The Washington Mystics will have the first pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft after wining the draft lottery on Sunday.

The Indiana Fever, who entered the lottery with the highest chance of landing the first pick, will pick second. The Atlanta Dream will pick third, while the Dallas Wings will pick fourth.

The Mystics finished the 2021 season 12-20 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Injuries to key players, including Elena Delle Donne and Alysha Clark, and several departures, including Aerial Powers and Emma Meesseman, proved to be too much for the 2019 champions to overcome.

The Mystics had the third best odds of getting the No. 1 pick at 17.8 percent. The Fever had the best odds at 44.2 percent, followed by the Dream at 27.6 percent and the Wings are at 10.4 percent.

With Lisa Baird having resigned as NWSL commissioner last Friday, attention among players is now turning to the Portland Thorns organization and their role in the Paul Riley scandal. 

The North Carolina Courage fired Riley on Thursday, hours after a report in The Athletic detailed allegations of sexual coercion and emotional abuse against him.

On Thursday night, after Riley had been fired but before Baird resigned on Friday afternoon, a majority of NWSL players participated in a call to discuss The Athletic’s report, the situation within the league and whether they would play in the weekend’s games. (Players eventually asked the league to postpone the weekend’s slate of games, which they did.) 

Sources tell Just Women’s Sports that several players on the call said they wanted Portland Thorns GM Gavin Wilkinson to be fired, with some even arguing that owner Merritt Paulson should sell the team. Players were particularly upset with the fact that no Thorns employee had lost their job over the scandal, despite the organization having admitted to covering up the details of Riley’s 2015 dismissal. 

Thorns players refrained from voicing an opinion on the matter, according to sources.

Sources also tell Just Women’s Sports that while several players on the call voiced the opinion that Baird should resign, there was no consensus coming out of the meeting, and Baird’s eventual resignation was not a result of pressure from either individual players or the Players Association.

Riley served as the Thorns coach from 2014 to 2015, after which his contract was not renewed by the team. At the time, the Thorns only said that Riley would not be retained as the team’s head coach for the 2016 season.

“On behalf of Thorns FC, I would like to thank Paul for his services to the club these past two seasons,” Wilkinson said then.

“Thanks to everyone at the Thorns for the amazing opportunity and to the fans who truly make Portland Soccer City, USA,” said Riley in the same release.

Public perception was that Riley’s contract had simply not been renewed due to poor on-field performance in 2015. Last week, however, the Thorns told The Athletic that Riley’s contract had not been renewed due to an internal investigation into sexual harassment. 

Mana Shim, who played for the Thorns from 2013-2017, told The Athletic that she’d reported Riley’s behavior to the Thorns, who then conducted an internal investigation. According to a statement released last Thursday, the Thorns’ investigation did not uncover “unlawful activity,” but the organization did find “clear violations of our company policies.” 

“Based on this, we chose to sever ties with Riley,” the Thorns said. 

The findings of the club’s investigation were also shared with the NWSL at the time. 

On Monday, Thorns owner Merritt Paulson released a statement which acknowledged that the organization had made a mistake in not being forthright about Riley’s departure. 

“Within hours of receiving a complaint against our then coach six years ago from Mana – the first and only we have ever received from anyone – we: (1) placed Coach Riley on immediate suspension; (2) conducted an investigation of the claims that, within a matter of days, led to his termination; and (3) shared everything we learned in the investigation with the NWSL.

“But we then made an opaque announcement about not renewing Riley’s contract as opposed to explicitly announcing his termination, guided by what we, at the time, thought was the right thing to do out of respect for player privacy.”

Paulson’s statement is the first time the Thorns have said they terminated Riley, days after telling The Athletic the club chose not to renew his contract.

“I deeply regret our role in what is clearly a systemic failure across women’s professional soccer,” Paulson wrote. 

While Paulson may be apologizing, the fact that no member of the Thorns organization has either resigned or been fired in the wake of last Thursday’s report has rankled players within the NWSL. The lack of clarity in the Thorns’ subsequent statements has done little to quell the matter, and sources tell Just Women’s Sports that public calls for Wilkinson’s dismissal may be coming this week. 

On Sunday, the NWSL announced the formation of an executive committee to manage oversight of the league’s front office operations following Baird’s resignation. This committee will oversee the launch of multiple investigative and reform initiatives aimed at protecting NWSL players and staff. 

The league has retained Covington & Burling to oversee these investigations, led by Amanda Kramer, former Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. 

Before those investigations begin, however, the players may have their own recommendations, particularly for the Thorns.

John Murray is the Editor-in-Chief of Just Women’s Sports. You can find him on Twitter @heymynameisjohn

Angel City Football Club is teaming up with Ritual, the Los Angeles-based personal health brand which will serve as the club’s official protein through the 2024 season. 

The sponsorship is the first-ever for Ritual. For Angel City, it’s another unique partnership the expansion club has secured ahead of its debut NWSL season in 2022. 

According to Jess Smith, Angel City’s Head of Revenue, it all started with a phone call between the two California neighbors earlier this year.

“We had reached out as a LA-based company and just said, ‘Hey, we just want to get to know you,’” Smith says. “Then they were the ones that said, ‘Hey… we’re actually coming out with a protein product.’ That’s when it got super interesting.”

Launched in 2016, Ritual first made a name for itself as an online retailer of multivitamins and nutritional supplements for women. Earlier this year, the company announced a new protein powder called Ritual Essential Protein. 

Because Angel City won’t just be repping the brand but also using Ritual’s products in their training and recovery, an extra level of diligence was needed to ensure that the protein would positively impact player performance. 

“Anytime you can find high-quality products that are going to help serve our players, that’s very exciting,” says Angela Hucles Mangano, Angel City’s Vice President of Player Development and Operations.

“[It was important] from a brand and business perspective to have alignment there, but ultimately this is something that we want to be able to put in our locker rooms and be something that’s utilized by high-performing athletes.”

Angel City players will be using Ritual’s Essential Protein Daily Shake as part of their everyday training. The plant-based shake contains 20 grams of sustainably-sourced pea protein, as well as key essential micro and macro nutrients. 

“With the launch of our new traceable plant-based protein, we set out to challenge an industry and create a product that could both hold up to the standards that a professional athlete demands while also supporting people in their everyday routine,” says Katarina Schneider, Ritual’s Founder and CEO, in a release. 

“This partnership brings that mission to life.”

As with all Angel City partnerships, 10 percent of the sponsorship revenue will go toward a local cause. In this case, the recipient is Food Forward, a nonprofit organization bringing fresh surplus fruits and vegetables to people experiencing food insecurity in South California and tribal lands in Arizona and New Mexico. 

According to Smith: “[We asked ourselves], how do we focus on food recovery and how do we focus on making sure we’re utilizing the food that’s available in our local community?”

“Wanting to give back and serve has always been a part of our DNA at Angel City,” adds Hucles Mangano.

Angel City previously announced DoorDash as its front-of-kit sponsor in a partnership that will bring an estimated 250,000 meals to those in need. Another deal with Heineken likewise funneled 10 percent of revenue to the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

The club’s unique approach to partnerships is part of a broader mission to both re-define what it means to be a sports franchise and set the standard for a women’s soccer club. 

Because of its outspoken ambitions and aspirational vision — as well its various high-profile investors (including Natalie Portman, Serena Williams, Mia Hamm and many others) — Angel City FC finds itself in a unique and perhaps unprecedented position: Despite having yet to play a game in the NWSL, the club is already being considered a model franchise for its community engagement and big-picture mindset. 

It’s a position Smith embraces, acknowledging that Angel City is “not just another sports property.” 

“We’re a brand built on purpose,” she says. “We were derived from Natalie Portman having really honest conversations in the marketplace about how to make sure we’re doing our part to push [women’s soccer] forward for the athletes, teams and leagues.”

To Smith, part of pushing the sport forward means signing big-name sponsors to bring them into the space. Smith knows the interest (and money) is there. Now it’s about showing the rest of the world.

“Us generating this type of revenue, us having this type of partner portfolio that competes with the men’s teams — it shows leagues across the world, regardless of sport, that with the right plan and the right vision and purpose, the brand support is there. The consumers are there,” she says.

“People are watching and paying attention, and then we are actually able to make it actionable.”

The flurry of sponsorship activity speaks to the strength of the Angel City brand, its backers and its location in L.A., and comes even as the club has only one official player: USWNT star Christen Press, who was acquired from Racing Louisville FC in August.

Angel City will add more players in December during the expansion draft alongside fellow upstart San Diego NWSL. In the meantime, Freya Coombe has signed on to be the club’s first head coach. 

Hucles Mangano says it’s been “fast and furious” since she arrived in June with the draft on the horizon. A former professional player herself, Hucles Mangano won two Olympic gold medals with the USWNT and was also a founding investor with Angel City before stepping into the front office. Her focus, at the moment, is getting training facilities and equipment prepared while also ironing out internal processes and building club chemistry with the coaches and staff who are already in L.A.

Both Hucles Mangano and Smith know it’s a whole new era once the team takes the pitch. But that hasn’t stopped them or Angel City from wanting to change the game now.

In her role overseeing player development, Hucles Mangano is determined to create a holistic program that addresses players’ health both on and off the field. This involves not only partnering with nutrition companies like Ritual, but also building career development initiatives to help players capitalize on their platform. 

As proof of just how comprehensive her approach is, Hucles Mangano is already creating processes to help players transition out of the sport when they decide to retire.

All of it, Hucles Mangano says, is geared toward equipping players with the necessary tool box for them and the club to succeed.

“I liken it to when one part of the spoke is a little bit broken, or a little bit off — it affects the turning of that wheel,” Hucles Mangano says.

For Smith, the focus remains on creating innovative partnerships with big-name brands who are looking to invest in women’s sports. Angel City may currently be making a name for itself with its forward-thinking sponsorships, but Smith knows that fans’ attention will soon shift to the pitch. 

“Nobody even knew what our brand was two months ago,” she says. “Now we’re like, oh yeah, by the way, here’s Christen Press. And we’re also going to play incredible soccer. But in the meantime, here’s all the other things we’ve done.”

Smith believes those other things, including this Ritual partnership, will not only benefit Angel City but also open the door to greater investment across the NWSL. 

“Until someone’s done it, unfortunately, people don’t know it can be done,” Smith says. “The ‘see it, be it’ [idea] is at a different level with our organization. And I know a lot of us take pride in continuing that everyday.”

The Seattle Storm cruised to the first-ever Commissioner’s Cup, topping the Connecticut Sun 79-57. 

Breanna Stewart scored 15 of her 17 points in the first quarter en route to being named Game MVP. 

Every Storm player will get $30,000 for the win, while Stewart will collect another $5,000 for being named MVP. 

Practice? Who needs it?

The Cup was the first time the entire Storm team had been together since the WNBA went on break for the Olympics. 

Jet lag didn’t seem to be a problem for the five Storm players who competed in Tokyo. (Stewie, Sue Bird and Jewell Lloyd suited up for the U.S., while Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot competed for Australia.) 

She said it

“It actually weighs the same amount of pounds as our bonus money,” Sue Bird, after lifting the trophy. 

The big picture

Seattle was supposed to take a step back this year following the departures of Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark. But first-year coach Noelle Quinn has the defending champs looking like the clear team to beat as we turn the corner on the 2021 season.

The Tokyo Olympics are set to open July 23rd, nearly one year to the date after they were originally scheduled to begin before being postponed due to COVID. 

Over 11,000 athletes are expected to compete in 339 events during the course of the Olympics, which, despite being postponed, are still being branded as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

As the opening ceremony nears, here’s everything you need to know about the Tokyo Olympics. 

What are the dates? 

The Tokyo Olympics commence with the June 23 opening ceremony and will conclude with the closing ceremony on Sunday, August 8. The opening ceremony will be held on the evening of June 23 in Tokyo and will air at 7 a.m. EST in the United States.

How do I watch? 

NBC will provide primetime coverage for the games with additional streaming options available on NBCOlympics.com, NBC Sports, and Peacock.

Will fans be allowed at the Tokyo Olympics? 

The Olympics will allow a limited number of local fans. International fans have already been barred from traveling to Japan for this summer’s Games because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Organizers say that nearly 3.7 million tickets have been sold to Japanese residents. Venues will allow up to 50% capacity but will be capped at a maximum of 10,000 spectators. Fans will not be allowed to cheer, must wear masks, and are being told to go straight home after each event. 

What is the COVID situation in Tokyo like? 

Tokyo is currently under a state of emergency due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the region. The state of emergency is set to expire on July 12 despite scrutiny regarding the decision to hold the games. A month out from the Tokyo Olympics, only eight percent of the Japanese public is fully vaccinated, adding to public health concerns.  

When is Gymnastics? 

The women’s team final begins at 6:45 a.m. EST on July 27 and the all-around final will air at 6:50 a.m. EST on July 29. Individual events are scheduled for July 30, 31 and August 1. 

When is Swimming? 

Swimming events begin on the first day of athletic competition, July 24, and run through July 31.

When is Track and Field? 

The 100m finals will be July 31. The 200m, 400m, relays and more will begin August 2 and run through the end of the week.

When are the women’s basketball finals? 

The gold-medal game will air on August 7 at 10:30 p.m. EST. 

When are the women’s soccer finals? 

The USWNT will begin group stage play against Sweden on July 21 at 4:30 a.m. EST. The soccer tournament will culminate with the final, which airs on August 5 at 10 p.m. EST.

What sports have been added? 

The Tokyo Olympics will see the introduction of several new sports, including 3×3 basketball, freestyle BMX and madison cycling. Host organizing committees are also allowed to add new sports to the Olympic program. In Tokyo, these sports include karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding, all making their Olympic debuts, while softball and baseball have also returned for the first time since 2008. 

The must-see athletes:

The Tokyo Olympics will feature both already-legendary female athletes competing for further Olympics glory, as well as several notable first-time competitors looking to break onto the global stage.

Simone Biles, gymnastics: 

Simone Biles is, by all accounts, the greatest gymnast of all time. With four elements bearing her name, Biles is truly in a league of her own. During the Tokyo Olympics the American icon will look to add to her five medals, including a second-consecutive all-around gold. 

Katie Ledecky, swimming:

At just 24 years old, Ledecky has dominated swimming for nearly a decade. In Tokyo, the two-time Olympian will look to add to her six medals, competing in the 200m free, 400m free, 800m free and 1500m free. 

Allyson Felix, track and field: 

Allyson Felix is on the precipice of an unprecedented comeback. The 35-year-old is set to race in her fifth Olympic games, only two years after giving birth to her first child. Felix will compete in the 400m in Tokyo, hoping to add to her nine medals and defy expectations for sprinters’ longevity.

Storylines to track: 

Volleyball: Can April Ross finally win that elusive gold? In 2016, Ross and beach volleyball partner Kerri Walsh-Jennings fell short in the semifinals, going on to win bronze in the third-place match. In 2012, Ross lost to Walsh-Jennings in the gold medal match, in what was the final competition for Walsh-Jennings and Misty May-Treanor. Now, Ross and her partner Alix Klineman enter the Olympics as the favorite to win. It could be Ross’ best and last chance to finally claim that elusive gold. 

Skateboarding: The sport’s Olympics debut brings with it a generation of up-and-coming skaters ready to announce themselves to the world. Can 14-year-old Misugo Okamoto, 13-year-old Rayssa Leal or 12-year-old Sky Brown make themselves the face of the sport with a podium finish?

Gymnastics: The US Gymnastics team will once again be favorites. You already know Simone Biles. Now meet the rest of Team USA: Sunisa “Suni” Lee, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, Jade Carey, and McKayla Skinner. Biles, Lee, Chiles and McCallum will compete in the team competition, where they’ll be heavy favorites to the US’ third straight team gold. Carey and Skinner, meanwhile, both earned individual spots. 

Soccer: The USWNT will try to become the first team to ever win the World Cup and Olympics back-to-back. In his first major tournament at the helm, coach Vlatko Andonovski picked a veteran roster — 17 of the 18 players were on the 2019 World Cup team.  

The USWNT cruised to a victory over Mexico in their second-to-last game before heading to Tokyo.

Kristie Mewis assisted little sister Sam to open the scoring in the 21’. 

Christen Press knocked in another in the 39’. She’s now been directly involved in 35 goals in her last 36 games. 

Tobin Heath, in her first game of the year, scored a screamer from distance. (She’s officially back, folks.) 

And Press wrapped up the scoring with her second goal of the night. 

Next up: The team faces Mexico again on July 5th, 5:00pm ET on ESPN. 

15-year-old Olivia Moultrie is officially a Portland Thorn, having signed a three-year contract, the club announced Wednesday.

“We are pleased to have Olivia join our team,” said Thorns FC general manager and president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson in a release. “She has been part of this club since early 2019 and there have been many Thorns staff fully invested in her development.”

Moultrie began training with the Thorns during the 2019 season, turning pro at age 13 and signing an endorsement deal with Nike. She was prohibited from playing in the NWSL, however, due to a policy requiring players be at least 18 years of age.

Moultrie sued the NWSL and was granted a preliminary injunction, allowing her to sign a professional contract.

The Thorns acquired the rights to Moultrie from OL Reign, who held her rights as the first team on the NWSL Discovery Priority list, in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2022 NWSL Draft.

Drumroll, please: A’ja Wilson and Napheesa Collier are joining the JWS squad.

Two of the WNBA’s brightest young stars are teaming up with Just Women’s Sports to produce season two of Tea with A & Phee, their widely acclaimed podcast documenting life in and around the WNBA.

A’ja Wilson, the 2020 WNBA MVP, and Napheesa Collier, the 2019 Rookie of the Year, first launched Tea with A & Phee in the 2020 WNBA bubble. Originated in partnership with Through The Lens, the show gave fans a behind the scenes look at life in the bubble, while also giving A’ja and Napheesa an opportunity to showcase their personalities and discuss timely and topical issues.

Season one guests included fellow basketball stars like Elena Delle Donne, Candace Parker, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard, as well as singer/songwriter Saweetie.

“The first season of Tea with A & Phee was so great,” said Collier. “We were learning an entire new skillset as podcast hosts, which was a fun challenge. Working with Just Women’s Sports will help take our show to new levels and will make Season 2 even better.”

“What I love the most about Tea with A & Phee is that Napheesa and I can be unapologetically us and give everyone an inside look into our lives on and off the court,” said Wilson. “We give a different perspective on the WNBA and love having guests who are just as passionate as we are about the growth of the W and the powerful women behind this league. We are excited to work with Just Women’s Sports because they understand the vision and the unlimited opportunity.”

Rest assured, the feeling is mutual.

“A’ja and Napheesa are two of the biggest stars in the game today. Behind the microphone, they have incredible on-air chemistry, and the show they’ve created is equally entertaining as it is insightful,” said Haley Rosen, Founder and CEO of Just Women’s Sports. “Tea with A & Phee is exactly the kind of content we want Just Women’s Sports to be known for, so I couldn’t be more excited to partner with A’ja and Napheesa in producing this one-of-a-kind show.”

Season two will launch in late May across all podcast platforms, including Apple and Spotify.

Derek Chauvin was convicted for murdering George Floyd Tuesday, with the one-time police officer being found guilty on all three charges for which he stood trial.

Here’s how athletes reacted:

Just four teams remain in the NCAA volleyball tournament. Here’s how the Elite Eight went down:

  • No. 6 Washington rallied from a 2-0 deficit against Pittsburgh in the regional finals to pull off the reverse sweep.
  • No. 4 Texas held off No. 5 Nebraska in a four-set battle.
  • No. 2 Kentucky swept No. 7 Purdue 3-0.
  • No. 1 Wisconsin played in their first five-setter of the season and won it against No. 8 Florida.

Tune in: semifinals are Thursday, with both games on ESPN2.

  • Kentucky vs Washington: 7:00pm ET
  • Wisconsin vs Texas: 9:00pm ET