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Sporting KC, Gavin Wilkinson ‘mutually agree’ to part ways

Sporting Kansas City sporting director Gavin Wilkinson
Posted at 9:21 AM, Jan 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-19 12:26:51-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sporting KC and Gavin Wilkinson announced Friday they had “mutually agreed” to part ways.

The club introduced Wilkinson as the team’s sporting director earlier this month. Wilkinson met with the media as part of his introductory news conference on Jan. 11.

Sporting KC principal owner Michael Illig released a statement Friday morning.

“In making this difficult decision, we want to first acknowledge the passion of our fans, our community of supports, our partners and our stakeholders,” Illig said in the statement. “Together, they compromise our deeply valued Sporting family.”

“Our action today demonstrates our longstanding, unequivocal respect for their voices, and the belief that we are all stronger when we listen to one another,” Illig continued.

Wilkinson’s hire immediately drew criticism, a fact he had to address during the Jan. 11 news conference.

“I would like to take this moment to apologize for the unintended consequences and to the individuals who were impacted,” Wilkinson said on Jan. 11. “I should have done more in my previous role to protect and empower women athletes and not hide behind legal advice.”

Wilkinson, 50, was GM and president of soccer operations from 2009 to 2022 of the Portland Timbers. He also served as the president and GM of the NWSL’s Portland Thorns from its 2013 founding until October 2022.

He was fired from both clubs for his role in concealing sexual harassment allegations against former coach Paul Riley. He appeared 50 times in the the Yates Report, an investigation commissioned by U.S. Soccer and led by former U.S. attorney general Sally Q. Yates that exposed years of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in women’s professional soccer.

In Friday’s statement, Illig said the club ran a “diligent and exhaustive process” in hiring Wilkinson.

“That said, the impassioned response from our fans reinforced to us a fundamental philosophy that has driven us since Day One: To honor and protect our valued relationships,” Illig said. “It is in that spirit that we take this action today, reflective of our abiding appreciation for our unrivaled SKC fans and our Kansas City communities.”

Wilkinson was set to assume the role of sporting director, which was previously held by Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes. Friday’s announcement did not immediately indicate what role Vermes would have upon Wilkinson’s departure.