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Sydney Wiese: “The Very Existence of Our League Is a Form Of Protest”

VIA @SWIESEBABY24 ON INSTAGRAM

Sydney Wiese is a guard for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. An Oregon State graduate, Wiese was a Wooden Award Finalist and Naismith Trophy Semifinalist as well as a 4x All Pac-12 guard for the Beavers. She spoke to Just Women’s Sports about playing in the “Wubble,” using her platform for social justice, and the bond she shares with her Sparks teammates. 

You’re a few weeks into the season. Do you feel like everyone has found their rhythm or do you expect there to be some ups and downs?

There’s always ups and downs. This season is obviously unprecedented with the quick turnaround, and how condensed the schedule is. Injuries are going to happen unfortunately, and so we want to make sure to take care of ourselves. It’s going to demand everything that you got individually, collectively. Every team is going through their own journey – I think it’s just about peaking at the right time. Then continuing to ride that momentum towards the end of season, through playoffs, and making sure that you capitalize when you carry that momentum.

On one hand, you no longer have to travel for games. But you are playing a lot more games back to back. How has that affected your ability to recover and stay healthy?

There’s pros and cons to both, for sure. All of us in the WNBA are facing this same schedule – this same quick turn around. We’re all in the same time zone. I think it just comes down to making sure that as a group, we monitor the opportunities where we can take a step back from basketball to do that, so that when we’re on, we can just grind it out. There’s no other way around it. You just gotta push through it.

What we’re doing right now is historic. We are a living part of history, so we’ve just got to roll with it. Down the road, I’ll be telling my kids about this one day.

What is your team specifically doing to recover and stay healthy? 

We do pool workouts for recovery every once in a while. We do yoga as a team before we start practice. It’s good for our mind, body and spirit – just to realign and slow down, and breathe a little bit. We have ice baths downstairs. We have all hands on deck to make sure that our bodies are good, and that our minds are taken care of as well.

You are third in the Western Conference standing so far. What do you think needs to happen to stay in championship contention?

I think it’s just all about doing what we can and adjusting as quickly as we can when we’re in those moments, because we don’t have time to practice certain situations. You can watch a film, you can talk about it, but it’s going to come to shifting our actions, and actually making those changes real when we’re on the floor, because there’s not a lot of time to drop any games. It’s just continuing to communicate with one another.

Because of how the season is set up, you don’t have time to learn while you’re losing. You have to learn lessons while winning games. About a month from now, we’re going to be in playoff mode. You want to be in the top seeds, because then you can get a bye, and that gives you extra rest. Especially after a season like this, that’s going to be super critical for recovery.

Before you all went to the bubble there was some skepticism around the situation. Then, after a few weeks, people seemed generally upbeat about the ‘Wubble’ life. But are you concerned about bubble fatigue the longer the season goes on? 

I have to give a shout out to our union and our league, because I know back in June and May, when they were having the negotiations for our season, they put in a lot of work. We asked a lot of questions as players, and they covered every base possible to make this a safe environment for us – for our wellbeing first and foremost. They also gave us an opportunity to use our platforms to be vocal about social injustices, police brutality and ‘Say Her Name.’ It’s been really cool.

I know as time goes on, we have to make sure that we continue to take care of ourselves as we play basketball, play these games back to back… That’s going to be really crucial as we continue forward in the season. We’ve got to take care of ourselves and one another – that’s going to be key to fighting off any fatigue.

Heading into the season, you signed a two year contract extension with the Sparks. What went into that decision? 

I’m super fortunate. When I was a kid, I dreamt about being in this league, and then once I got here, it became real in good ways and also gave some tough lessons that I had to learn. I don’t take for granted the opportunity to sign an extension like this, because I think it is rare to be with the same organization for a career for multiple years. Nothing is guaranteed in this league.

I value loyalty. In this professional world, that’s rare. I love representing this organization. I love learning and being a part of these women’s lives, and they’re a part of my life as well. And I’m so thankful that I’ve had this time to build relationships, to get to know who I work with, who I get to play with. That’s super big for me. So it was a no brainer, honestly. I love who I get to work with. And Los Angeles isn’t a bad city to live in either.  I’m from Phoenix, so it’s also an hour flight from my home. I love being on the West Coast.

What are your personal goals for this season?

I don’t really have any personal goals. I want to be of service any way that I can to this team. I recognize that all of us chose to be here under these circumstances. I totally respect our teammates that chose to stay out for their own reasons, but the rest of us that chose to be here – we sacrificed and we made the choice to be here. So I just want to make sure that whatever is needed on the court, off the court, that’s what I want to provide. I also want to make sure that we’re taken care of as a group, as people more than anything. I just want to make sure that we leave this place having enjoyed this experience.

The league has been at the forefront of social justice issues for so many years, but what did it mean to you to have social justice be an official part of the league’s platform this year? 

I think it shows that this league has been beyond the curve. They’ve been vocal, they’ve been advocating from the very beginning. The very existence of our league is a form of protest, because you have a league of majority Black women, of majority LGBTQ. It’s not a coincidence that this league has had to fight for survival because it goes against the societal norms that have been put in place, which, to be frank, have not empowered Black women to succeed. They have not empowered LGBTQ Black women.

Now it’s cool to protest, and it’s cool to be vocal. But this league has always done that. It’s such an honor to be in this league because it’s a form of protest. We are going to rise above the oppression that is trying to be placed on us, and we’re going to overcome it simply by being who we are.

Each week, we are highlighting a Black woman or a woman of color who was killed by police. This past week, we highlighted Michelle Cusseaux. She was killed by police in 2014. We had the opportunity to speak to her mother and her sister and hear her story. And now we’re going to honor Michelle and we’re going to say her name. Even though it happened six years ago, we’re still seeking justice.

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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