Portland Thorns general manager Gavin Wilkinson has been placed on administrative leave while the team investigates the handling of sexual abuse allegations against a former coach.
The announcement came less than an hour before the team’s scheduled home game against the Houston Dash on Wednesday. The club tweeted the news after the team’s leading supporters urged fans to boycott concessions and team gear purchases at the game.
CLUB STATEMENT:— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) October 7, 2021
Effectively immediately, Portland Thorns FC have placed general manager/president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson on administrative leave from Thorns duties pending the results of the outside independent investigation, which is ongoing.
The Rose City Riveters, the Timbers Army and the 107IST called for overhauls within the Thorns and Portland Timbers organization, including the firing of Wilkinson, after the revelation that former coach Paul Riley was investigated for sexual abuse allegations in 2015. The investigation was not made public, and while Riley’s contract with the Thorns was not renewed, he went on to continue coaching women’s professional soccer.
Team owner Merritt Paulson released a letter Monday saying that an independent investigation is underway into the initial handling of the abuse allegations. In a statement, the Thorns said Wilkinson, who is also general manager of the Timbers, is on leave from duties pending the investigation.
Meanwhile, reverberations within the National Women’s Soccer League were being felt across the country.
Players stopped on the field in the sixth minute of Wednesday night’s early NWSL games and linked arms in a circle to demonstrate solidarity with two former players who came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against a prominent coach.
The actions came during games between Gotham FC and the Washington Spirit in Philadelphia and between the North Carolina Courage and Racing Louisville in Cary, North Carolina.
“Tonight, we reclaim our place on the field, because we will not let our joy be taken from us,” the NWSL Players’ Association said in a statement released Wednesday night. “But this is not business as usual.”
The league had just returned to the field after calling off last weekend’s games while it came to terms with the allegations.
Material from the Associated Press is included in this report.