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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.

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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.

Clark, Martin Square Off in First Pro WNBA Matchup

Kate Martin #20 of the Las Vegas Aces and Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever look on during the game
Things looked a little different Saturday night as the former Iowa teammates went head-to-head in Las Vegas. (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa teammates Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin shared the court once again on Saturday, this time as professionals.

It was Martin’s Aces that got the 99-80 win over Clark’s Fever in Las Vegas. The pair's former coaches Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald, and Raina Harmon were all in attendance to watch their Hawkeyes — Clark, Martin, and former national player of the year Megan Gustafson — take the court.

"It’s super special. It’s cool for our program, cool for Lisa, for Coach Jan, for all of them," Clark said in a pregame press conference. "They’ve known me since I’ve been 13 years old and now I’m 22 getting to live out my dream and they’ve been a huge part of that and helping me get here and helping Megan and Kate to get here too. It’s a great moment for them and I’m sure they’re not complaining about a trip to Vegas."

As for her college teammate, Clark had nothing but good things to say ahead of the showdown. 

"I’m just really happy for her and everything Coach [Becky] Hammon says about her is so true," she said. "Every person that played at Iowa and was around her knows that to be true. She’s the ultimate teammate, ultimate person, ultimate leader."

In the end, Martin stole the show with 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, while Clark amassed eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds over 29 minutes of playing time. 

"It was weird," Martin admitted after the game. "I'm not going to lie — just looking out on the court and seeing her in a different jersey than me, it was obviously different. But it's really fun. We're both living out our dreams right now."

The Aces next meet the fever on July 2nd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

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