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Where we go from here: personal reflections from Just Women’s Sports CEO Haley Rosen

NWSL players huddle at midfield for a moment of solidarity during a game between the Houston Dash and Portland Thorns. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images)

Of everything I’ve felt since The Athletic first broke the Paul Riley story, the overwhelming feeling has been exhaustion. 

The details of the situation, from Riley’s predatory behavior to the NWSL’s apparent disinterest in investigating the claims, may shock the average fan. But the general pattern is chillingly familiar to those of us who have spent our lives in women’s sports. 

Over the last week, I’ve talked with many of my former teammates and friends within the soccer community. Everyone was shocked but not surprised by what they read. The simple, terrible truth is that we all had seen similar stories play out, of an all-powerful coach whose behavior crossed a line. 

We’ve all grown up watching movies about inspirational coaches and underdog teams overcoming the odds to win some elusive trophy. But anyone who has played a sport at an elite level knows that usually isn’t how it works. The culture of insecurity that Riley created, the artificial environment in which he was a god-like figure, isn’t unique to him. And while the vast majority of coaches are not sexual predators, you’d be shocked by how many of them crave this level of control, how many of them oscillate between excessive anger and praise, leaving their players chasing their approval.

I played club soccer, college soccer, and professional soccer both in America and abroad, and I’ve seen these dynamics at every level. It’s not just abusive men, even if their cases are more numerous, particularly in the NWSL. I’ve been around female coaches who were just as manipulative, and whose comments also veered into uncomfortable personal territory. It’s left me convinced that we simply live in a culture that’s obsessed with women’s bodies and is relentless in subjecting them to judgment and control.

This is only amplified in sports, where coaches have a professional excuse to care about their players’ fitness. Abuse can hide itself more easily in this space, but we all know it’s pervasive across the fabric of society. It’s the same in the workplace, and I know, because I’ve seen it. It’s an older man stopping a meeting to tell you he’d date you if he was younger. It’s investors telling you to do more on-camera stuff because they like the way you look on Zoom. It’s being told right before you’re about to pitch your company alone to a room of men that you look cute that day. 

But again, it’s women too: I can’t tell you how many female VCs have lectured me on how I dress or do my hair. I’ve been told that I look too girly and that I look too masculine. That I need to dress more sporty but also more professionally. That I should and should not wear makeup to meetings. That I have to wear sneakers. That I have to wear heels. 

I don’t want to sound petty. I’m just exhausted. I’m tired of being the only woman in the room, and then hearing men praise themselves because they let a woman in the room. I’m tired of hearing my athlete friends whisper about the shady comments their coaches have made. I’m tired of reading stories like the one in The Athletic

All these things happen because people in power assume no one will speak up. They depend on the inequities which create and reinforce a culture of silence, in which victims of both sexual harassment and offhand comments are forced to choose between their dignity and their dreams. 

As the saying goes: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In the world of women’s sports, absolute power is often concentrated in a handful of coaches and executives. It’s they who determine whether you make the team, whether you play, whether you get called into the national program, or whether you get cut without a moment’s notice. They are the gatekeepers of each player’s dream.

In some ways, leagues like the NWSL are a beacon of progress and change. They’re a place where talented, outspoken, pink-haired and LGBTQ players take the field, take up space, and make their voices and ambitions heard. They win, lose, compete and make mistakes, and revel in the glory of athletic expression. 

At the same time, they struggle: side jobs are necessary, housing insecurity is rampant, and abusive coaches are tolerated because they could cut you at any minute.

This must change. And it starts with players like Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim refusing to be silenced, no matter how many times they’re told to go away. Players shouldn’t have to be heroes in order to be protected. But the bravery of these women is changing the game, as is the work of journalists like Meg Linehan, Katie Strang and so many other reporters who are committed to giving light to these stories. 

I started Just Women’s Sports for all the aspirational reasons you can imagine, but also because I was genuinely upset. I was tired of seeing this space being held back by those on the outside who refused to give it a chance, and those on the inside who only used it for power. 

Beneath the weight of this past week, I still haven’t lost hope. As heartbreaking and depressing as everything has been, it’s impossible to ignore the swift and overwhelming response from fellow athletes, journalists and fans. There are too many people speaking up for this to quietly go away. There are too many players taking a stand for the NWSL to go back to business as usual. 

Statements and resignations and investigations are just the start. But replacing the people running the machine won’t fix the machine. Real, systemic change will require everyone in women’s sports to rethink their role. 

Protecting the players has to be the bare minimum. That means establishing protocols and procedures for reporting and investigating abuse. That means requiring teams to be honest about when they’re firing coaches for misconduct. That means delivering a CBA that protects players from being cut without warning or compensation. 

All of that can be done in the immediate future. In the long term, our focus has to be on building the space. Growth is more than an economic necessity — it’s a moral imperative for women’s sports because of the inequities that continue to persist and jeopardize players’ safety and careers. We need more fans, more dollars and more sponsors. We need players who are secure in their livelihoods so that they can speak truth to power and chase their dreams. 

That’s the future we’re trying to help build with Just Women’s Sports. As difficult as this past week has been, it has the chance to be a turning point in women’s sports. 

Now is the time to get to work, with a renewed sense of vision and purpose. 

Haley Rosen is the Founder and CEO of Just Women’s Sports. She is also a former pro soccer player and was an All-Pac-12 midfielder at Stanford. 

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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