Gavin Wilkinson, Mike Golub sacked by Portland Thorns, Timbers following American football report

Gavin Wilkinsonlongtime general manager and president of soccer for the Portland Woods and The spikesand longtime business chairman Mike Golub were fired on Wednesday, two days after the U.S. Soccer Federation revealed damaging details of a year-long investigation into allegations of misconduct and abuse in the National Women’s Soccer League.

The news comes amid widespread criticism from owner Merritt Paulson and club officials following US Soccer’s findings, with fans threatening to boycott matches and sponsors reassessing club partnerships.

In a statement announcing the layoffs on Wednesday morning, the Timbers and Thorns – known as PTFC – said general counsel Heather Davis had been named interim president of the teams’ parent company, Peregrine Sports, and would oversee business operations for both clubs. . Additionally, Ned Grabavoy will continue to serve as technical director and lead the Timbers’ soccer operations, while Thorns general manager Karina LeBlanc will continue in her role as the club’s soccer operations guide.

Paulson, who has faced calls from fans and the media to sell the clubs, said on Tuesday he would step back from any decision-making related to the Thorns but planned to remain involved with the Timbers.

The American Football Survey revealed, among other things, that Wilkinson and Paulson allowed and vouched for former coach Paul Riley, who was accused by several players of sexual misconduct, even though they quietly fired him from his job with the Thorns in 2015.

Golub, 61, was found by US Soccer to have made an inappropriate sexual remark to former Thorns coach and now president of American football, Cindy Parlow Cone, which followed allegations by former employees that Golub fostered a toxic work environment, such as detailed in a report by The Oregonian/OregonLive.

In his 13 years with the organization, Golub has helped lead a myriad of charitable endeavors – including an off-court Stand Together initiative – the expansion of Providence Park, the successful navigation of COVID-19 closures and significant growth in popularity and revenue for both clubs.

His sports career spans decades and includes stints with the Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Rangers, Nike, NBA and Major League Baseball. Golub sits on various cultural and nonprofit boards for businesses and charities across Portland.

Wilkinson, 48, joined the Timbers organization in 2001 as a player when he competed in the USL and then coached the club from 2007 to 2010. When Portland joined Major League Soccer in 2011, Wilkinson took over as the club’s chief executive and he served in that role and/or as president of football until his dismissal on Wednesday.

Wilkinson also served as general manager for the Thorns when they joined the NWSL in 2013 and quickly helped turn the club into a winner, laying the foundation for success which included multiple NWSL shields and championships.

Additionally, in 2012, Wilkinson served as interim head coach of the Timbers after drawing criticism from fans for the team’s poor performance. The club then hired Caleb Porter, who went on to lead the Timbers to an MLS Championship in 2015. However, his relationship with the front office eventually soured and led to his departure for the Columbus Crew.

Wilkinson, famous for his outspokenness in the media for better or for worse, has also presided over several high-profile signings for both teams, including club legends like Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Diego Chara from the side. Timbers as well as international superstars like Christine Sinclair, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan for the Thorns.

But when the allegations against Riley came to light in 2021, Wilkinson was furloughed from his position with the Thorns and was eventually replaced as general manager by Karina LeBlanc. However, he continued to work for the Timbers at full capacity and – after an internal Thorns investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing in 2022 – he was reinstated by the Thorns and served as president of football. for both clubs.

During Wilkinson’s tenure, the Timbers won an MLS Cup in 2015 and played for the MLS Championship on two other occasions (2018, 2021). The Thorns won the NWSL Championship in 2013 and 2017, and they also earned an NWSL Shield in 2016 and 2021. Wilkinson was instrumental in establishing the club’s academy system at youth level.

He founded Eastside Timbers FC youth soccer club in 2001 and has worked with the club in various managerial positions since. Eastside’s under-18 team won the U.S. National Youth Soccer Championship in 2010, becoming the first team from Oregon since the 1990s to do so.

Wilkinson’s impact on the organization from a football perspective – from top to bottom, from youth level to first-team staff – was immense and successful, but his final years at the helm were fraught with controversy. out of the field.

His role in the Riley scandal came into question after a report by The Athletic last year, and fans and players expressed frustration over an alleged conversation he allegedly had with Mana Shim – one of alleged victims of Riley – about his sexuality. Wilkinson has also come under fire for his handling of domestic violence allegations against former Timbers player Andy Polo.

US Soccer discovered that Wilkinson blamed Shim for “putting Riley in a bad position” and told another NWSL club he would “hire him in a heartbeat,” among other issues related to his involvement. This week, fans took to social media to express their displeasure, calling for Wilkinson and Golub to be fired and for Paulson to sell the Timbers and Thorns.

“I understand that we have to evolve as a club and we have to take big steps forward,” Wilkinson said in a town hall chat with Timbers season ticket holders in February. “For me, it’s about complying with all of those things and making sure we’re a positive representation. I also think that if these investigations and these findings show that we have done wrong, as an organization, we must take responsibility and act. Whether that action is termination or disciplinary action, we will do the right thing. »

Read the full American football report here.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

–Ryan Clarke, rclarke@oregonian.comTwitter: @RyanTClarke

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