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Ali Riley: Soccer Star Celebrates LGBTQ+ Community With Malmö Clothing

Football Player Ali Riley/ JWS
Football Player Ali Riley/ JWS

Ali Riley is an American soccer player who plays defense for Swedish club Rosengård on loan from the Orlando Pride of the NWSL. As a collegiate athlete, Riley captained the Stanford soccer team to two NCAA semifinals and one final. Internationally, Riley captains the New Zealand women’s national soccer team. Below, Just Women’s Sports talks with Riley and Malmö Clothing Company founder Emilio Bernard about the soccer star’s new collaboration in celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. 

You can shop Ali Riley’s Malmö collection here

This collaboration is significant for so many reasons, one of which is the fact that it only furthers your connection to the city of Malmö. Can you explain what the city has come to mean to you over the years?

It’s become my home. I feel so lucky to have left my first home in California and come to a country I knew nothing about, and just be welcomed with open arms to a club and a community. This city really does celebrate diversity. Of course, there is always room to grow. I think spreading love and embracing our differences is so important right now. Malmö has done a great job of celebrating women and our cause is all about celebrating strong women and inspiring young girls. We stand for really important things, one of them is supporting and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.

Part of this collaboration, for me, is realizing that I was welcomed as a foreigner into this country and this city with open arms, and I want that for everyone. I will be giving my percent of the profits to RFSL [The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights] Newcomers Foundation, which helps anyone in the LGBTQ+ community who is seeking asylum in Sweden. The foundation helps them with legal issues and gives them a community to meet other people. I thought it was the least I could do to use my privilege to help other people.

Have you ever done a collaboration like this before?

No, actually, I don’t even think I’ve ever designed anything. This graphic with the rainbow embroidery just came to mind and Malmö Clothing Company was so helpful. They made it so easy for me to just pick out what style I like, what colors, what materials and what graphic. They helped me bring it to life and it’s all made with love here in Malmö.

You spoke to the significance of the collaboration, but what does it mean to you to be partnering with a local company?

I love supporting local brands, local restaurants and local bars. I think it is so important to support our city and our community. With Malmö Clothing Company, the clothing is not only local, but it is also organic and they make sure to use Fair Trade and certified factories. There are so many choices out there for clothing and for food, and with those choices, we can actually make a difference. So, why not lead by example? I also love working with a local company because it’s showing pride in our city, and I love Malmö. When you’re biking or training and you see someone walk by with a Malmö Clothing Company hat, it gives you such a cool sense of pride and community.

You said that you had never really designed anything before, but have you always had a visual sense or was this a completely new adventure for you?

This is completely new. It’s funny because I wear what’s comfortable, and I wear a lot of active wear. I don’t give that much thought to what I wear. Ever since I arrived in Sweden, I have had to wear a lot more clothing and I made this decision that when I buy clothes like t-shirts and sweatshirts from now on, I’m only going to buy clothes that mean something. I decided this at the beginning of 2020 and I started being on the lookout for clothes that supported a cause or were made with recycled materials, things like that. It is really important to me to support good causes, so when this collaboration fell into my lap, I just thought it was so perfect. Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris were inspirations for me because they had a collaboration with a company all about being an ally, and they designed this shirt that said, “Love whoever the fuck you want.” I love that.

Can you describe your collection for us? 

We have sweatshirts, t-shirts and a hat, so far. I’m not going to give myself too much credit, but the color palette for the particular sweatshirt that I chose is so nice. We kept the t-shirts more basic, so that the rainbow letters pop out more. I originally designed the collection with spring colors, but now that we are moving into fall, there will be another selection and hopefully we can introduce even more colors. I want to do a tote bag, too. Just to have as many people as possible representing Malmö the city, the clothing company and the pride collection.

You spoke a little bit about how you’re donating a percentage of the profits to the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights. Why was it important to you to both highlight that organization and the cause it represents? 

Going to the PULSE Memorial in Orlando had a really profound effect on me. I know that there’s discrimination and hate crimes and homophobia out there, but to see it firsthand and to think that people so close to me experienced that kind of discrimination when we are all human, really affected me. There are so many people close to me who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community — people who I love who inspire me. I thought it was so important to support those people, celebrate love, celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and bring awareness. Also, putting your money where your mouth is is important. While spreading awareness is one part of being an ally, making a donation and investing money into programs is also an important part of it. More than just saying that I’m an ally and that I support and love my friends, it is important to actually show it.

When you go to the Malmö Clothing Company website, your collection is right on the homepage. Did you see that? 

I know, it’s so cool. My two friends and my Mom were my models. One of my friends was born and raised around Malmö in Sweden. The other girl is from Scotland and we’ve played together for many years here. And then my Mom just happened to be in Sweden at the time. While I haven’t had to experience any discrimination from my sexuality, I think it’s really cool that my mom is supportive of this campaign and this collaboration. We’ve talked about it, and I know that she would love me and support me no matter what. And, I think it’s cool for an older generation to be part of this collaboration, as well.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

They do ship to the US and, once again, all of my profits are going to the RFSL Newcomers Foundation. I am so thankful that Malmö Clothing Company gave me this opportunity to use my platform to make a difference. It makes me wonder, what more we can do as players. We are in this space now where we do have a bigger following as female athletes, so how can we use it? I think it is our responsibility to make the world a better place.


MALMÖ CLOTHING COMPANY FOUNDER EMILIO BERNARD:

 

Can you give us a quick introduction to Malmö Clothing Company?

I grew up in Oxnard, California, but I quickly left, went to school and started living in the Bay Area. I met my partner when I was living in the Bay Area and she was from Sweden. She basically said, “Runaway with me. I’ll take you to this awesome place called Sweden.” I came out here the first time in 2013 and basically never left. When I first moved, I had no vision for what I wanted to do, so I just did a little bit of everything. I quickly figured out that I was actually really into graphic design. I found some work with graphic design in the music industry and then I started a design studio with a friend. We did that for about five years, but I’ve always been very interested in printing processes and printing techniques.

That, in parallel, worked with an idea that whenever my friends would come visit me in Malmö, there was never anything that they could take home that was a representation of the city. You see cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, and you can’t look five meters down the road without seeing somebody wearing some Los Angeles script t-shirt or some SF Giants stuff. There is that pride here in Malmö too, but nobody was really capturing it and having fun with it. So, I started Malmö Clothing Company about three years ago. The city has been super receptive. People see the effort, they see that it’s genuine and they see that it’s sustainable. It’s been a slow growth over three years, but our stuff is all over town now.

Where did the idea for the collaboration with Ali come from?

It’s interesting because she came into the shop and I was working that day along with my colleague. We were both chit-chatting and Ali came in with all this energy, which is not very Swedish at all. Swedish culture is usually very reserved. We started talking and we realized that we were both from California. I recognized her, but I couldn’t remember how until she left the shop and posted on Instagram about us. I messaged her back like, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to talk to you. Are you interested in doing a collaboration?”

For a while, I had been wanting to reach out to the athletic community, especially FC Rosengård, because they have so much positive energy within their organization. For us, it was the perfect collaboration. She was all in and it was surprisingly easy to make it all work.

Ali mentioned that the design for the collection came to her right away. How did you ensure that the collection would fit both her taste and her ideas as well as the company’s brand?

We have a pretty simple minimalist brand. We try not to do too much. We also have a really good garment supplier. I basically try to only work with them because they have some of the highest standards in the business. They have all of the best certifications in terms of sustainability, and ethics. I pretty much gave her the catalog and said, “Go for it.” She chose something that I had never considered, so it was a bit of a gamble. Ali is our target customer, though. She’s the kind of person that we want to wear and buy our clothing and she’s also bringing a totally new perspective. That was all the convincing I needed, and it’s been super popular. Everybody who comes in says, “Damn, it’s so nice. It feels really high quality and it’s super comfortable.” So, yeah, it’s a 10 out of 10.

You mentioned that you hadn’t yet done anything to celebrate Pride. Why was it important for you to make a collection celebrating the LGBTQ+ community?

There’s a couple of reasons. The most obvious one is that Malmö and Copenhagen were chosen as the International Pride cities for this year, but it got postponed to next year. At the same time, the history of Malmö is quite interesting. Just on a quick note, Malmö is a very, very diverse city — 50 percent of the people who live here are not from here, which is quite rare for a Swedish city. It’s definitely an inclusive city in a lot of ways, and that’s now built into the fabric of the culture of Malmö itself. So I think that’s an important characteristic that needs to be promoted and celebrated. There’s also the whole micro-community aspect where we want to celebrate those communities. Yes, we are all one big community, but there are also smaller communities that we can lift up and shine a spotlight on.

You will have to promote the collection again next year when they do all of the Pride celebrations!

Exactly. This is just the warm-up collection.

How did Ali’s role as a professional athlete play into the collection? 

Obviously, her platform is important because she has a megaphone she can use. When we, as a brand, come up with something, we have — I don’t even want to call it a megaphone. It’s more of a piece of folded paper that we talk through. It only has so much reach. We feel like the message with this collection needed to be propped up on a higher platform and she is the perfect person to do that. Ali actually uses her platform to push out good causes more than just her professional accomplishments. There are more components of her life that have weight to them other than her professional soccer playing skills. I think it was a good mix.

Ali mentioned that it was important for her to work with a company that had international shipping so that her family and friends from home could be a part of it and to keep spreading the message.  

It’s funny to think that there are people out there in Texas and New Jersey and Florida rocking a Malmö sweatshirt with a little rainbow on it. I reckon that when people see it and they see the rainbow, they’re like, “Yep, that’s positive vibes right there.”

Is there anything else that you wanted to add?

Just one. Malmö gets a pretty bad rap in Swedish media, but people fail to highlight a lot of the great things happening in the city. There are so many small businesses and start-ups that are out here working on women’s health, health accessibility, education accessibility and more. So many good things come out of Malmö that just get swept under the rug. I think it’s important to highlight when something fun like this comes out. It’s great for the city and it’s good to push back with a little bit of positivity.

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

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