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Portland Thorns’ Nadine Angerer stands up for GM Gavin Wilkinson

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Portland Thorns goalkeeper coach Nadine Angerer took to social media on Wednesday to defend embattled GM Gavin Wilkinson and address the allegations against former coach Paul Riley.

“As somebody who has been a part of the organization since 2014, I wanted to share my feelings on what we’ve recently learned,” she wrote, adding that it has been “heartwarming” to see how much fans care about the team.

The Athletic’s initial report, in which players accused Riley of sexual coercion and emotional abuse, included an incident between Wilkinson and Mana Shim when she played for the Thorns. Shim said Wilkinson instructed her during a one-on-one meeting before the 2014 season to “not be as vocal about off-the-field matters.”

Shim, who had come out as gay before the 2013 NWSL championship, took the message to mean that she should keep quiet about her sexuality and focus only on soccer. Wilkinson told The Athletic that Shim’s account was “bullshit” and pointed to his behavior with the Thorns and Timbers over the past 10 years as evidence of his support of the players.

The Thorns then added in a statement: “Gavin categorically never communicated to Mana, or any Thorns or Timbers player for that matter, to not discuss political or personal views.”

Angerer appeared to back Wilkinson’s side in her statement on Wednesday, calling him “supportive.”

“I can only speak for myself, but since my arrival in Portland, I have felt fully supported by Gavin and the Thorns,” she wrote. “Gavin has always been supportive of me and my wife living openly, honestly, and has never discouraged us from being our authentic selves.”

Beyond the reported conversation with Shim, Wilkinson and the Thorns have come under fire for their handling of complaints made against Riley when he was coach of the team from 2014-15. The Thorns investigated Riley and decided not to renew his contract before the 2016 season as a result of their findings. At the time, however, the club made no mention of the investigation, and public perception was that Riley had been let go due to poor on-field performance. Thorns owner Merritt Paulson has since apologized for not being more forthcoming about Riley’s departure.

Wilkinson has been on administrative leave since early October after players released a statement demanding he be placed on leave until an outside investigation can be completed. Thorns’ supporters groups had also announced a boycott of the team’s stores and concessions, calling on the club to remove Wilkinson.

Sources told Just Women’s Sports that players around the NWSL were also upset that Wilkinson had not been fired immediately after The Athletic published its story.

Angerer, who played for the Thorns from 2014-15, also addressed the allegations against Riley in her tweet.

“I feel I did not do enough to make sure everybody in our locker room was safe,” she wrote. “I will always be disappointed with myself that I didn’t do more to help my teammates. It’s my promise to you that I will always, from this moment forward, do everything in my power to make sure that these abuses are no longer ignored.”