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Archive for October 6, 2021

Oct. 6, 2021 — For the NWSL, its reckoning begins tonight

This evening, the National Women’s Soccer League retakes the field in Philadelphia, Portland, and Cary, N.C. for the first time since revelations about systemic and pervasive verbal and sexual abuse of pro women’s soccer players in the nation’s longest-surviving Division I league came to light.

The revelations, published in The Washington Post, have resulted in the resignation of coaches, the departure of the CEO of one team, and the stepping-down of NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird and her general counsel.

The league begins this week much changed from the beginning from of the 2021 season, with the resignations of several coaches for cause and all manner of questions being asked of team and league officials as to why certain coaches, with reputations of abuse, were allowed to become coaches in the league.

In addition, there are questions about the quality of officiating within the league, with poorly-paid secondary-level game officials (you’ll notice them because their referee patches are other than black) and the lack of video assistant refereeing.

But what seems to be the major issue that is driving a lot of the grievances within the league is the lack of a collective bargaining agreement. The league has found its feet, expanding to as many as 12 teams by 2023, but the main body of NWSL players are not paid a living wage. Players have had to scrounge around as Door Dash delivery people, or hire themselves out to soccer camps, to get by. Indeed, the NWSL Players’ Association and supporters have been bandying around a hashtag to agitate for an agreement between players and owners. The hashtag is #NoMoreSideHustles, and that hashtag is likely to be part of displays and banners at games between now and the end of the season.

I suggest taking a look at the supporters groups during the games — the Spirit Squadron, Cloud 9, the Rose City Riveters, the Uproar, the Bayou City Republic, and the Rose Room Collective. What these groups do in terms of not only their team support, but their activism off the pitch, will go a long way to determining what happens with the league in terms of governance and ownership in this critical time.