Portland Thorns & Timbers fire Gavin Wilkinson and Mike Golub following US Soccer report

Lizzy Becherano
Portland Thorns and Timbers fire Wilkinson and Golub.
Portland Thorns and Timbers fire Wilkinson and Golub. / Soobum Im/GettyImages

The Portland Timbers and Thorns have parted ways with president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson and president of business Mike Golub, following the release of Sally Q. Yates’ independent investigation into abuse and sexual midsconduct in women’s professional soccer. 

Their departure followed the announcement that Thorns owner Merritt Paulson would be stepping away from club operations until the conclusion of the NWSL and NWSL Players Association’s joint investigation. 

“Given the Thorns are about to enter the NWSL Playoffs, I have told the NWSL that I will be removing myself effective today from all Thorns-related decision making until the NWSL/NWSLPA Joint Investigation, which we are fully cooperating with, is released,” Paulson said in the release.

General counsel Heather Davis, named interim president for both the Timbers and the Thorns, will step into the role immediately.

Outrage for the three figures to step away intensified after Yates’ investigation concluded Wilkinson, Golub and Paulson were aware of the verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct by former Thorns head coach Paul Riley. 

The Thorns fired Riley from his position in 2015, after an internal investigation into the players’ accusation of sexual misconduct, but the club did not provide a reason for his exit. Instead, Wilkinson insisted he felt Riley “was put in a bad position by the player” and “would hire him in a heartbeat,” as per the U.S. Soccer report. 

Wilkinson’s actions prove Yates’ findings that the league officials and executives chose to protect themselves instead of addressing the continued abuse within the game. Golub and Paulson were named in the report several times as well, having known about the ongoing situations. 

Prior to their firings, Thorns supporters groups released joint statements calling for Wilkinson and Golub to be terminated, and for Paulson to sell his stake in the NWSL side and Timbers.