WNBA | JWS
@Oregonian

Olivia Moultrie just wants to play soccer.

But at age 15, the NWSL won’t allow her to, as current age restrictions prevent any player under the age of 18 from playing in the league.

According to The Oregonian’s Maxine Bernstein, Moultrie has filed a lawsuit against the NWSL, stating that the age requirement violates the Sherman Antitrust Act. The Sherman Antitrust Act is meant to prohibit activities that restrict competition in the marketplace. In not allowing Moultrie to play because of her age, the suit alleges, the NWSL is restricting such competition. 

According to the suit, Moultrie and her lawyers are arguing that age limits in sports leagues can’t hold up unless such a rule is agreed upon by a labor union — in this case, the NWSLPA — through collective bargaining.  

The suit alleges that players in the NWSL have never had a CBA.

Furthermore, the suit points out that Major League Soccer has no age limit and has had many players under the age of 18. Most recently, Alphonso Davies made his MLS debut in 2016 at the age of 15. 

Additionally, the suit asserts that Moultrie would be able to play overseas if she were European. 

“Ms. Moultrie would be eligible to play in MLS if she were male, would be able to play in France if she were French, etc., stretching throughout most of the international soccer world,” the suit says. “Ms. Moultrie is in the wrong country, and the wrong gender, to take advantage of her soccer precocity. And illegally so.”

The NWSL has argued that because they are a “single entity” the antitrust law does not apply. 

Included in the suit is a list of those who support Moultrie’s right to play, including Portland Thorns and U.S. women’s national team players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan. Horan has been vocal in her support on Twitter.

Sauerbrunn has pointed out how Moultrie “is a pro in all but match days,” referring to the fact that Moultrie currently practices with the Portland Thorns and plays in unofficial scrimmages and pre-season games. She even has her own locker in the Thorns’ locker room.

Moultrie is one of the youngest soccer stars in recent memory, committing to the University of North Carolina at 11 and turning pro at 13 with a “nine-year, six-figure endorsement contract with Nike” that made her the youngest team player ever signed by the company. 

She moved to Oregon to play with the Thorns at 13, and she believes that, if allowed, the Thorns would sign her to a contract. She hopes to be able to play in the NWSL when the regular season begins on May 15. 

“Ms. Moultrie does not seek an order from this Court awarding her a contract or a roster slot,” her lawyers wrote in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland. “Rather, she seeks removal of an unlawful barrier to her participation.”