The Portland Thorns announced Wednesday night that general manager/president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson had been placed on administrative leave "pending the results of the outside independent investigation" in the wake of the Paul Riley sexual coercion allegations.
The move comes less than an hour after Thorns players released a statement calling for the club to address "its failures," which included a demand for him to be placed on leave. According to ESPN, Wilkinson is not suspended from his duties as GM/president of soccer for MLS's Portland Timbers.
Meanwhile, players across the league paused at the six minute mark and stood in solidarity at midfield in response to the NWSL's scandal that extends beyond Riley.
"We offer our unwavering support to Mana, Sinead, Kaiya, and all the players who have come forward to tell their truths, including those who are still struggling in silence," the statement read in part.
Former players have described ex-Thorns (and now ex-Courage) coach Riley using sexual coercion and making inappropriate comments about players' weight and sexual orientations. Allegations span three teams and three leagues, beginning in 2011, according a report by the The Athletic's Meg Linehan and Katie Strang.
Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim both shared stories with The Athletic of Riley sexually coercing the former players. Farrelly detailed an incident before her time with the Thorns when he coerced her into having sex with him and spending the night in his room.
Then, the report says, Riley led the then Thorns teammates to his apartment in 2015 after a night of drinking and pressured them to kiss each other while he watched. Shim filed a complaint about Riley's behavior with the franchise's front office several days after the '15 season ended.
However, Riley stayed employed with the league and was rehired in 2016 by the Western New York Flash, the franchise that ultimately relocated to North Carolina.
Riley was fired by the North Carolina Courage on Thursday after The Athletic's report was published, and NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned on Friday night.
However, Riley is not the only coach who has been fired for abusive behavior.
Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin announced his plan to resign from his roles as the CEO and managing partner, effective immediately, on Tuesday. The move came after the club announced last week that it had fired coach Richie Burke for cause after he was initially suspended for allegations of verbal and emotional abuse in August.
According to the Washington Post, NWSL's investigation into the coach expanded to allegations by several female employees of a toxic “old boys’ club” culture, which included a male executive using degrading nicknames for female players.
Burke was reportedly fired for harassment and creating a toxic work culture for female employees, per a Washington Post investigation. In the report, former players said Burke “made racially insensitive jokes,” and they described him as being “unbelievably volatile.” Kaiya McCullough was part of the Washington Post investigation into Burke.
In light of the systemic problem across the league, Thorns players included in their statement demands for their club and how they envision the league evolving. They called for an increase of diverse voices on the board of executives, and a seat at the table to "increase transparency, accountability, and cooperation between the players and the front office."
As for the league, the former Thorns players envision a "safe work environment" where "players' voices are the driving force towards growth" and "accountability is swift, fair, and thorough."
"Players have always borne the burden of demanding change," the statement said. "It is time for the players, the owners and the league to take responsibility together towards good stewardship and the wellbeing of every individual in the NWSL."
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