Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan’s League deserves respect
When will we stop treating women in sport as second class citizens?
This question deserves reflection, once again, in light of the horrific stories of male coaches accused of abusing and harassing players in the National Women’s Soccer League.
As it turns out, the premier women’s football league in the United States – home to stars of the World Cup-winning national team like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan – treats the legions of lesser-known female players like pawns in a male controlled game. operating and making money.
Rather than a celebration of women’s empowerment, the league has emerged in revelations in recent days as yet another example of how little consideration society gives to female athletes. And in this case, it appears the athletes tolerated and suffered abuse because they feared complaining would doom the only American League they have.
“Burn it all”, Rapinoe said in a tweet.
This league needs a leadership overhaul. The change has already started with the resignation of its commissioner, Lisa Baird. And there is hope that a new generation of female athletes – coming into this era of calculation and daring energy among the marginalized, connected to each other and to the world through social media – will not remain. silent.
They are no longer afraid of the consequences, no longer hesitate to speak the truth to power.
Their North Star is the many female gymnasts – including one of the sport’s most powerful stars, Simone Biles – who have shown that coming out and speaking out can bring change. It can even send perpetrators who have continued to hide in the shadows to jail.
It has been an eventful and extremely painful week for women’s sport, but it has also paved the way for the future.
Professional female footballers will not continue to accept the status quo.
Gone are the tolerant coaches like Richie Burke, the former Washington Spirit manager, who unleashed a “torrent of threats, criticism and personal insults” on his players, according to the Washington Post.
No need to endorse men like Christy Holly, the coach of Racing Louisville, fired in August amid a whirlwind of accusations about the toxic environment he had fostered.
No room for Farid Benstiti, former coach of OL Reign in the Seattle region, who is now known to be forced to leave following offensive remarks.
In an investigation released last week by The Athletic, current and former players accused North Carolina Courage manager Paul Riley of emotionally abusing players and coercing them into having sex. Although he denied the allegations, Riley was fired by Courage.
The NWSL announced on Sunday that it had hired a law firm to review policies at the league and club level and to make recommendations for reform to a new executive committee. The company will also reopen the league’s 2015 investigation into Riley and examine the circumstances of his dismissal from Portland and subsequent hiring by other clubs.
The American Football Federation also announced Sunday that he hired Sally Q. Yates, who served briefly as Acting Attorney General under the Trump administration, “to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in professional women’s football.”
League players aren’t buying Riley’s denials. They are also disgusted with how the league has not been forthright about the behavior of these coaches. The weekend’s games were called off when the players stood up in unison, demanding reforms.
“Men, who protect men, who abuse women,” wrote Rapinoe, America’s biggest star in women’s football and one of the few well-known names in the league. “I repeat, men, protective men, who ABUSE WOMEN. Burn it all. “
This statement needs some context. Baird, the NWSL commissioner, resigned on Friday after it became clear that she had done more to protect the men who run the league than the women who put everything on the line in competition.
Sometimes it’s not just men who protect men. Sometimes it’s the protective power of power.
We all know who has the real clout – who is at the top of the hierarchy. In the NWSL, a large majority of owners of majority stakes are men, as are a large majority of team leaders and coaches.
As in the rest of society, the world of sport is firmly based on a simple and disturbing dynamic: with a few exceptions, professional tennis being one, athletic women take precedence over their male counterparts.
They get a lot less media coverage, a lot less corporate support, and a lot less love and respect from the fans.
The WNBA playoffs are on, full of great stories and mind-blowing games. As my recent column showed, good luck finding your favorite star’s swimsuit.
And good luck also to the women’s teams that crisscross the country on commercial airlines, scrambling to find flights where they don’t have to cram their tired bodies into the middle seats.
Major American men’s sports players almost always fly on chartered jets. Professional women hardly ever do.
The NWSL is far from a well established league. Outside of a few cities, particularly Portland, Oregon, where Riley has coached for years, his teams are struggling to be accepted. The league’s 2021 nationally televised championship game is scheduled to take place in Portland on November 20 and is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. local time. Ahead of one of the biggest games of their lives, the title-vying players will wake up in the morning darkness and warm up on cold pitch as the sun begins to rise.
It is not easy to make inroads into public consciousness in a culture so completely set up to favor men.
Yet the NWSL has lasted longer and forged deeper roots than any American professional football league. The league is powerful for what it stands for: a future in which women are taken seriously and treated with the utmost respect.
Female athletes are boldly advocating for this kind of transformative change. But this week proves that their battle to be treated on an equal footing is far from over. In many ways, this is just the beginning.