Portland Thorns Announced Soccer CEO / President Gavin Wilkinson has been placed on administrative leave “pending the results of the external independent investigation” in the wake of Paul Riley’s sexual coercion allegations.
There is no news of his role as the MLS Portland Timbers general manager / soccer president.
The move comes less than an hour after the Thorns players issued a statement asking the club to address “their failures,” which included a call for him to be put on leave.
Meanwhile, players across the league stopped at the six-minute mark and rallied in midfield as the NWSL grapples with a scandal that extends beyond Riley.
“We offer our unwavering support to Mana, Sinead, Kaiya and all the players who have come forward to speak their truths, including those who are still fighting in silence,” the statement reads in part.
Former players have accused former Thorns coach (and now ex-Courage) Riley of sexual coercion and inappropriate comments about players’ weight and sexual orientations, with allegations spanning three teams and three leagues, as of 2011, in a report of The athleticMeg Linehan and Katie Strang.
Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim shared incidents with The athletic from when Riley allegedly sexually coerced former players. Farrelly detailed an incident before her time with the Thorns when he forced her to have sex with him and spend the night in his room.
Riley then allegedly brought Thorns’ then-mates to his apartment in 2015 after a night of drinking and pressured them to kiss as he watched. Shim filed a complaint about Riley’s behavior at the franchise’s main office several days after the 2015 season ended.
However, Riley remained employed in the league, and was later rehired in 2016 by the Western New York Flash (the franchise that eventually moved to North Carolina).
However, Riley is not the only coach who has been fired for abusive behavior.
Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin announced his plan to step down from his roles as CEO and managing partner, effective Tuesday, on Tuesday. The move came after the club announced last week that it had fired coach Richie Burke for good cause after he was initially suspended on allegations of verbal and emotional abuse in August.
According to the Washington PostThe NWSL investigation of the coach expanded to allegations by several female employees of a toxic “old boys club” culture, which included a male executive using demeaning nicknames for female players.
Burke was reportedly fired for harassment and for creating a toxic work culture for female employees, according to Washington Post investigation. In the report, former players said Burke “made racially insensitive jokes” and described him as “incredibly volatile.” Kaiya McCullough was part of the Washington Post investigation at Burke.
In light of the systemic change needed across the league, Thorns players included demands in their statement for their club and how they view the league. They called for an increase in diverse voices on the executive board and a seat at the table to “increase transparency, accountability and cooperation between the players and the front office.”
As for the league, they envision a “safe work environment” where “player voices are the driving force toward growth” and “accountability is swift, fair and complete.”
“Players have always borne the burden of demanding change; it is time for players, owners, and the league to take responsibility together toward good governance and the well-being of every individual in the NWSL.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.