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Angel City FC takes a stand for LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the NWSL

Angel City players huddle up before a Challenge Cup game this season. (Jenny Chuang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Around June of last year, Angel City FC’s Head of Community Catherine Dávila called up Lily Barrett-O’Keefe, executive director of Common Goal.

The two had worked together when Angel City helped launch the Anti-Racist Project in February, and Dávila had an idea to build off of that initiative.

“LGBTQ+ issues and inclusion are at the center of everything the NWSL does and is,” she said to Barrett-O’Keefe. “We should do a project like the Anti-Racist Project but with LGBTQ+ issues.”

Homophobia has been a prevalent issue in men’s and women’s soccer around the globe, while anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans legislation sweeps across the United States. The Major League Soccer-Liga MX All-Star Game last August was halted due to homophobic chants from the crowd. Recently in the NWSL, the Orlando Pride apologized in a joint statement with the Black Swans supporters’ group for asking the group to take down a banner that read “GAY” in accordance with signage policies. The North Carolina Courage faced backlash from fans in December after signing Jaelene Daniels, a formerly retired U.S. women’s national team player who has spoken out against gay marriage and refused to wear the USWNT’s Pride jersey.

Coming out of her conversation with Dávila, Barrett-O’Keefe was all in. She proceeded to bring the idea to life with the help of Common Goal, a global social impact collective.

Dávila called the San Diego Wave FC, who were also eager to get involved, and the Wave then recruited clubs from the other major professional soccer leagues in the U.S., Canada and Mexico: Tigres UANL, Chicago Fire FC, Oakland Roots, Pacific FC, Philadelphia Union and San Diego Loyal SC.

Ahead of hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the clubs came together to launch a 12-month program for stakeholders that includes over 100 hours of LGBTQ+ inclusion training led by the Common Goal project, Play Proud and its partners — Inside Inclusion, Impact International and Stonewall UK. Included in each club’s delegation are a leader of their supporters’ group and a community-based coach from their city.

Angel City hosted the first five-day residential event in Los Angeles last week.

“We went into it saying Pride, LGBTQ+ inclusion and issues and conversations and voices are not just June, and especially when we’re Angel City and especially when we’re in women’s soccer,” Dávila said. “This is year-round for us.”

Angel City plans to develop club policies for the season based on what they learn in the workshops, which will then translate into a long-term strategy of inclusivity. Until the second residential event in December, hosted by Tigres, the clubs that attended the event in L.A. have an accountability system in place. They also have the opportunity to schedule ongoing meetings with Play Proud’s experts, which Dávila hopes Angel City holds on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Angel City players could sit in on the Play Proud workshops last week if they wished. Defender Paige Nielsen only planned to be there for the morning, but when noon hit, she asked if she could stay for the rest of the day.

Nielsen didn’t know anyone in the room except teammate Madison Hammond, but she felt like she did because of the way everyone empowered each other with their personal stories and moments of vulnerability.

“We don’t have that many safe spaces anymore,” she said. “People call you out all the time, whether that’s online, in school. There’s Don’t Say Gay bills. You can’t talk about things. And this is a safe room.”

Nielsen recalled the instructor using a saying about calling people “in” instead of “out,” emphasizing how to react to issues in a way that’s educational and positive.

A quote that Nielsen and Dávila reflected on was: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

“That really hit home for me because I’m such a hippie and I’m like, ‘No words or anything will bother me. I know my worth.’ But that comes from a place of privilege,” Nielsen said. “The more conferences and the more things we learn about how much you are privileged versus a lot of people, it makes me want to do a lot more and help others.”

In one of the many ways privilege was demonstrated throughout the week, the instructor set up four different rows of chairs with four people in each row. The leader of the session put a trash bin in front of the first row. Everyone had 10 seconds to get their crumpled piece of paper into the bin.

As papers flew overhead, the people in front of the bin simply reached out and placed theirs in. One person in the back row made their shot. The woman next to him gave up because she couldn’t even see the bin; she just believed it existed. Meant to reflect privileged people in society, the participants in the front row of seats had the advantage over people in the back, who could only take a chance with their throw and hope for the best.

Every conversation Angel City has this season will have been touched by Play Proud. The goal is to make the learnings feel so routine that they won’t need to be reactive when new issues arise, internally or externally.

“If we’re going to take a stand on inclusivity, on diversity, on the importance of these things, not just morally but to our businesses, we have to be OK talking about them,” Dávila said. “We have to be excited talking about them.”

Since the beginning of preseason in February, Angel City players have been vocal about how much they appreciate playing for a club that aligns with their values of inclusivity, equality and empowerment. ACFC’s efforts to put the LGBTQ+ community front and center is just another step in that direction.

“It gets me excited because I’m around amazing people, amazing staff who want to do something bigger than just play a sport,” Nielsen said. “They want to use the sport as an avenue to help kids, inspire others.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

The Women’s Cup Finalizes 2024 Tournament With Chile’s Colo Colo

Patricia Padium (L) of Brazils Audax/Corinthians, vies for the ball with Claudia Soto of Chile's Colo Colo during the Women Copa Libertadores final match
The addition of the Chilean side rounds out the Cup's four-team field. (FAVIO FALCON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Women’s Cup field has been finalized, with Chilean club Colo Colo joining the four-team field. 

Colo Colo will join Racing Louisville of the NWSL along with Italy's Juventus and Brazil's Palmeiras at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville from August 9th through 13th. 

The tournament will have a $100,000 prize pool.

"We are honored to have Colo-Colo as the first Chilean Team to play in The Women’s Cup," said J.P. Reynal, CEO of The Women’s Cup, in yesterday's press release. "Women’s soccer has seen exponential growth in South America and having two of the best teams in the region participating in this year’s tournament is proof they can compete with the top teams from Europe and the United States."

"We are pleased to be considered in this important championship for women’s soccer and very proud that Colo-Colo is one of the most important exponents of this discipline in Chile," echoed Enzo Caszely, president of women’s football at Colo-Colo. "As a club, we have been pioneers in its professionalization at a national level, and this instance is proof of it."

Juventus and Colo-Colo will square off on Friday, August 9th at 5 PM ET followed by Racing Louisville and Palmeiras at 8 PM ET. Tickets can be purchased now via both The Women's Cup's and Racing Lousiville's websites.

This is Racing Louisville's third time featuring in the competition. The team won The Women's Cup's first iteration in 2021, beating German side FC Bayern in penalty kicks at Lynn Family Stadium. The Seattle Reign claimed The Women's Cup in 2022.

The Kansas City Current will also host a Women’s Cup tournament from August 14th through the 17th. The winners of each 2024 tournament will then face each other in the Global Series Finals, scheduled for February 2025.

PWHL Draft Spurs Controversy for League Champs Minnesota

pwhl draft first pick Sarah Fillier
PWHL New York kicked off the 2024 PWHL Draft by selecting Princeton's Sarah Fillier No. 1 overall. (PWHL)

The 2024 PWHL Draft took place on Tuesday, with Princeton and Canadian national team forward Sarah Fillier going first overall to PWHL New York. 

New York also added two defenders and a goaltender, as well as three forwards to make seven solid additions to next season's roster. 

But it was first-ever PWHL champions Minnesota that created the most buzz, with the draft happening just three days after they announced the abrupt departure of general manager Natalie Darwitz following a league review. 

With the 10th overall pick, PWHL Minnesota took Team USA forward Britta Curl. Fans immediately took to the internet to voice their concerns, citing Curl's social media activity. In the past, Curl had "liked" posts on X that targeted the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly transgender individuals. Her activity also showed support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Wisconsin man who fatally shot three unarmed people, two fatally, during a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest.

When asked about the pick — and whether or not he had consulted with any members of the LGBTQIA+ community prior to making the pick — PWHL Minnesota coach Ken Klee opted to defend Curl.

"Did I speak to anyone from the community? I talk with players, with coaches. That’s tough to answer for me," Klee said. "I spoke with a lot of different people. I mean, at the end of the day, I was told she’s a great teammate, a great person. She’s obviously a great player."

The team also had PWHL Minnesota assistant coach Mira Jalosuo, who is married to a woman, announce the pick.

"We have people in that community and obviously Mira making that selection for us, I think that speaks volumes for us," Klee added. "We were just trying to pick the best players available. I wouldn’t want anything to take away from any of those players' experience. It’s unfortunate a little bit at the beginning, but again, it’s okay. People are entitled to their opinion."

Washington Mystics Snap 12-Game Losing Streak

Brittney Sykes #20 of the Washington Mystics shoots the ball during the game against the Atlanta Dream during the 2024 WNBA Commissioner's Cup game on June 11, 2024
Washington guard Brittney Sykes returned from injury Tuesday night to post a game-high 18 points. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Washington Mystics snapped a team-record 12-game losing streak on Tuesday, taking home their first win of the season over the Atlanta Dream. 

Brittney Sykes returned from injury and made an immediate impact with game-high 18 points, four assists, and three rebounds. As a team, Washington shot over 50% from behind the arc.

"The feel is it's been coming," coach Eric Thibault said after the game. "I said the other night that we're turning into a good basketball team and we just haven't had the wins to show for it yet. We've been playing better basketball now for a while.

"We're obviously shooting well, but I think the quality of the shots we're getting is really good."

Still, the team’s slow start isn't exactly in the rearview mirror. With star forward Elena Delle Donne sitting this season out, the Mystics were always predicted to face an uphill climb in what has been described as a rebuilding year. 

But with a franchise-worst 0-12 record to kick off the 2024 season, the Mystics are likely on track for a lottery pick. However, Washington can point to positive performances from star draft pick Aaliyah Edwards and league newcomer Julie Vanloo.

Elsewhere in the WNBA, the Las Vegas Aces continued their skid with a surprising 100-86 upset courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx. The reigning WNBA champions were shorthanded this week, falling to 5-5 on the season despite MVP-level play from A'ja Wilson, who scored 28 points in Tuesday's loss.

Minnesota shot over 55% as a team, with Alanna Smith leading the team with 18 points. The game marked the Aces' first three-game losing streak since 2019.

"This is a long, long, long season," Wilson said in her postgame remarks. "I'm not going to press the panic button. I'm still going to bet on us. I know exactly what's in that locker room."

Aces stalwart Chelsea Gray has been out with injury since last year's WNBA Finals run. And while she told reporters on Tuesday that she's set to return before the Olympic break, the team can’t get her back soon enough as they continue to struggle with depth. 

"I don't want them thinking too much; then you get paralysis [by] analysis," coach Becky Hammon said. "We're just not being solid in our base. Just be solid defensively. We're not a very good team right now, that's just reality. But we know we can get better. I still have a lot of belief in this ball club."

USA Women’s Basketball Releases Olympic Roster, Explains Clark’s Omission

USA Women's Basketball's Diana Taurasi #12, Brittney Griner #15 and Sabrina Ionescu #6 at April's National Team Training Camp
All the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

USA Women's Basketball announced its official Olympic roster on Tuesday, with officials noting that Caitlin Clark’s lack of national team experience played a key role in her omission.

Selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said that the committee evaluated players according to a set of on-court criteria they were given.

"When you base your decision on criteria, there were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes," she told reporters on Tuesday. "Then sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for [coach Cheryl Reeve] and then sometimes a vote."

Three first-time Olympians made the squad: Alyssa Thomas, Sabrina Ionescu, and Kahleah Copper. Additionally, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum will make the switch to the national 5-on-5 team after winning gold in the inaugural 3×3 competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Age, Rizzotti said, was "never brought up" in player selection discussions. It’s the first time in Olympic history that a USA Women’s Basketball 5-on-5 team will travel to the Games without a single player under 26 years old.

Rizzotti commented that all the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience, something that Clark does not have.

"She's certainly going to continue to get better and better," USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley added. "Really hope that she's a big part of our future going forward."

Rizzotti said it would have been "irresponsible" to base roster decisions on anything outside of a basketball context. Marketing and popularity were not on the selection committee’s list of criteria. 

"It would be irresponsible for us to talk about her in a way other than how she would impact the play of the team," Rizzotti said. "Because it wasn't the purview of our committee to decide how many people would watch or how many people would root for the US. It was our purview to create the best team we could for Cheryl."

Clark expressed that she'll be using what some consider a snub as fuel for a run at the 2028 Olympic team. 

"I think it just gives you something to work for," Clark told media after practice Sunday. "It's a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there. I think it's just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" on Expert Adjacent

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