Aren’t you proud to be a woman? Or, know a woman? This week was all about women. Women who inspire. Women who lead. Women who support women. The sports headlines in the U.S. read that way. NWSL’s unlikely Houston Dash give sport its first coronavirus-era champion. New Women’s Soccer Team, Founded by Women, Will Press Equal Pay Cause. WNBA dedicates season to Breonna Taylor and Say Her Name campaign. The NWSL concluded their one-month tournament based season Sunday, July 26th, while the WNBA began theirs Saturday, July 25th. Both leagues opened their seasons as champions of social justice.
The NWSL was the true first professional sports league to set up and implement a COVID-19 testing and prevention plan during an active season. They created a barebones bubble far less expensive and extensive than the ones we now see in the Magic Kingdom. Players remained at the training facility for the Utah Royals and Real Salt Lake for the duration of the tournament. The league’s small size, just eight teams, made it manageable. And, in the end, there were no cases of COVID-19 in that bubble, the first of the sports bubbles in this country.
When the Challenge Cup tournament began, The Courage and Thorns conducted a choreographed peaceful protest, with all starters and almost all players kneeling in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. The solidarity and league messaging standing by their players came as a powerful contrast to the way in which Megan Rapinoe was left out to dry in 2016 when she became the first white U.S. pro athlete to kneel during the national anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, first before a Reign game against Chicago, then as a USWNT player in their game against Thaliand. At the time the U.S. Soccer Federation’s reply was “All persons representing a Federation national team shall stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented. New USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone and the USSF board of directors repealed that ruling this past June, simultaneously issuing an apology to Rapinoe. The national council will vote on the measure at a general meeting next year.
The NWSL led the way, the WNBA, already off to an impactful start with their season dedicated to Breanna Taylor and Say Her Name, a campaign focused on fighting for justice for Black women, taking up the reigns now. There’s a little known fact about societal change and community outside of social justice and community organizers. That secret we all share among ourselves is that women are the source of change, they are the glue that hold the society together, supporting women ultimately circles back to their communities, their families, their bubbles. Women have long been the sources of progress and the NWSL and WNBA are just two leagues of many around the world who are sowing the seeds of change now.
I am proud to be a woman.