All Scores

Family of soccer star subjected to racism angered by league’s response

(Courtesy of @ridehardsportsphotography)

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) did not consider as part of its investigation into racist taunts at a championship soccer game written testimony from the mother of the affected player, the mother, Rachel Wilson, told Just Women’s Sports.

The CIF then issued sanctions against Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills), the offending school, that have been panned by many as too lenient considering the stakes of the incident and the comparisons to similar episodes.

Ciara Wilson, a senior forward at Buchanan (Clovis) committed to Fresno State, on March 5 stepped to the line for penalty kicks in her team’s Division 1 Northern California Championship game against Oak Ridge, which was hosting the match.

As Wilson wound up for her kick, a fan seated in Oak Ridge’s student section pierced the silence with a monkey sound: “Oo-Oo-Ah-Ah!” Wilson, who is Black, immediately pointed to the crowd, and her coach, Jasara Gillette, ran onto the field to tell the referees the game could not continue. Her request was not heeded, and Oak Ridge won the game in penalty kicks.

The student who made the noise was not ejected from the game and was not reprimanded until several days later.

Rachel Wilson submitted a letter to Ron Nocetti, CIF’s executive director, on March 19.

“We want to know: why did the game continue without a full investigation of who made the loud monkey sounds toward my daughter? Why did the Oak Ridge staff, coaches, referees and CIF official present not uphold and honor the rules and bylaws that they are supposed to uphold to protect student-athletes?” Rachel wrote in the letter, citing Oak Ridge’s student handbook. “When the game was over, I saw my beautiful daughter’s body shaking uncontrollably.”

On March 25, the CIF announced its sanctions against Oak Ridge, placing the school on “probation” through the end of the 2023-24 school year. The sanctions called for school staff and students to complete sportsmanship workshop/training and for administrators and athletic directors to undergo “game management training.”

It also stipulated that Buchanan must host any soccer games between the schools during the probation period, and that Oak Ridge administrators were “strongly encouraged” to engage with Buchanan administrators to “begin the process of developing a positive relationship between the two school communities.”

The CIF sanctions represented a stark contrast to those levied against Coronado in June 2021. The school was stripped of its regional boys’ basketball championship after fans threw tortillas at players from Orange Glen, which has a high Latino population.

After the Oak Ridge sanctions were announced, Rachel Wilson said she requested a call with Nocetti but was denied. In an email to her, Rachel said, Nocetti noted the CIF had considered all “timely” information submitted for the investigation; the CIF had instituted a March 11 submission deadline that Rachel said was not relayed to the Wilson family.

In response to a question about the family’s ongoing quest for more clarity on the decision-making behind the sanctions, a CIF spokesperson pointed JWS to its statement issued March 24 containing the original sanctions. When asked about the consideration of Rachel’s testimony, which was submitted after the deadline, the spokesperson referenced a different statement the Wilson family had posted to Twitter detailing the incident.

“CIF reviewed and considered the Wilson Family’s ‘final statement’ that was submitted as part of Buchanan High School’s documentation,” the spokesperson wrote.

Rachel said the social media statement was not intended to be its last comment on the account. “In no way did we ever intend that to be a final detailed testimony of how we felt and our account of what we saw and what happened. It was very brief,” she wrote in a text.

Nearly two months after the incident, Gillette and the Wilson family are not ready to give up the fight.

“The people in the room, how many of them have been in this situation? How many of them know what it means to be a 17-year-old girl standing by themselves?” said Gillette, who sent her teams’ plaque and second-place medals back to the CIF in protest. “I want to fight to make people understand this is a big deal.”

“What these people don’t get is, the rest of our lives, we don’t move on, we just carry it with us,” Rachel said, holding back tears.

Rachel, who said she’s been in contact with the NAACP about the situation, and that the NAACP plans to meet with CIF officials, often thinks back to the moments after the incident. As Buchanan players, coaches and parents screamed in protest, Gillette turned to the Buchanan side and insisted the referees were going to do something.

Wilson is still waiting for action.

“I think we’re putting too much trust in these people in these leadership positions,” Rachel said. “A 17-year-old girl is suffering now.”

Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.

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

Arsenal Women Confirm US Tour, Preseason Friendlies

Arsenal's Lotte Wubben-Moy battles with Mayra Ramirez of Chelsea at the 2023/24 FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup Final
The last time Chelsea and Arsenal faced off, the Gunners took home the FA Women's League Cup. (Copa/Getty Images)

Arsenal announced on Monday that it will join Chelsea for a series of preseason friendlies in the US in August. 

Arsenal will be based in Washington, DC from August 15th through August 26th. The Gunners are scheduled to play the Washington Spirit on August 18th, followed by a match with fellow WSL team Chelsea on August 25th. It’s the first time that the two London clubs will meet each other on this side of the Atlantic. 

Chelsea had previously announced their game against Gotham FC, confirming reports from ESPN that surfaced last month.

"We always want to create the best conditions for our teams to prepare and perform at their best in pre-season," said Arsenal sporting director Edu Gaspar in a statement. "This gives our players an opportunity to play and train in a new environment, in front of our supporters around the world."

Both Arsenal and Chelsea tout rosters full of international talent — formidable opponents for two equally stacked NWSL teams gearing up for postseason action. Arsenal is home to accomplished England nationals Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, and backheel goal-scorer Alessia Russo alongside Ireland captain Katie McCabe and USWNT defender Emily Fox.

The games are set to be streamed live for free on DAZN.

Arsenal's US tour builds off of a trip to Melbourne, Australia at the tail end of the 2023/24 season, where they beat A-League All Stars women 1-0 in front of 42,120 fans.

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.