Portland Thorns FC head coach Rhian Wilkinson resigned from her position this month. Wilkinson joined the club in November 2021 and coached the team in her first season as an NWSL head coach to the 2022 NWSL Championship. A former Canadian international and NWSL player, Wilkinson issued the following statement on her social media about the resignation:
"During my time as the Thorns coach, a player and I formed a friendship that turned into more complex emotions. In mid-October, the player shared her feelings for me, and I reciprocated," said Wilkinson in a prepared statement. "While this was a human moment, it went no further than this expression of feelings for one another."
Wilkinson further explained in her statement that both parties stopped communication outside work and Wilkinson reported herself to human resources "in an effort to follow NWSL and NWSL Players Association processes to protect player safety."
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"I would like to thank the Portland Thorns organization, the fans, the staff and most importantly the players for a remarkable year," Wilkinson said. "During my time in Portland I have met some incredible people and been fortunate enough to coach some of the best players in the game; it was a year to remember."
The actions were then investigated by the league and NWSLPA joint investigative team and that she was "completely exonerated of any wrong doing." After being cleared by the joint investigation, there has been no punishment issued to Wilkinson and she will not be barred from working in the league in the future.
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Wilkinson's statement also reveals that Portland Thorns found out before the first-year coach could reveal the information to them, and since the news, players have called for Wilkinson's resignation and she agreed to player consensus. She further closed out her statement acknowledging the need for protocols and processes in place for players safety.
"The investigative process and player and staff willingness to use human resources and league reporting is critically important. If the women's game is to avoid further power imbalances and plaver abuses, these systems must be used and there must be trust in the process and its results. We must keep highlighting these processes."
Wilkinson's resignation comes just a day after. The club is now in the process of pursing new ownership and vetting the coaching landscape for a new manager.