Portland soccer executives fired amid investigation into alleged abuse

Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 10:46 AM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Two executive leaders with the Portland Thorns were fired amid an investigation that they were aware of alleged sexual and emotional abuse by former coach Paul Riley and they failed to take appropriate action.

New shockwaves are being felt tonight from the bombshell report released by former acting Attorney General of the United States Sally Yates. The report released on behalf of U.S. Soccer details allegations of sexual misconduct and improper handling of reports of abusive behavior. Wednesday the Portland Timbers and Thorns organization fired two of its top executives. Timber President of Soccer Gavin Wilkinson and President of Business Mike Golub have both been relieved of their duties.

The trouble started with allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of former Thorns head coach Paul Riley. Riley is accused of coercing a player into sexual acts. According to the report, the Portland Thorns knew about the Coach Riley’s abusive behavior but failed to warn other teams. When Riley left the Thorns for a job with the West New York Flash, that team is quoted as saying, “the only negative reference made during the conversation was a comment from Mr. Wilkinson that Mr. Riley did not mesh well with all of the personalities in the locker room.”

President of Business Mike Golub is described in the report as creating “an atmosphere of disrespect and intimidation towards women and working mothers employed at the club over a span of 11 years. "

Current Thorns player and USA Team Captain Becky Sauerbrunn believes there are others in management who should be held responsible. She says, “it’s my opinion that every owner and executive and U.S. soccer official who has repeatedly failed the players and failed to protect the players and hidden behind legalities and not participated fully in this investigation should be gone.”

General Manager Gavin Wilkinson and President of Business Mike Golub have officially been let go from both Timber and the Thorns, local supporters say they’re glad to be finally seeing some kind of consequence, calling it a small step, but a good step.

Brandi Williams, the General Manager of Laurelwood Public House & Brewery, a new sponsor of the Thorns this year, says she was pleased to hear the news.

I think I was a little bit more surprised that it happened so quickly I’m glad that the pressure saw some results,” says Williams.

Fans on social media are outraged and calling for more action. Reports say, team owner, Merritt Paulson, didn’t do enough to make sure that teams and the league knew about the allegations that were face former coach Paul Riley. They also say the firings are not enough and are calling for Paulson to step down and sell the team.

“Merit is still heavily complicit in the treatment of these players and we are not going to be satisfied until the sale of the team is complete and he has no longer associated with these clubs,” says Tina Ettlin, Rose City Riveters Steering Committee.

SEE ALSO: Portland Thorns sponsor reacts to NWSL investigation

Williams says she’s unsure if Laurelwood will continue a sponsorship next year until they see what happens with Paulson but would like to see commitment towards systemic change.

The riveters say they will hold a meeting this week to discuss their future.

“It’s a tough choice because we do you wanna be there for these players that are still there and we do want to celebrate them,” says Ettlin.

General Counsel, Heather Davis, has been named interim president of Peregrine Sports, overseeing business operations for both the Timbers and Thorns.