Following the filing of an antitrust lawsuit against the NWSL, Olivia Moultrie has asked the judge to immediately order the NWSL to temporarily erase its age rule in order to allow her to compete in the league.
Currently, the rule sets the minimum age for players at 18.
The restraining order would cause the restriction to be lifted until league management and the players’ association can negotiate a contract that may alter the league’s minimum age.
Much of the argument from Moultrie’s lawyers has centered on the fact that both the MLS and leagues abroad allow players under the age of 18 to compete.
“If I were French or if I were Spanish or if I were German, I would be allowed to play right now,’’ Moultrie told U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut. “The only thing I want is the same chance that males have everywhere in the world, including here, and the same chance that females have everywhere in the world except here.”
They also called the rule “irrational” and “sexist.”
The league’s lawyers have countered that the court should allow for the current bargaining process between league management and the players’ union to run its course. The process could conclude by the end of this year with the league’s first collective bargaining agreement in its history.
Lisa K. Levine, the league’s general counsel, testified that the purpose of the age requirement stems from the associated costs and dangers that come with allowing minors to play.
Levine criticized the suggestion that the NWSL is “irrational” and “sexist,” alleging that the comparison to Major League Soccer doesn’t hold up, as the men’s league is “better resourced” to address accommodations for younger players.
Attorney Christopher Yates, arguing for the league, asserted that the case isn’t about age or gender discrimination but rather antitrust and that, through that lens, it doesn’t hold up.
The age limit has been in place since 2013 and it does not violate antitrust law, the NWSL argues, because the league is a “single entity” and therefore cannot conspire with itself for antitrust purposes.
“The league is highly concerned about competitive balance. What we don’t want is people trying to cherrypick players, and people trying to get special treatment,” Yates said. “That is the opposite of competitive balance.’’
The judge is set to issue a ruling in the next day or so.