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Women’s football star Santia Deck continues to shatter glass ceilings

(Courtesy of Eastbay)

For the self-proclaimed “Queen of Abs” Santia Deck, giving up is not an option.

Between track, rugby and football, Deck has aspired to greatness in whatever sport she’s set her mind to. Right now, that sport is women’s tackle football, where the 29-year-old is the highest-paid athlete after signing a multi-million dollar contract with the Women’s Football League Association (WFLA) last January.

“I just want to be the best at whatever I do,” Deck told Just Women’s Sports.

Before she was dodging defenders on the football field, Deck was speeding down the track. Having picked up track and field at age 7, Deck made her way to Texas A&M–Kingsville, where she ran the 55-meter, 60m, 100m and 200m as part of the indoor and outdoor teams from 2010-14.

There, Deck started building her social media following, branding herself as the “Queen of Abs” after people started noticing how ripped she was. Deck originally wanted to go with “Princess of Abs,” but her mom had another idea.

“She was like, ‘Why be a princess? We can be a queen,’” said Deck, who has grown her following to 867,000 on Instagram.

A year after graduating from Kingsville, and feeling the effects of injuries sustained during her track career, Deck decided to give flag football a try. She had played football with her twin brother and other boys while growing up in Houston, and that experience combined with her track career gave her the foundation she needed.

“When I was out there playing at my first tryout, they were like, ‘How do you know how to cut?’” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ It’s just natural, I guess.”

Deck has since torn up the flag football world and the ranks of the Atlanta Women’s Flag Football League, regularly outrunning the competition.

The next stop on Deck’s football journey is the WFLA, though the league has yet to stage a game since its founding in 2019 and its future has come into question in recent months.

WFLA founder Lupe Rose first approached Deck when she was training for rugby. At the time, Deck was trying to make Team USA and couldn’t commit to anything else. But after an injury ended her Olympic dream, she reconsidered the full-tackle women’s football league. Rose’s offer of a multi-million dollar contract with her team, the Los Angeles Fames, was an added bonus.

“That contract was jaw-dropping,” Deck said. “It was a surreal moment. I really didn’t know how to take it.”

While she says it took a while for the significance of the contract to sink in, Deck believes it’s an indicator of where women’s sports are headed. Over three decades ago, the National Women’s Football League enjoyed a long run before teams broke apart and the enterprise folded in 1988, as detailed in Lyndsey D’Arcangelo and Britni de la Cretaz’s new book “Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League.”

“I hope that it inspires other leagues to pay their athletes more and actually give them what they’re worth and what they deserve,” Deck said. “We deserve just as much opportunity as the guys. Exposure, financials, recovery, whatever, we deserve the same things.”

Since then, the WFLA has been on tenuous footing. The league’s website, which very recently depicted 32 copyrighted team names and logos and 10 franchises with owners (including rapper JaRule), has become inactive. In September, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Rose with fraudulent stock sales of her company SHE Beverage, a California-based maker of healthy beverages, beer and hard lemonade. The company’s legal team has since denied the allegations.

Six days after the lawsuit was filed, Deck wrote on her Facebook and Instagram accounts that she was walking away from the league.

“I’ve decided to part ways with the WFLA to pursue other sport opportunities. Stay tuned for what’s next!” she wrote in since-deleted posts.

When asked about her current status with the league, Deck declined to comment for legal reasons. The last sign that the WFLA planned to launch came on Oct. 23, when an Instagram post appeared to indicate a May 11, 2023 start date.

The WFLA did not respond to a request for comment from Just Women’s Sports.

While figuring out her football future, Deck has stayed busy. In 2020, the 29-year-old founded her own shoe company, becoming the first female athlete to do so.

“Creating Tronus was really about liberation,” she said. “Because I feel like women, and us being athletes, is just extremely difficult. It’s a lot of ups and downs, a lot of obstacles, trying to get sponsored by bigger brands.

“I was like, why not try to do something that’s kind of out of the box, that’s kind of breaking through a glass ceiling? I’m getting the opportunity to really be able to create my own shoe the way that I envisioned it.”

From watching Tampa Bay Buccaneers players rock her shoes to having them appear in an upcoming movie, the support has been above and beyond what she expected from the outset.

The same has been true of Deck’s partnership with Eastbay. After the sports footwear and apparel company launched its new Eastbay Performance line in late September, Deck captained one of three flag football teams at a celebratory event in Brooklyn’s McCarren Park.

Deck competes at a flag football event in Brooklyn's McCarren Park. (Courtesy of Eastbay)

With pro-BMX athlete Nigel Sylvester and Rumble Boxing co-founder Noah Neiman captaining the other two teams, the games were fast-paced and Deck narrowly missed out on the championship trophy.

“Everybody, at first, was like ‘Oh this is fun. Like we’re not going to go crazy,’” she said. “And then everybody became super competitive.”

Despite the setbacks over the years, Deck is hopeful for the future of women’s football. And whatever’s next in her athletic career, she’ll continue to be an advocate for her peers.

“For women in sports, period, we need more women supporting women,” she said.

“Making sure that we’re putting women in higher positions when it comes to the back end of things, being able to control the button pushers. We need to have women in control of those areas of sports as well, so that we do have a voice.”

Emma Hruby is an associate editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @EHruby.

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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