Last year, on the eve of the NWSL championship—that’s the National Women’s Soccer League, our professional league—I wrote a post about the conditions we were working under in an effort to show people just how much the players in the NWSL give and give up to support and build this league. I didn’t run it at the time because I hoped that the many, many things about our league that needed to get better would get better, especially after we’d just won the World Cup.
Sunday’s game between my team, the Seattle Reign, and the Western New York Flash, where both teams were forced to play in the outfield of a baseball field, on a field that was dangerously narrow, and absurd for a professional team to play on, was an outrageous example of what we as players deal with on an ongoing basis.
— Christine Sinclair (@sincy12) July 10, 2016
While Sunday’s field issues made national headlines, which we were all so glad to see, the truth is that the standards of our league are so inconsistent and disappointing across the board, these kinds of incidents are really the rule and not the exception. Apologizing after the fact, as commissioner Jeff Plush did, is not enough. Neither is minimizing it, as Western New York coach Paul Riley did by saying his team would “play or practice on whatever field Seattle puts us on next week,” and that “we should just get on with it.”
The ‘we know things aren’t up to par, but we’re going ahead with them anyway’ attitude, quite honestly, is a fairly accurate reflection of how the NWSL has functioned during the four years of its existence.
It’s far past time that the women in our league start being treated like professional athletes—otherwise, we might as well just admit that the NWSL is just a semi-pro league, and stop pretending like it’s the best women’s league in the world.
I do want to take a moment to acknowledge my team, the Seattle Reign and our leadership—our incredible coach, Laura Harvey, and our phenomenal owners, Bill and Teresa Predmore, who treat the players like professionals and do their best to ensure we have what we need to be successful on field. While most teams travel the day before a game to save on travel costs, we always leave two days early to ensure we’re fresh and well-rested on game day. The organization has always put performance first.
The realities of the league as a whole, however, are in stark contrast.
We have a crisis on our hands, and the players of the NWSL want to see more from our commissioner and our league. We lose a lot of players — quality players for the league — over time because they can’t afford it. In the end, to watch them realize their dreams aren’t sustainable is very hard to watch — and there are a lot of broken dreams for women in our sport.
Commissioner Plush, please: If you truly value the players in this league and want the NWSL to be a model for women’s professional leagues around the world, listen to what we’re saying. Go to some of these hotels, training facilities and games yourself. See the conditions of the league up close. And after you’ve taken it all in, be the leader we need you to be.
Until then, we the players stand united and those of us who play on the US National Team are using our platform to do more. As you might have seen over the past few days, USWNT players created an “Equal Play Equal Pay” t-shirt to promote our quest for equal pay. But equality is about more than just equal pay. It’s about fairness. And what’s happening in the NWSL is not fair.
To provide support to our professional teammates in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the USWNT is directing 100% of its proceeds for the “Equal Play Equal Pay” t-shirt campaign to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Players Trust Fund. It’s not enough, but it’s a statement and one we hope will start the conversations and help push for change long overdue.
“Equal Play Equal Pay” t-shirts are now available here for $20 each.
This content was originally published here.