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Lexie Brown on the WNBA’s Return, Living In a Bubble

VIA @MINNESOTALYNX TWITTER

Lexie Brown is a guard for the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. Brown played college basketball at Duke University before being drafted by the Connecticut Sun in 2018 and traded to the Lynx in 2019. Below, she spoke with Just Women’s Sports about her experience in the WNBA bubble so far and how she sees her team advancing throughout the rest of the season. 

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

It’s amazing. What has been going on in our country recently has really been going on forever. In these past few months, it was thrust into the spotlight because everyone was at home with the virus. I think it was a good opportunity for us to use our platforms to speak up and speak out. We’re not new to doing that. Female athletes in general, but specifically the WNBA, have always been at the forefront of social justice issues.

On top of that, we have all of these televised games which we didn’t know were going to happen. We came into this bubble just thinking that we were all going to be together and that our voices would be stronger as one — we all wanted to share one united message. The fact that we’re all over TV and social media has been amazing for us in trying to share our message.

They just added around 13 more games to the TV schedule, which is huge. It not only expands the platform, but it also shows that people want to watch you all play.

Exactly. And it’s been so nice to see the support. There is some negativity, of course. But seeing how many people are happy to have access to our games is great. Whether it’s my team or any other team, it’s awesome to see people asking where they can buy jerseys or those orange hoodies that are everywhere. It’s nice to see that people do care about our league because, usually, we see all of the negativity and we just have to ignore it and push through. So, it’s been really nice to get some visibility this year.

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

I think they’ve done a great job. During the first day or two, when we were in our little quarantine, people were just getting used to the whole situation. And there were some things that went wrong, but anything that went wrong was fixed so fast, without any hassle. The staff members are all incredible. Everyone is so nice. Everyone is listening to directions. I think the WNBA did a really good job for as little time as they had to put this together. Obviously, you don’t want to be in a bubble, but for someone that’s living in a bubble, I’m very happy here.

Do you think it’s hard to stay motivated during the season while living in such a different environment?

For me, personally, I’m super self-motivated. And I’m not really a person who is out and about all the time. If I’m at home, I’m usually at home with my family and we’re just hanging out. So for me, this type of environment is very similar to one, overseas and two, how I am at home. I miss my friends and family, of course. And I miss our fans. I think that the hardest part for me is not playing in front of fans. But I’m in a situation where all I have to worry about is playing basketball and staying in shape, and that’s an ideal situation for me.

Do you think that there is a bigger focus on recovery since there is less traveling for games? 

Absolutely. One of my teammates actually went down with an injury last night, so now we’re down a player. Things change fast and we just have to take care of your bodies. The best thing for us is that we aren’t traveling, we aren’t sitting in airports all day or all night, we aren’t getting up at 6:00 AM to catch a flight. It’s leveled the playing field. At the end of the season, we’re going to see who took care of their bodies the best and also who did the most work leading up to the season. I made it a goal of mine to come into training camp as one of the most in shape players on my team, and I definitely did that. I love working out and the fact that this is my job is so amazing to me because I get to mess around with all different types of workouts and positively influence my job.

How has it been playing without fans?

It’s been so weird. In our first game, we were down and then we came back, but it just didn’t feel like we were making a comeback. It was so quiet. Everyone is going to have to adjust. Some players who aren’t used to talking and cheering on the bench are going to have to step up. Our coach asked us, “Why are we starting so slow?” And I said, “It’s just the environment.” We have to create our own energy. Some teams are better at that than others. For me, I love our fans, so while it hasn’t necessarily been hard, it’s been sad to not see those familiar faces in the stand.

You won your first game and lost your second. What are your thoughts on how the team has played?

Our energy has been a little up and down. We have so many new faces and a lot of younger players. We’re all adjusting and learning about each other. Our coach is used to having a veteran team, so I think she’s learning as she goes as well. It’s all going to be a process for us, but we all love each other. We have great chemistry off the court. Once we put it all together on the court, find our spots and get a rhythm, we’re going to be fine.

What are your expectations for the remainder of the season?

I just think that we have to play a little bit harder. Obviously we want to make it to the playoffs and potentially win a championship, but we want to be in the top percentages of different categories, too. Points, defense, steals, assists. There are so many things that we want to be great at, and we’re just kind of average at everything right now. Moving forward, we all have to hold each other accountable. Everyone just needs to find their groove and we’ll get there. The whole season is just so strange, the environment is strange, game days are strange. We just need to get used to it. After a few more games, we’ll get there.

Throughout your time in the Wubble, you have been documenting your experience via vlogs that you post on your YouTube channel. How did that come about?

I’ve been vlogging on YouTube for three years. I started vlogging at the end of my senior year at Duke. Actually, I started vlogging when my teammate and I went to this three-point contest at the Men’s Final Four, and our basketball program asked us to vlog it. We vlogged during Draft Day too, and I thought it was awesome. So, I just kept documenting things — I really enjoy filming and editing it all.

I started vlogging in the bubble because, one, so many people were against sports coming back and I wanted to show everyone that it was possible to bring sports back safely. And, two, because I wanted to keep the focus on social justice and social reform. I think it has also been a good way to lighten the mood and show everybody’s personalities. Everyone is still getting to know each other, so when I bring a camera out and start acting goofy it helps everyone to loosen up a bit. I’ve made three so far and I just finished editing another one. There are a lot of players making them, too. So, I think it’s amazing to see everybody’s different experiences on different teams and in different parts of campus.

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.

Other former players 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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