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Gabby Williams: “We’re Trying to Normalize the Reality That We Are Citizens”

UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT- August 12: Gabby Williams #15 of the Chicago Sky in action during the Connecticut Sun Vs Chicago Sky, WNBA regular season game at Mohegan Sun Arena on August 12, 2018 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Gabby Williams is an American-French basketball player who plays for the Chicago Sky of the WNBA and will play for Hungary’s Sopron Basket in the upcoming season. A 2x NCAA Champion at UConn, Williams was drafted 4th overall by the Sky in 2018.

What are your thoughts about the WNBA’s social justice efforts and the importance of dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor?

Deciding to come to the bubble was really hard for us as WNBA players, because this was at the forefront of our minds. So as a league, we decided that if this season was going to happen, it would be dedicated to this cause.

Can you talk to me about the social justice campaign (“Sky Takes Action”) that you and your teammates launched?

Before we even came to the bubble – before we even knew we were having a season – we often spent time on team Zoom calls to discuss how each of us has been affected by racism and social injustice. As a team, we really wanted to do something together that made us feel like we were provoking change, and being seen and heard.

“Sky Takes Action” is a campaign where my teammates and I donate our own money, based on our performance during the game, to five local organizations after each game we play. For example, every point is $10, every win is $100 and every loss is $50. We’re also challenging the fans to match our donation collectively. After our first game, we as a team raised over $1,000 because we scored 96 points and won. Our fans kicked our butt and raised almost $2,000.

Why do you think it’s so important as an athlete to use your platform to speak up about social justice issues?

We’re trying to normalize the reality that we are citizens, Black people, women – we’re whatever we are and we’re basketball players. The two come together. We’re not one or the other. They are intersectional.

We hear the phrase “shut up and dribble” all the time. But when we step off the court, we’re Black women. We’re citizens of this country as well. It’s so important that we use our platform to normalize this idea that this is a part of who we are. And if people are going to watch this on TV, they’re going to know who we are.

Using your platform as a player was one of the reasons you decided to opt into this season in the first place, right?

Yeah, exactly. I was going back and forth between the dangers of coming back for this season. I decided to embrace it and realized there could be an even greater thing that comes out of this. Look at the numbers – we’re finally getting the attention that we deserve. I thought how powerful it could be in a time like this, when we’re in this kind of national turmoil, for a young Black girl to turn on the TV and see powerful Black women on the screen, basketball players who are also using their platform to speak about their community and what’s important to them. We thought that could be really powerful.

 How do you think that the league has handled all the different logistics leading up to life in the bubble and now with games happening?

It’s been surprisingly pretty good. I don’t think anyone expected it to be absolutely perfect. But the way we monitor our temperature every day to the way we’re getting our food delivered – it’s all been really great. So, I’m pretty impressed with how IMG and the league put this together.

There was a lot of momentum with the new CBA before this season. How do you think that the WNBA can keep it going in the bubble?

We’re just getting what we deserve – at least a portion of it. We’ve been preaching and saying for years that if you just give us the chance, people will watch us and enjoy our games. We play good basketball, and the WNBA is a good product. With the CBA, the league is paying us more money – and we’re showing that we deserve it.

Last time you spoke with JWS, you were locked down in France after the French League season and you had your cat with you. Were you able to bring her to the bubble at all?

There’s no pets allowed on the IMG campus. I’m sleeping alone at night. I get a lot of pictures, and I have her photo on my fridge.

Do you think that it’s been hard to stay motivated while living in such a different environment this season? 

It hasn’t been difficult at all. I mean, we’re competitive players at the core – it’s a part of our identity. For sure we miss our fans, but we still know that we’re playing for them. We know that people are watching us on TV. We also know a lot of people are watching us for the first time. It hasn’t been hard to stay motivated. It’s been so fun to play again, especially with this team. I think the team is just so special.

Chicago has come out well in the opening games. What are your thoughts on how the team is playing so far? How do you keep this momentum throughout the rest of the season?

Our first two games were important to us, because we won those games as a collective team. Everyone contributed. Everybody got a piece of the action. A lot of us had to step up in roles that we haven’t necessarily been in with Stefanie Dolson out at the last game [Dolson sat on the sidelines with an ankle injury at the Sparks game], with Diamond DeShields being limited in her minutes [DeShields is recovering from a knee injury]. It’s forced a lot of us to be in positions that we weren’t in before. The fact that we showed that we can step up and rise to the occasion is a really good sign for the future of our season.

How do you feel like you’ve transitioned back into playing? 

Just like any return to training camp, you have those bumps and bruises that you have to fight through. But overall, I’ve just been so excited to be back and play again. And during quarantine I got time to take care of a lot of things in my body that I needed to take care of.

With that said, after our first game, I literally told myself I forgot how hard basketball is. There’s nothing you can really do to prepare for 40 minute games except playing 40 minute games. I’m sure by the middle of the season, we’ll be back in the swing of things.

You recently signed to play with Hungary’s Sopron Basket.  What led you to this decision?

I’ll be going to Hungary this year instead of returning to France, which I’m a bit sad about because of course it was so nice to be in the motherland and be with my family. [Williams is American-French.] But I’m really, really excited about this next team. Unlike the US, Hungary handled COVID very well. So they’re expected to start the season on time. I’m not exactly sure what will happen with the Euro league, but Hungary is fine. The first couple of games might overlap with this WNBA season, depending on playoffs and things like that. Regardless, I’ll go after this WNBA season is over.

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources. In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals. On top of hiring a new coach in December, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired earlier this year for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada edges out U.S. Hockey in World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York – giving Americans payback on their own soil in the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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.

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