Rhian Wilkinson: Portland Thorns FC head coach resigns at players’ request following a ‘friendship’ with a player


Rhian Wilkinson has resigned as head coach of Portland Thorns FC in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) at the request of the players following her “friendship” with the player, she said on Friday.

“During my time coaching the Thorns, the player and I formed a friendship that turned into more complex emotions,” Wilkinson wrote Twitter.

“In mid-October, the player shared her feelings towards me, and I reciprocated. Although this was a human moment, it didn’t go beyond expressing their feelings for each other.

“In an effort to keep up with the NWSL and NWSLPA [The National Women’s Soccer League Players Association] processes to protect the player’s safety, and to be as transparent as possible, the player and I immediately stopped spending time together outside of practice, and shortly thereafter we ceased all communication outside of work

“In less than a week, I checked in with human resources to make sure I hadn’t crossed any ethical lines.”

According to the Thorns, the NWSL and the players’ union investigated and found no wrongdoing.

“The Portland Thorns and Coach Wilkinson have followed all League processes and policies and have cooperated fully with this investigation,” NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman said in a statement posted on Portland’s website.

“The Joint Investigation Team conducted a thorough investigation that resulted in a finding that there were no violations of League policy.”

Wilkinson said she informed the team of what had happened after the investigation was over, but the players had already “found out” before she could tell them herself.

“The story of my actions has now taken on a life of its own, and as a result I can understand the Portland players feeling hurt and having to deal with yet another non-football situation,” Wilkinson wrote.

“As a result, the players asked for my resignation, and I agreed to it.

“The investigative process and willingness of players and staff to use human resources and reporting to the league is critical,” Wilkinson tweeted.

“If the women’s game is to avoid further power imbalances and player abuse, these systems must be used and there must be trust in the process and its results. We need to continue to emphasize these processes,” added Wilkinson.

Wilkinson led the club to a 10-3-9 record and Portland’s third-best league championship in her only season as head coach.


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