Paulson Should Apologize for Tasteless “Learning Disability” Tweet

Posted in Fan Culture, Portland, Seattle

Published on March 16, 2014 with 8 Comments

by Prost Amerika owner, Steve Clare

A row has erupted in Cascadia over a tweet from Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson’s account.

The Portland Timbers owner had, quite bafflingly, been arguing with Seattle fans about ticket prices for away games on Sunday morning when he tweeted a message which accused members of the Sounders Supporters Group, the Emerald City Supporters (ECS) of having a learning disability.

Paulson's tweet offended many

Paulson’s tweet offended many

Offending people on his twitter account has been a regular feature of Paulson’s behaviour, and more often than not, his own fans have been on the receiving end of his tongue. He has called Timbers fans ‘idiots’ and ‘morons’ in the past.

However this time his target were Sounders fans and his reference to a ‘learning disability’ sparked off a firestorm.

One Sounders fan and ECS member Liz Seymour took personal offence and and wrote an open letter to Paulson, outlining her own personal difficulties with dyslexia.

It was a very moving letter and in terms of the sheer courage it took to write, it was reminiscent of the Ian Joy article on this site outlining his battles with depression. We applaud her bravery and openness and hope it provides some measure of support to others.

With Ms Seymour’s permission, we have printed it below in full.

Liz Seymour wrote an open letter to Portland owner Merritt Paulson

Liz Seymour wrote an open letter to Portland owner Merritt Paulson


Many Seattle fans online are echoing Ms Seymour’s call and demanding an apology. Some also believe Paulson’s reference may be in violation of the MLS “Don’t Cross the Line” campaign.

Prost Amerika is in full agreement with them.

Paulson’s tweet was in poor taste and went to an area where no owner, GM or club official should go. This site has always expected a higher standard of behaviour of those in positions of responsibility and has no wish to turn this affair into a tit-for-tat between Portland and Seattle supporters, who should be equally offended by the tweet.

When someone in a position of responsibility oversteps the mark, an apology is due. We demanded an apology from Sounders FC in 2010 when they accused Timbers fans of being ‘racist’ on their club website.

That slur on took two days to come down and shamefully for the Seattle club, no apology has ever been tendered to Portland fans. Furthermore those responsible both for disseminating the slur and posting it kept their jobs. More nauseatingly, it only actually came down once the finger of suspicion for starting it pointed to a top Seahawks executive.

It was even reported to us that Paulson at the time told his own fans he demanded the dismissal for one of those responsible.

Paulson now needs to live up to the standards of decency he expects from others and apologize himself. It should not be a ‘I’m sorry you were offended’ non apology either.

That the slur against his own supporters remains out there is Seattle’s problem, and in no way should he or anyone connected with the Timbers organization use it as a pretext to not show remorse and humility.

The irresponsibility of those in power in Cascadia has been an issue before. We were the first to run the story that the Whitecaps had taken their fans’ allocation of tickets and handed it to a corporate sponsor travel agency.

In October 2012, Sounders season ticket Katlin Moore wrote about her dismay at the actions of CenturyLink groundstaff who irresponsibly routed visiting Portland fans into streets full of Seattle fans, even though the police had cleared a safe pathway back to their buses at the other side of the stadium.

She also noted her own personal fear when Portland mascot Timber Joey decided the away section would be a good place to wave his chainsaw. Her core point was that owners and employees of both clubs have a duty not to poison the well of supporter culture.

Anyone who would try and take Paulson’s tweet and use it merely to lambaste the Portland Timbers organization, and ignore those he has really hurt, indeed does a disservice to those he has really insulted; those with learning disabilities. Those tempted to take that path should think twice and recall their own FO’s history of provocation including some episodes that have never been made fully public.

None of that should though be allowed to distract from the next step in this story. Merritt Paulson should apologize in full.

He should apologize to Liz Seymour, and – yes – he should also apologize to the Emerald City Supporters and he should finally apologize to all those afflicted with disabilities.

Finally he should accept whatever punishment the league throws at him with dignity.

Also See:

Quakes President Dave Kaval in Twitter War with ECS

Leave a comment:


Comments for Paulson Should Apologize for Tasteless “Learning Disability” Tweet are now closed.

  1. Since when does offending someone mean that an apology is needed? Should he have said it, probably not, but fail to see how just because someone chooses to be offended by it he is somehow required to apologize.

    Seriously, he didn’t even mention a specific learning disability, had he done that I may be more willing to think an apology is needed. But, seriously people, get over it. On the scale of things that MP could have said that warrants an apology this is pretty low.

    Political correctness really ****es me off. Just because someone is uncomfortable with something that is said does not mean that whoever said what was said is not entitled to say/think what they want.

    • @Anthony, honestly not sure why you think making fun of learning disabilities is okay. It’s on par with making fun of someone for being “retarded”. It’s something that can’t be helped much or changed, and making fun of it is, at the very least, in poor taste.

    • “Since when does offending someone mean that an apology is needed?”

      Since the first offensive remark ever caused personal hurt and the perpetrator regretted causing it.

  2. Anthony,

    An apology is never “needed”. One gives it because they realize that they have wronged someone, they did not mean to wrong them, and they wish forgiveness. If you believe that apologies are something that is somehow compulsory, you’re missing the point of apologies and forgiveness.

    It’s clear that Mr. Paulson realizes he wronged an entire class of people (he deleted the tweet), he didn’t mean to wrong them (note his backtracking comments) and that he wishes to be forgiven (as shown by his rationalizations about how his philanthropy with Special Olympics Oregon excuses him). At this point, it’s clear that Mr. Paulson knows an apology is warranted; the only remaining question is the sincerity that accompanies it.

    • Paulson deletes the majority of his tweets, especially 1:1 personal communication. That’s his MO and shouldn’t be taken as an admission of guilt. The backtracking and rationalization really only prove that he realizes he’s stepped on a few toes.

  3. And yes, I’m a Timbers Supporter, not that should really matter here.

  4. I don’t believe that he really thinks he’s done anything wrong. As a person who has dealt with a life-long learning disability myself, and the father of a first-grade daughter with autism, I would prefer that he keep his apology if it isn’t heartfelt. And really, I’m so used to ignorant people behaving ignorantly, I’m not going to even bother calling for the guy’s head. No offense to Liz Seymour, but demanding apologies from people is kind of ridiculous. Your time could be better spent elsewhere.

    If you really want to do something for those of us with learning disabilities, don’t waste a thought on Paulson. He’s going to do what he’s going to do. Instead, spend some time with a kid with learning disabilities. Buy the mom of an autistic kid a latte. If you’ve got a buck or two, kick it over to one of many organizations working to better understand learning disabilities and better equip schools and parents.

    My two cents.

  5. MP’s classless antics wore thin long ago. As a Timbers fan I’m ashamed of him, and would say he should be ashamed of himself but I know his kind don’t go in for that kind of sentiment. I only wish someone would put a muzzle on the boy. What an embarrassment.

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