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Madison Ellsworth on How Student Athletes Are Driving Change

VIA OREGON STATE ATHLETICS

Madison Ellsworth is a defender for the Oregon State University soccer team. Below, she spoke with Just Women’s Sports about the recent protests, what she’s doing with other Beaver athletes to drive change at Oregon State, and what needs to happen to move the country forward. 

What was your reaction to the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests?

It surprisingly hit me really hard. Obviously, there have been so many other murders of innocent black people in the recent past, like Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, but for some reason the George Floyd killing really affected me. I was pretty emotional. I cried a lot. I did the run for Ahmaud and, in my head, I thought that we had this movement on social media and I figured that would kind of be the end of it. To have it happen again, so soon, it was just a slap in the face.

My emotions were all over the place. On my team, there’s me and one other black girl. We felt so isolated and lonely during this time. Before I posted my message on Instagram, I sent it to my coaches and my team because it was mainly directed at them. I kept thinking, “This is affecting everyone. Why isn’t anyone reaching out to me?” There were a lot of different things going through my head last week.

What has your team done to support student athletes and the black community in general? What has Oregon State done?

Actually, I’m on the diversity and inclusion committee for SAAC [Student-Athlete Advisory Committee], so I’m in the process of figuring that out. We are probably going to have warm up tops and gear for our fall sports. And maybe bracelets and informational cards to give out to fans about the Black Lives Matter movement. We want to educate the fans on what’s going on in the community and make sure that our student athletes feel appreciated.

At Oregon State, and I’m sure this is the case with a lot of schools, black population is concentrated in athletics. After talking with football players and wrestlers and other athletes, there’s a feeling that we are being used for our athletic ability and people couldn’t care less about what’s going on right now. This weekend we actually had a forum for all student athletes so that black student athletes could share their stories. We are going to keep doing these forums and we want coaches to come to them, too. We want to continue to educate everyone on what’s going on.

In the past few weeks, have you noticed any changes in the culture around Oregon State athletics? 

Within the athletic department, I’ve noticed that we, as a black athlete community, have already gotten so much closer to each other because we are the only ones who understand the struggle right now in athletics. We know that there needs to be change. We need to break down the barrier of sports and look outside of sports. For a lot of us, who we are comes from our sports, but recent events have changed everything. There are football players who eat, sleep and breathe football saying that they’re unmotivated to play now. They’re saying, “I don’t even want to play football. I just want to talk and be heard.” That’s insane to me. Everyone just feels so passionately about this.

Why do you think it’s important for individuals to speak out?

I just don’t get why you wouldn’t want to speak out. To me, being able to live your life without being killed for the color of your skin seems like a basic human right. In my opinion, I would be speaking out if this was happening to any other race, too. I don’t think you can use the excuse that it’s not affecting you personally to not speak out. Everyone at least knows someone who has firsthand experience with the effects of racism. There’s no excuse. In my opinion, if you’re a decent human being you would speak out on this because it’s not even controversial — it’s just racism versus not racism.

I hate the excuse of “I don’t post politics on social media, blah, blah, blah.” There are so many other ways you can be helping besides social media. I had a discussion with one of my teammates because she hadn’t reached out to me or my other black teammate and she hadn’t posted anything. So, from my perspective, she was a part of the problem. I told her that and she was like, “Oh no, I didn’t mean that.” You just have to make it known to everyone around you that you support the movement — you can’t just assume that people know that. I think that’s why it’s important that people post and spread awareness.

What do you think about the athletes, both collegiate and professional, who have spoken out and showed support specifically for the Black Lives Matter movement? Why is that important? 

God bless them. I don’t think people realize how much power they have. One of my teammates, who is a forward and has always been the cover of Oregon State women’s soccer, came to me because she was worried that she didn’t have the platform to speak out and be heard. First off, I said, you do, because the Pac 12 is huge and so many people look up to you. People just don’t realize that about themselves, though. Seeing people in power, like LeBron James, speak out and be strong in their opinion is so necessary to inspire others.

What do you feel like needs to change in the immediate future?

Well, for starters, people need to vote. So many people don’t even know how to vote. It’s hard, though, because there are so many black people who are incarcerated and they don’t have the right to vote. And there is such a high population of people of color in poverty who don’t have the best resources or the best access to vote. It’s difficult, but I do think that everyone who can vote, needs to be voting. There’s really no excuse for people to think, “Oh, my city is fine. I don’t need to vote.” Even local positions, like the chief of police, are so crucial. In Eugene, last year, there was an incident where a black male was killed by a police officer and there were no repercussions. I went to a protest and it made me realize, you know, even in Eugene this is a problem. We need to focus on who we are giving power to.

Do you have an opinion of the argument that we should defund the police departments? 

I saw someone post about that today, and I automatically thought that they were trying to take away the police department. It seemed a little drastic. But I do think the idea of taking some funding from the police department and putting it towards other organizations and community resources is a great idea. I think that police officers are extremely valuable and necessary, but they have too much power at this point. The fact that they can pull someone out of their car for no reason and then hurt them with no repercussions is crazy.

How does the country move forward?

I feel like the only way for the country to move forward is if there are some big action steps taken by police departments and the government. What sucks is that we have a president who couldn’t care less right now and who can’t take control. At this point, it starts with us. There are actual ideas and ways, like the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, for us to make a change. I think people are tired of feeling like no one cares about them. So, taking steps like implementing reforms shows progress and shows people that those in government positions do actually care.

How do you think we can educate more people about these issues? 

I think the solution could be to start in the classroom. There needs to be an updated curriculum. The most memorable thing I learned in middle school was about the Holocaust, and we spent maybe two class periods on it. This event shaped the world and we only spent two classes on it. At the same time, though, we spent three weeks talking about the Oregon trail or Christopher Columbus. There needs to be a revamp on the entire curriculum.

What are your next steps, personally? 

I don’t even know. I’ve been so overwhelmed by everything that’s happening right now. For me, I think the next steps are to continue focusing on Oregon State athletics and thinking of how we can educate people and continue to make this a topic of discussion. Being the diversity and inclusion chair, I know my group is focusing on how we can continue the Black Lives Matter movement in the fall and throughout each season, fall, winter, and spring. We can’t let it just be a trend.

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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