In the NWSL, protests and demands as the league returns to the field
In North Carolina, the footballers of both teams sprinted in midfield be part of a silent protest against the abuse scandal that has rocked their league. In Portland, Oregon, the home team took to the field with jerseys bearing the slogan “No more silenceAnd demanded – and obtained – the suspension of a leading team leader.
And in Carli Lloyd’s comeback game just outside of Philadelphia, the retired United States National Team star put aside celebrations of his long career to note a moment that did -she said, was much taller than her.
“It’s something you can’t ignore,” Lloyd said after his Gotham FC side faced Washington Spirit in a scoreless draw in Chester, Pa.
Wednesday night marked the first tentative steps back on the pitch for the National Women’s Football League just days after all of its operations ceased as it faced accusations of coaches who abused players, team leaders who haven’t stopped him and of a league that has failed to protect its most valuable asset: its athletes.
The Gotham-Washington game was one of three played in the league on Wednesday, the first night of action since the league canceled its entire schedule over the weekend and announced that its commissioner, Lisa Baird, had resigned.
In Cary, NC, North Carolina Courage, whose coach was fired last week after being accused of sexual coercion by at least two former players, beat Racing Louisville, who fired their coach in August. “for cause” after another instance of misconduct. . And in Oregon, the Portland Thorns players released a list of demands ahead of their game against the Houston Dash, which included the immediate suspension of their own team’s general manager.
In all three matches, the teams stopped play in the sixth minute and the players stood arm in arm in midfield – a symbolic break, they said, this represents the six years it took for a group of former colleagues who had filed abuse complaints to be heard. The protests have brought together national team stars like Lloyd, Lindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn, dozens of lesser-known pros who make up the base of the league and, in Portland at least, even match officials.
For Lloyd, who recognized that she was adept at blocking out crowds, noises, distractions off the pitch, it was a night to focus on the collective rather than the individual.
“It’s a huge wake-up call,” she said.
His statement and other brief comments from league players made direct reference to Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, the two NWSL players whose outspoken accusations of being sexually assaulted by Paul Riley, who coached North Carolina Courage. at the league championships in 2018 and 2019, ignited recent judgment in the sport.
Many of football’s biggest and most outspoken stars, like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, weighed in last week and openly criticized the league, its officials and even their own teams for being made aware of the complaints and failing to protect the players.
But Lloyd has long been much more reluctant to speak out on social issues. So, hearing her speak so frankly, and at an evening organized to celebrate her personally, underscored the shared sense of anger and solidarity that reigned in the NWSL.
“It’s a reset,” Lloyd said in his post-game press conference, and an opportunity “to have policies in place to control ownership” and the coaches. And after “one of the worst weeks this league has ever seen,” she added, “I’m really proud of everyone, even on the Spirit, who comes out playing despite what’s going on.”
Before the game, Gotham players and staff left a handwritten note in the Washington Spirit locker room. The note read, “To our friends in the Spirit. Outside the field, we support you. On the pitch, let’s play. I send you our love.
The players’ anger of frustration, however, was evident on an emotional night. During a Zoom press conference with reporters after the game, one of Lloyd’s Gotham teammates Imani Dorsey hammered the podium when she said: “We are grinding everyday. stern every week It’s heartbreaking It’s devastating We do our best every day and we don’t feel like the league is doing that.
When asked what she thought of the fans who said they would boycott NWSL games, Dorsey said: association of players and players. We want this league to be better.
Still, the uproar shows no sign of abating.
Washington Spirit chief executive Steve Baldwin announced on Tuesday that he would step down after giving in to pressure from Spirit players who criticized him for presiding over a toxic and abusive workplace under the leadership of the former team coach Richie Burke, who was fired last week. But Spirit players dismissed Baldwin’s decision as a mere stance and demanded that he sell his share to one of the team’s co-owners, Y. Michele Kang.
In Portland, the Thorns players demanded the immediate suspension of their general manager, Gavin Wilkinson. Wilkinson had chaired the team in 2015, when an internal investigation substantiated allegations of abuse against Riley so serious the team fired him. Within months, Riley was coaching another league team.
Late Wednesday, the Thorns announced that Wilkinson had been placed on administrative leave. But players and fans were quick to note that his removal hadn’t affected his similar role with Thorns’ sister club, the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer.
The NWSL players’ association, meanwhile, released its own list of demands ahead of Wednesday’s games, including inquiries into every club, immediate suspensions for league officials and teams accused of failing. having protected players, access to previous investigation reports and a voice in league research. for a new commissioner.
“We are not bringing down the NWSL” by demanding action and investigation, Houston Dash defenseman Katie Naughton said in a brief statement after her team’s game in Portland. “We are rebuilding it into what we know it can and should be.
“We believe in our bones that we can do it.”