The general manager of the Portland Thorns has been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into allegations of misconduct against the team’s former coach, the National Women’s Soccer League club announced Wednesday night.
“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 club tweeted.
The announcement comes nearly a week after The Athletic published an article in which former players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim accused former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley of misconduct. Riley has since been fired by the North Carolina Courage and had his license suspended by U.S. Soccer. He denied the allegations, calling them “completely untrue.”
The team said that it conducted a “thorough investigation” when it received the complaint about Riley back in 2015 and did not discover illegal activity, but did find “clear violations” of company policy. The team said it shared its findings with the league’s office, and Riley’s contract was not renewed at the end of the season, although not specific reason was given.
The women also alleged that when they each raised concerns about the thoroughness of the Thorns’ investigation years later to the league over email, National Women’s Soccer League Commissioner Lisa Baird did not initiate any new investigations.
One day after the accusations against Riley came out, Baird resigned. The league also postponed five matches scheduled for the weekend in light of the allegations.
In its own statement last week, U.S. Soccer said it would launch an independent investigation into the allegations.
“U.S. Soccer played a major role in establishing the NWSL in 2013 and provided administrative support to the league until it became fully independent last year. U.S. Soccer continues to support the NWSL financially, and many of its senior National team players compete in the league today,” the statement said. “We take seriously our responsibility to vigorously investigate the abhorrent behavior that has been reported and gain a full and frank understanding of the factors that allowed it to happen, and the changes that should be made to make sure it does not happen again.”
The Thorns are not the only club in the league in the spotlight. Earlier this week, Washington Spirit CEO Steve Baldwin resigned after The Washington Post spoke to three former players who alleged that head coach Richie Burke was verbally and emotionally abusive. Burke was fired and has not spoken publicly about the allegations.
Zoe Christen Jones and Victoria Albert contributed reporting.
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