All Scores

Mana Shim calls out Thorns investigation for clearing Gavin Wilkinson

Former Thorns and current Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson speaks with Merritt Paulson, the owner of both teams. (Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Former Portland Thorns player Mana Shim is speaking out after new details from an investigation into the club’s handling of coach Paul Riley’s 2015 firing have emerged.

The independent investigation cleared president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson of wrongdoing, the Oregonian reported. Law firm DLA Piper conducted the investigation from late 2021 to early 2022 and shared findings with employees of the club in late August, but the results have not been made public.

Shim, who played for the Thorns from 2013-17, filed a sexual harassment complaint against Riley in 2015, and the coach was fired for cause.

The investigation showed that the club obscured the reason for Riley’s departure from the public. Riley continued to coach in the NWSL until 2021, when Shim and her former Thorns teammate Sinead Farrelly went public with allegations against him in a report published by The Athletic in September 2021.

Shim also detailed to The Athletic a conversation she had with Wilkinson, then the general manager of the Thorns, ahead of the 2014 season.

The midfielder had come out publicly in August 2013, one day before Portland won the 2013 NWSL championship game against the Western New York Flash. In early 2014, she participated in a panel on polyamory and posted about it on Twitter.

In their 2014 conversation, Wilkinson implied that Shim should keep quiet about her sexuality, she told The Athletic.

The DLA Piper investigation, though, chalked up Wilkinson’s comment to a misunderstanding, the Oregonian reported.

Wilkinson could have chosen his words more carefully in speaking with Shim, he told investigators, but said he wasn’t trying to silence her sexuality.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a little while and I want to set the record straight after the Thorns ‘investigation’ was released,” Shim tweeted Friday night. “Gavin Wilkinson explicitly told me to be more like a player who we both knew to be closeted. There was no misunderstanding.

“Gavin told ‘investigators’ that he called the meeting about a tweet I sent. He never mentioned a tweet in our meeting. It pains me that after everything that happened this year, Gavin, Merritt, and the Thorns are still attacking victims. But it does not surprise me.”

Shim shared the details of the conversation with her partner at the time and with teammate Alex Morgan, and both women told The Athletic they remembered speaking with Shim about the incident.

“(Shim) said Wilkinson’s tone was genial, but the message was clear: We don’t talk about being gay or having pride. We play soccer. Wilkinson also praised one of the team’s best players and her reticence to discuss anything but soccer in interviews,” Meg Linehan wrote for The Athletic.

The team responded to the claims made in The Athletic report, saying, “Gavin categorically never communicated to Mana, or any Thorns or Timbers player for that matter, to not discuss political or personal views.”

Wilkinson was placed on administrative leave after The Athletic report in October 2021 pending the investigation. He was replaced as Thorns general manager by Karina LeBlanc in November 2021, but he was reinstated as president of soccer for both the Thorns and the Timbers in January 2022, and he remains general manager of the MLS club.

Several investigations into various organizations’ handling of the claims against Riley and other NWSL coaches are ongoing. Former U.S. attorney general Sally Yates is spearheading an investigation for U.S. Soccer, while the NWSL and NWSPLA are conducting a joint investigation.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.