Portland Thorns FC head coach Rhian Wilkinson resigned Friday morning following one season and a National Women’s Soccer League title.
In a lengthy message posted to Twitter, Wilkinson said the players asked for her resignation following an investigation into her conduct as head coach — conduct she said she self-reported to the team’s human resources officials.
Wilkinson said during a brief period of time in October, she and a player — identified by The Athletic as defender Emily Menges — “formed a friendship that turned into more complex emotions.”
“While this was a human moment, it went no further than this expression of feelings for one another,” she said, adding she immediately reported the action to human resources to make sure she hadn’t “crossed any ethical lines.”
— Rhian Wilkinson (@rhirhi8) December 2, 2022
A league and players association investigation found no violation of rules.
Sill, Wilkinson, 40, told The Athletic that she was resigning because she had lost the confidence of her players.
“Once you’ve lost the locker room, which I have, there’s no return,” she said. “So that’s why I recognized my time in Portland couldn’t be salvaged a long time ago, because there were players who just wouldn’t communicate with me. And that part I can live with. When the locker room — whatever reason — is gone, it’s gone.”
Actions by coaches and team officials have been in the spotlight since the release in early October of the Yates report, which revealed how reports of sexual and emotional abuse of players had gone ignored and how alleged perpetrators were allowed to keep their jobs.
The Thorns won the NWSL title by defeating the Kansas City Current 2-0 on Oct. 29. On Thursday, club owner Merritt Paulson announced he intends to sell the Thorns but keep the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer.
“The past year has been a challenging one for our club and our players. I regret the role our organization played in the failures identified by the investigations. Despite these challenges, the Portland Thorns have a bright future ahead and a lot left to accomplish,” Paulson said in a lengthy release.
–Field Level Media