pursuing a job with the U.S. Women's National Team, the report said  

Had Riley applied for the U.S. Women's National Team job, the sexual misconduct allegations while he worked in Portland would have come to light much sooner, according to the report. 

RELATED: Former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley fired from North Carolina Courage after sexual harassment, misconduct allegations

The Thorns released a statement in part quote, "The story ESPN published today was based on a privileged and confidential video call between outside counsel and Thorns employees. The selective use of information taken from this conversation combined with inaccurate conclusions provide for an extremely biased and misleading article."

Portland Thorns spokesperson told ESPN, "Out of respect to the ongoing NWSL investigations, which we are actively cooperating with, we will withhold comment until a more appropriate time."

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