Portland Thorns chief executive Gavin Wilkinson has been placed on administrative leave as the team investigates the treatment of allegations of sexual abuse against a former trainer.
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 major team supporters urged fans to boycott concessions and team equipment purchases at the game.
In the immediate term, Portland Thorns FC has placed CEO / Football Chairman Gavin Wilkinson on administrative leave from his duties at Thorns pending the results of the external independent investigation, which is ongoing.
– Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) October 7, 2021
The Rose City Riveters, Timbers Army and 107IST have called for reviews within the Thorns and Portland Timbers organization, including Wilkinson’s sacking, after it was revealed that former trainer Paul Riley was investigated for sexual abuse allegations in 2015. The investigation was not made public and, although Riley’s contract with the Thorns was not renewed, he continued to coach professional women’s football.
Team owner Merritt Paulson released a letter on Monday indicating that an independent investigation was underway into the initial handling of the abuse allegations. In a statement, the Thorns said Wilkinson, who is also general manager of the Timbers, was on leave pending investigation.
Meanwhile, reverberations within the National Women’s Soccer League were being felt across the country.
The players pulled to the pitch in the sixth minute of the NWSL’s opening games on Wednesday night and tied their arms in a circle to show solidarity with two former players who raised allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against a top trainer.
The actions took place in matches between Gotham FC and Washington Spirit in Philadelphia and between North Carolina Courage and Racing Louisville in Cary, NC.
“Tonight we are back on the pitch because we will not let our joy be taken away from us,” the NWSL Players’ Association said in a statement on Wednesday evening. “But it’s not business as usual.”
The league had just returned to the field after canceling games last weekend as it accepted the allegations.
Documents from the Associated Press are included in this report.