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Karina LeBlanc says she won’t be the ‘check mark’ as Thorns GM


For Karina LeBlanc, the decision to return to Portland as general manager of the Thorns was personal.

LeBlanc revealed in a video posted to the Thorns’ social media accounts that when it came time to decide to leave her position as Head of Women’s Football with Concacaf and rejoin the NWSL, she started with the “why.” That process included a two-hour phone call with Merritt Paulson that LeBlanc called “emotional, honest, real and authentic.”

LeBlanc said that the accusations of abuse against Paul Riley and other events in the NWSL broke her heart. The Thorns, who employed Riley from 2014-15, have been dealing with fallout of their own from The Athletic’s report, placing former GM Gavin Wilkinson on administrative leave in early October pending the results of an independent investigation

So, when LeBlanc spoke with Paulson and other Thorns staff members, she was completely honest with them: She wasn’t going to be joining the team just to check a box.

“I’m gonna represent so many different things with integrity, with honesty, with truth,” she said. “I’m not going to be here and be the check mark. And that was one of the honest conversations I had.

“I am who I am, and no matter what job I’ve done, I’ve done it for the real reasons.”

LeBlanc played in the NWSL from 2012-15, including for the Thorns in 2013, and in previous domestic leagues before that. Given her background in the sport, she’s taking her new responsibility seriously.

“I wanna still be able, when my daughter asks me 10, 20 years from now, ‘Mommy, what did you do when?’ I can tell her what I did,” LeBlanc said. “And I’ll be proud of the way I did it, the fact that now I get to be in the governing roles, I get to be at that table, to have that seat at the table where we discuss the real issues of this league.

“And I can say, ‘Hey, as a player this is how it felt, this is how the players are feeling,’ but I can understand where we need to go. I can only say I’m going to show up authentically myself.”

LeBlanc said she knows there’s a path forward for the team and the league and she wants to be a part of seeing that change through.

“The most important thing right now is to acknowledge where we are,” she said. “What we’ve done well and what we need to be better at and move forward with the mindset of being leading in a way that women’s football needs to be led.”