Ninety minutes before the Wednesday night Portland Thorns FC match at Providence Park, every Thorns player with a Twitter account shared a statement ending their silence on the recent allegations of abuse by their former coach Paul Riley and criticisms of how Thorns management handled Riley’s dismissal in 2015.
Less than an hour later, the franchise placed general manager Gavin Wilkinson on administrative leave, pending the results of an internal investigation.
It’s been nearly a week since a report in The Athletic revealed allegations of sexual harassment from two former Thorns players, Sinead Farrelly and Meleana “Mana” Shim. Farrelly and Shim appeared on the Today show yesterday, calling for justice—which seemed to spur on a boycott on concessions and merchandise by the Thorns and Timbers fan groups.
Tonight, Thorns players spoke out as well.
“We, the players of the Portland Thorns are devastated and heartbroken,” the players’ statement began. “While we have remained silent in the public eye for several days, within our locker room we have been grieving, reflecting, asking difficult questions of the club, gathering facts and engaging in difficult discussions.”
The statement went on to recognize that the Thorns—both as a team and as an idea—have been viewed as front-runners in raising the profile of women’s sports. And it said that the players believe there’s still hope for the club to learn from its failures “and strive to set a standard of accountability and transparency throughout the league.”
The statement put forth three demands:
- “That the investigations proceed immediately, and that our GM, Gavin Wilkinson, be placed on administrative leave until the process concludes.
- “That there be an increase in diversity of voices within the club’s board of executives.
- “That we the players of the club gain seats at the table in order to increase transparency, accountability, and cooperation between the players and the front office.”
Thirty-seven minutes later, the Thorns front office announced that it was placing Wilkinson on administrative leave, pending the results of the outside investigation. The statement, presumably issued by Thorns and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson, did not say whether Wilkinson would continue in his duties as the Timbers general manager.
Tweets from the Thorns players bore the hashtag #nomoresilence. Earlier in the day, the players’ union put out a statement wherein it declared: “Teams will stop play in each of tonight’s games at the sixth minute. Players will join together in solidarity at the center circle for one minute in recognition of the six years it took for Mana, Sinead and all those who fought for too long to be heard.”
Fans at tonight’s match unfurled a tifo—a giant banner—showing a forest fire consuming fir trees and bearing the statement: “A restorative fire is necessary for the health of the ecosystem.”