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NWSLPA betting on itself through OneTeam group licensing partnership

NWSL players hope to make more jerseys available to fans through the new partnership. (Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

When the NWSL and NWSL Players’ Association ratified their first-ever collective bargaining agreement on Jan. 31, one of the last pieces to come together in the final days of negotiations was Article 20: “Group Licensing of Player Name, Image and Likeness.”

The section states that the NWSL and its clubs recognize the NWSLPA as the players’ agent in executing commercial rights toward the use of their names, such as trading cards, video games, clothing and toys. Group licensing enables a revenue stream for players and the NWSLPA so that the union can continue to negotiate CBAs and be a presence in the NWSL ecosystem.

The measure was a sticking point for players during the final rounds of discussions with the league. The U.S. women’s national team players, especially Alex Morgan, were adamant about the importance of those rights after having gone through similar negotiations with U.S. Soccer.

While some sections of the CBA required more compromising in the end, the NWSLPA felt that Article 20 was a big win.

“I credit the NWSL for staying in there with us and coming to an agreement on an issue that is of high importance to players,” NWSLPA executive director Meghann Burke told Just Women’s Sports. “This is a recognition of the control and autonomy that players should have over their own name, image and likeness, which is inherent to the person.”

On Wednesday, the NWSLPA built on the progress from the CBA with the announcement of a new exclusive, multi-year partnership with OneTeam Partners, a leader in commercializing collective licensing rights of professional athletes. Under the NWSLPA’s agreement, OneTeam will provide NWSL players and the NWSLPA with group licensing representation to maximize the value of group player rights.

OneTeam has already partnered with other athlete groups, like the USWNTPA, WNBPA, NFLPA, MLBPA, MLSPA and U.S. Rugby Players’ Association. The NWSLPA is confident OneTeam has the experience and tools to pull the them forward at a faster rate while making players’ needs the top priority.

“I found that maybe among the most compelling features of OneTeam is that they get it,” Burke said. “They know what a labor union is. They know that our fundamental mission is to serve the athletes we represent … The commercial opportunity stems from that, but we’ve got to serve and protect our members first and foremost.”

Burke also appreciates how much OneTeam has contributed to the NWSLPA’s evolution as a players’ association.

“They’ve really helped us learn, kind of get smart on group licensing, if you will. But they’ve never lost sight of the fact that we’re a labor union,” she said.

“We think there’s so much growth to be had in women’s soccer and in women’s sports,” said OneTeam spokesperson Eric Winston. “To be working with the NWSLPA and grow it from the beginning, we’re really excited about it … I can’t understate the magnitude of them now having a CBA and us helping in any way we could there.”

Working alongside OneTeam’s other major professional sports partners also gives the NWSL a seat at the table.

“[Women’s sports] is something we believe in,” Winston said. “Quite frankly, to be completely blunt with you, it’s good business.”

One request the players have is to give every fan the option to purchase a name-and-number replica jersey of their favorite player. There has historically been a shortage of jerseys and merchandise in women’s sports, and through OneTeam, the NWSLPA is eager to get those products out into the marketplace and create revenue streams back to the players.

“I think the CBA speaks to who we are, and group licensing speaks to where we want to go,” Burke said. “We’re really, really excited about launching something that I think is just full of potential, it’s full of promise. There’s a lot of unrealized potential in this space, and as players, we said throughout CBA negotiations we want to bet on ourselves. Group licensing is a way of us betting on ourselves.”

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

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

Caitlin Clark Signs Multi-Year Deal with Wilson, Gets Signature Basketball Collection

caitlin clark poses with wilson basketball
Clark is just the second athlete to get a signature basketball collection with Wilson. (Wilson Sporting Goods)

Caitlin Clark has signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Wilson Sporting Goods that will include a signature basketball collection, the brand announced early Tuesday. 

According to Boardroom, Clark is just the second athlete to develop a signature collection with Wilson, with the first being Michael Jordan in the 1980s. In addition to her basketball collection, she will also "test, advise and provide feedback on a range" of related products. 

Three Clark-branded white-and-gold Wilson basketballs have already dropped. Each ball features laser-cut engravings of some of the guard's most memorable moments at Iowa, where she became the all-time leading scorer in Division I college basketball history.

Three Wilson basketballs from Clark's collection have already dropped. (Wilson Sporting Goods).

"I think it is super special, and it's been fun for me," Clark told Boardroom. "I feel like I was just that young kid who had those basketballs that I would store in the garage. I'm just very lucky and fortunate to partner with Wilson to create something that everyone can enjoy. It connects with a lot of generations, and it'll be fun to see kids walking around holding them."

The No. 1 overall pick at the 2024 WNBA Draft, Clark has been building up a slate of major endorsements since turning pro. Current partnerships include Gatorade and Panini, and she’s also close to signing a signature shoe deal with Nike worth a reported $28 million.

New York Liberty off to First 4-0 Start in 17 Years

sabrina ionescu of the new york liberty on the court
Sabrina Ionescu led the undefeated Liberty to a 74-63 win over Seattle Monday night. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty are 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2007. 

The 2023 WNBA title finalists notched a 74-63 win over Seattle on Monday night, with Sabrina Ionescu dropping 20 points alongside eight assists. After the game, Ionescu told reporters she thought the team was coming together a bit easier than they did last year.

"I think having a year together, we don't nearly have to communicate as much on the court anymore," she said. "Because we can just play off one another and read. And that's obviously been the growth of this team, is being able to play a season together last year."

The team’s defense has also contributed heavily to the season's winning start. Last night, the Liberty held Jewell Loyd to just 13 points and nine rebounds. Loyd let the Storm in scoring, with only two other players in double digits, while Nneka Ogwumike missed her second straight game with an ankle injury. 

Storm free agency acquisition Skylar Diggins-Smith had eight points, and is averaging 14.5 points and 5.8 assists per game this season. In her postgame remarks, Storm head coach Noelle Quinn called on others to give her grace in her return. 

"There needs to be respect about the fact that she's had two children and hasn’t played in 20 months," said Quinn. "She’s not going to come overnight and be who she was 20 months ago and we have to respect that and honor that. And I do.

"My grace as a coach is to know she’s working her butt off every day. You guys don’t see it. Every single day. Two children. Not one, two. Not many can do that."

Australia’s Sam Kerr Ruled Out for 2024 Paris Olympics With ACL Injury

sam kerr playing for the australian womens national team
A longtime Matildas mainstay, Kerr has made 128 appearances for Australia alongside 69 career goals. (Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Australia has confirmed that captain and star striker Sam Kerr will miss the Paris Olympics due to an ACL injury suffered early this year. 

Kerr, who also stars for Chelsea, tore her ACL in January. While unlikely that she would recover in time for the Olympics, Football Australia (FA) hadn’t confirmed her status until Tuesday when the team revealed its squad for upcoming warm-up games. 

In a statement, the FA said that Kerr remained on the sidelines and will continue her rehab program at Chelsea. 

"Attacker Amy Sayer (ACL) and forward Sam Kerr (ACL) remain on the sidelines with long term injuries," the report read. "Kerr and Sayer will continue their rehabilitation programmes in their home club environments and subsequently will not be available for selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games."

Tuesdays 23-player squad is a "strong guide" to the final Olympic lineup, according to coach Tony Gustavsson, but others like injured midfielders Katrina Gorry and Aivi Luik could potentially figure into the conversation. 

"[They] most likely will be physically available to be part of an Olympic roster," Gustavsson said of Gorry and Luik. "This window will be a tough one for me and my staff in terms of evaluating players, where they are, and then the final selection process for Paris."

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