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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.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

One former player contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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