NWSL: Thorns place GM Gavin Wilkinson on administrative leave

Less than a week after the NWSL was rocked by revelations about sexual abuse that brought the league to a standstill, play resumed on Wednesday with three games.

At all three games, players halted play in the sixth minute to allow them to join together in the center circle for a minute of silence.

The sixth minute was chosen as it was the number of years between the initial investigation into former NWSL coach Paul Riley after the 2015 season and the report in The Athletic in which Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim told their stories of how they allege Riley abused them.


The fallout continued on Wednesday as shortly before the Portland Thorns' game against Houston the Thorns issued a statement that they have placed general manager/president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson on administrative leave from Thorns duties pending the results of the outside independent investigation into Riley's departure after the 2015 season.

In 2015, Shim went to the Thorns with a complaint about inappropriate behavior by Riley. She was interviewed by the Thorns' human-resources director as part of the club's investigation advised by an outside law firm. In a statement issued a week ago, the Thorns stated that "while the findings did not show unlawful activity, they did uncover clear violations of our company policies." Based on this, they said they did not renew their agreement with Riley and the findings of the investigation were shared with the NWSL league office. Nothing about the investigation was mentioned in the release issued by the Thorns when they announced Riley would not be retained for the 2016 season.

Wilkinson will continue in his same positions with MLS's Timbers. The move addresses one of the demands of Thorns' players.


But the Rose City Riveters and Timbers Army -- the official fan organizations supporting the Thorns and Timbers -- have initiated a concessions and merchandise boycott at Providence Park until their own demands are met. One of them is Wilkinson's dismissal from all positions with the Portland soccer organization. Others include the hiring of separate general managers for the two teams, a new diversity officer position and club culture and player liaison.


Malik statement. North Carolina Courage owner Steve Malik issued a statement in which he said the club knew of the 2015 investigation into Riley but said it was “assured" he was in good standing when Malik bought the Western New York Flash, which hired Riley in 2016, and moved it to Raleigh area for the 2017 season.

"When we bought the Western NY Flash in 2017, we conducted due diligence to continue with Mr. Riley and the coaching staff," Malik said via statement. "We were made aware of an investigation into Mr. Riley's behavior in 2015 and were subsequently assured that he was in good standing."

Riley led the Flash to the 2016 NWSL title and won three regular-season and two postseason titles with the Courage in his first three years in North Carolina.
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