Portland Thorns, Timbers fire two executives following NWSL abuse report

By OPB staff (OPB)
Oct. 5, 2022 6:26 p.m. Updated: Oct. 7, 2022 10:19 p.m.

Two members of leadership for both the Portland Timbers and Thorns have been fired two days after a scathing report found extensive abuse across the National Women’s Soccer League, including at the team in Portland.

The two clubs put out a joint statement Wednesday morning saying that President of Soccer Gavin Wilkinson and President of Business Mike Golub have been “relieved of their duties” effective immediately. OPB confirmed that Wilkinson and Golub were fired.


The teams’ leadership has come under intense scrutiny after a report published Monday that outlined a culture of abuse in the NWSL, and particularly calling out incidents affecting the Thorns. The yearlong investigation led by former acting US Attorney General Sally Yates was initiated after a story in The Athletic detailed allegations of sexual coercion and harassment against former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley.

A pair of Portland Thorns fans hold signs that say "Protect the players" during the first half of the team's NWSL soccer match against the Houston Dash in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.

Portland Thorns fans hold signs during the first half of the team's NWSL soccer match against the Houston Dash in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. An independent investigation into the scandals that erupted in the National Women's Soccer League last season found emotional abuse and sexual misconduct were systemic in the sport, impacting multiple teams, coaches and players, according to a report released Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.

Steve Dipaola / AP

Following Tuesday’s news that owner Merritt Paulson, as well as Wilkinson and Golub, were stepping aside from making decisions related to the Thorns, the team also announced that general counsel Heather Davis will be interim president of the group overseeing business operations for the Timbers and Thorns. In the statement Wednesday, the organization said Timbers technical director Ned Grabavoy will lead Timbers soccer operations, while Thorns general manager Karina LeBlanc will continue to lead Thorns soccer operations.

The full statement by the teams reads as follows:

Portland Timbers and Thorns FC announced that president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson and president of business Mike Golub have been relieved of their duties with both clubs, effective today.

Pursuant to yesterday’s news that Merritt Paulson would step aside on Thorns related decision making, general counsel Heather Davis has been named interim president of Peregrine Sports, overseeing business operations for both the Timbers and Thorns.

Ned Grabavoy will remain as technical director and lead Timbers soccer operations, while Thorns GM Karina LeBlanc will continue in her role leading Thorns soccer operations.

Portland Timbers Communications

Editor’s note, updated: As of October 7, 2022, Mike Golub has resigned from OPB’s board of directors.


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