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Alex Morgan calls for more resources in wake of maternity lawsuit

Alex Morgan with daughter Charlie (Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

In the wake of current Juventus midfielder Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir’s successful lawsuit against former club Olympique Lyon for withholding her salary while she was on maternity leave, U.S. women’s national team star Alex Morgan shared her thoughts on how professional clubs can support the mothers on their rosters.

“Through Sara’s story, I feel compelled to express how at the very least a team can support their player that’s a mom,” she wrote on Twitter. Morgan had her daughter Charlie in 2020 and has played for the Orlando Pride and the San Diego Wave as a mother. She also played briefly for Women’s Super League side Tottenham Hotspur while on loan in 2020.

Morgan went on to list resources mothers need on away trips to be able to play at their best. Resources on the road came up in Gunnarsdóttir’s dispute with Lyon, as the Iceland captain told The Player’s Tribune that she did not feel her son was welcome to travel with her.

“The understanding between us just was not there, and I felt that,” she wrote. “They always made me feel like it was a negative thing that I had a baby.”

Morgan’s suggestions were as follows:

“1. Providing their own hotel room on away trips (yes we usually have roommates) 2. Providing a hotel room for nanny/caregiver 3. Providing seats on the team flight for baby, caregiver. 4. Providing meals/per diem on the away trip for baby, caregiver. 5. Providing a suite/private space at the game for baby, caregiver.”

“This is the bottom line. There are so many more ways in which a club can support their players with children. But again, this is the bare minimum from a club to a player.”

When asked about clubs’ limited resources for mothers, Morgan replied, “Well you shouldn’t own a team if you can’t (financially) support your players 🤔.”

This isn’t the first time Morgan has pushed for higher standards in the women’s game. She’s been at the forefront of the equal pay fight with the USWNT. Parental leave protections of up to six months are written in the the newly signed collective bargaining agreement, shared by both the U.S. men’s and the women’s teams. For domestic clubs, the recently ratified NWSL CBA also states protections for mothers, including eight weeks of paid parental leave.

Clubs outside of the U.S. don’t operate under the same type of collective bargaining agreements as the NWSL does. As a result, Lyon argued that they were following maternity rules under French law, but the international union FIFPRO took up the case and fought it on Gunnarsdóttir’s behalf. FIFA rules established in late 2020 dictate that players should receive up to 14 weeks of maternity leave and at least two thirds of their full salary. FIFPRO won the case, forcing Lyon to pay Gunnarsdóttir her full salary with interest.

When Morgan was at Tottenham, she also pushed for better training facilities, according to Wales international and OL Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock. On the podcast The Offside Rule in 2020, Fishlock said that “Alex came over here and made sure that the women’s teams changed their training fields, because where they were training was unacceptable.”

Maternity support has come up in the WSL recently. Reading player Emma Mukandi told BBC Sport, “The lower down the leagues you go and then money comes into it and facilities, then it’s easier for clubs and CEOs to be like, ‘No, this isn’t happening.’”

Megan Rapinoe has also spoken up about Gunnarsdóttir’s case, calling Lyon’s treatment of the midfielder “utterly disgraceful.”

“I implore you to be the club that is ALWAYS supporting women, not the club that once did,” wrote the OL Reign forward.