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Sporting Kansas City fired Gavin Wilkinson. Now what?

Sporting Kansas City fired Gavin Wilkinson, yet the club has more questions that need to be answered before we can all move on.



Credit: Thad Bell

Gavin Wilkinson is out.

A mere eight days after Sporting Kansas City shockingly announced Gavin Wilkinson had been hired as the new Sporting Director, principal owner Mike Illig issued a statement that the club and Wilkinson had “mutually agreed with Gavin Wilkinson to release him from his recently-announced role with our Club.

Illig thanked fans for their passion. He reiterated how much the club values the “Sporting family.” He said the decision to move on from Wilkinson “demonstrates our longstanding, unequivocal respect for their voices, and the belief that we are all stronger when we listen to one another.”

Illig also nearly doubled down on the original decision to hire Wilkinson. “We ran a diligent and exhaustive process to identify our new Sporting Director,” he said. “It was grounded in the deeply-held principles and standards we have adhered to since the day we acquired the team.”

What “deeply-held principles” are those? I’m not sure. Illig did not elaborate. But it sounds good on paper.

I already wrote for KCSJ how deeply disappointed I was that Sporting KC made the decision to hire Wilkinson in the first place. And it seems Sporting KC seem to think everything is fine now. 

Wilkinson is gone. Isn’t that what we wanted? Can’t we just return to some normalcy? Do we just forgive and forget?

It’s not that simple.

What didn’t Mike Illig do in his statement? He didn’t apologize to fans. He didn’t acknowledge the pain and hurt many fans—particularly women and victims of abuse—felt at the decision SKC made.

He called the decision to part ways with Wilkinson “difficult.” And therein lies the problem. It isn’t difficult. It never should have been made. Yet Illig and Sporting KC don’t seem to see that. They don’t seem to have learned a lesson.

They can talk about “valued relationships” as much as they want, but one thing I’ve learned throughout my life is the importance of clear, honest communication in relationships. If someone is deeply hurt by your actions, is an apology really sincere if you’re actively attempting to justify your actions at the same time?

The miscalculation didn’t end there. Surely when we next heard from Peter Vermes, he would address the issue in some way. A statement or an acknowledgement of the fans Peter loves to evoke when the team needs support. Anything really. What did we get?


Peter Vermes had his first media availability since the hiring of Wilkinson the day after Wilkinson was fired. It followed Sporting KC’s 4-1 preseason win over Florida International University. The first three questions were, predictably, about Gavin Wilkinson. Daniel Sperry of the KC Star, Aaron Ladd of KSHB, and myself all asked Vermes three different ways about the Wilkinson saga. And what did we get?

A dismissal. Reversion back to Illig’s statement. A “can’t we all just move on” mentality that struck as tone-deaf at best, if not dismissive and condescending.

It’s not too much to ask that the newly appointed Chief Soccer Officer who spoke so much about his longtime colleague at the initial press conference to comment on a major technical staff hire going awry in a week’s time.

The day before the Vermes’ media availability a report from Jeff Rueter came out and indicated that Nolan Partners, the sports executive recruiting firm that SKC so heavily relied on during their initial justification of Wilkinson’s hire, did not actually identify or refer Wilkinson as a candidate.

Surely Vermes or Illig would like to clear that up, right? It does not look good that it appears SKC, Illig and Vermes played fast-and-loose with their words to pin much, if not all, of the “due diligence” and “vetting” responsibility on a third party only to find out that may not be factual.

Instead, we got an annoyed, if not combative, Vermes refusing to elaborate on the hire and subsequent dismissal.

To an extent, I understand the attempt at what Sporting KC is trying to do here with this strategy. And who knows, maybe it will work? Maybe they will get people to move on from this, forget it happened, and focus on soccer again.

But it is not too much to ask for some accountability, some clarity, some responsibility be taken when such an important and controversial decision is made.

Illig said they value the “Sporting family” and that “we are all stronger when we listen to one another.”

Well, that Sporting family has more questions to be answered, and the club certainly isn’t listening right now.

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