Gavin Wilkinson Remains General Manager of the Timbers, Fan Boycott Still On

“Honestly, we haven’t really talked about the Timbers side. I don’t really think that’s our business,” Thorns defender Meghan Klingenberg said.

providence timbers Fans protest Portland Thorns FC ownership at Providence Park on Oct. 2. (Justin Yau)

Gavin Wilkinson, the Portland Thorns FC general manager who was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday evening amid a sexual harassment scandal, remains general manager of the Portland Timbers, team ownership confirmed to WW today.

“Thorns FC put Gavin Wilkinson on administrative leave from Thorns duties immediately after receiving the request from Thorns players Wednesday evening,” a Thorns spokesperson tells WW. “He remains in his position as GM/president of soccer for the Timbers.”

Both the women’s and men’s soccer teams are owned by Merritt Paulson, son of onetime U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.

The team’s announcement of Wilkinson’s leave came 37 minutes after Thorns players issued demands. The front office did not mention his Timbers job in the announcement, although fans and sportswriters who closely follow the team immediately understood that he was staying on for half his work.

Reached for comment about the status of the fan boycott of concessions and merchandise at Providence Park games, Gabby Rosas, board president of the 107IST, said the boycott is still on.

“The move to put [Wilkinson] on leave for only the Thorns does not impact the boycott,” she said. 107IST is a fan support group that combines Thorns fans, the Rose City Riveters, and the Timbers Army.

Wilkinson’s leave from the Thorns will last for the duration of an internal investigation regarding last week’s allegations from two former Thorns players, Sinead Farrelly and Meleana “Mana” Shim, against former Thorns coach Paul Riley. Shim says management stonewalled her attempts to report Riley’s abuse.

In a postgame press conference, Thorns coach Mark Parsons said he thought the Thorns would still have played the match against the Houston Dash FC, even without the first of their three demands being met so swiftly.

“Three days ago, players made it really clear that they needed to play,” Parsons said.

Parsons answered a question about whether he’d been made aware of the situation at the time of his hire in 2015, which closely followed the time when Shim reported Riley to Thorns management. His account seems to support the former players’ complaints about a culture of silence that allowed Riley to be quietly dismissed and then hired by another team.

“I was made aware that an incident and an investigation had happened and that the coach was let go because of that and that he would never be hired by this club again,” Parsons said. “But apart from that, it was an area where I wasn’t allowed and wasn’t able to know more.”

Furthermore, soccer journalist Caitlyn Murray recently tweeted that Thorns owner Paulson deleted tweets praising Riley, which he sent out in the years following Riley’s dismissal.

Thorns defender Meghan Klingenberg also answered questions at the press conference, on behalf of her team. “One thing that keeps coming back to me and to us over and over is that without any say in the league, without any power, and without the financial resource to protect ourselves, this will keep happening.”

She later elaborated on a feeling of guilt: “I never want there to be any silent bystander in this league.... I think it’s just that the players felt scared. And you know these coaches get passed around. Even if you speak up, it doesn’t feel like you’ll be protected.”

Klingenberg confirmed that the Thorns players have been communicating with the front office to coordinate: “How do we find out what happened here? How do we have accountability?”

“It’s really important that these investigations go through,” Klingenberg said. “We had a lot of discussions and we felt it was appropriate that GM Gavin [Wilkinson] is on leave, while this happens. Honestly, we haven’t really talked about the Timbers side. I don’t really think that’s our business.”

The NWSL announced today that last weekend’s canceled match between the Thorns and Seattle’s OL Reign match had been rescheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 13, at Providence Park.

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