Women’s Professional Soccer Cancels 2012 Season, Everyone’s Dreams

Abby Wambach and the Order of Terrible Team Names

Do you want the good news first or the bad news first? Ok, the good news is that the US Women’s National Soccer Team won the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament and will be heading to the London Olympics this summer! They beat Costa Rica 3-0 and Canada 4-0! They played really well!

The bad news is that the team came home to a legal nightmare and a canceled Women’s Professional Soccer season.

ESPN has a full timeline of the events, but the short version is this: The WPS, American’s premiere women’s soccer league, was struggling financially. The Washington Freedom team was saved from certain doom by Dan Borislow, who bought the team, moved them to Florida and promptly renamed them “magicJack” after a product he invented. During the season, he violated tons of league ordinances and made a lot of players and league officials angry. The heads of the WPS voted to terminate him in the middle of the season. The franchise was disbanded after the season, leaving Wambach, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Christie Rampone, and the rest of the magicJacks team-less. Borislow is now carrying out a class action lawsuit against the WPS for violating their own bylaws, saying that the WPS tried to oust him immediately rather than wait for the end of the season. On Monday, the WPS announced that they were suspending the entire 2012 season because of money problems.

Dan Borislow in Real Life, via ESPN.com

To give you an idea of some of his violations, after only one home game, Borislow was cited for “failure to display sponsor sign boards, failure to upload video to the league’s site for scouting purposes, lack of an ambulance and EMS staff at the game, failure of the coaching staff to wear required Puma attire, an undersized field (league minimum is 66 yards wide), lack of seating for a minimum of 5,000 fans, lack of press accommodations, lack of player availability to the media, and a past-due balance of $53,166.67 owed to the league.” He spent most of the rest of the season suspended.

Until recently, the nature of the players’ grievances against Borislow were unclear. A few days ago, however, forward Ella Masar posted on her blog about some very specific things that happened to the team under Borislow’s rule, including refusing to pay for a surgery she needed and a very unsettling request for players to call him “Daddy.” She also accuses him of blackmailing them into silence by threatening to cut the team if any of the players did not support him. So far, no one has refuted Masar’s claims.

Even so, it’s possible that there is more to the story than what we’re seeing. Abby Wambach, who was magicJack’s player-coach, is fully supporting Borislow. In an interview during Kansas City’s Women’s Sports Award Celebration, Wambach said:

“I’ve always been a proponent of Dan because he and [Western New York Flash owner] Joe Sahlen stepped in at a time when we needed them. People are quick to point fingers and blame. Dan is considered the villain in this, with all the media attention it’s gotten. The truth is that the responsibility is all of ours. Nothing rises or fails with one person. We all need to step back, look at ourselves, and take responsibility for all of the things. Nobody is talking about the amazing things Dan did and how he treated his players. Everybody focuses all the attention on the negative. And that’s not how we’re going to get the WPS back and running. You can’t build something great on negativity. It has to be in a positive manner.”

Also, you should watch the commercial for magicJack (the product) that she made when she was on magicJack (the team), because it’s hilarious and awkward and relevant.

From WPSmagicjack.com

Women’s Professional Soccer CEO Jennifer O’Sullivan, who became CEO in late September, is hopeful that the WPS will recover and host a 2013 season, but nothing is guaranteed. It all depends on money. Whether there is a season next year or not, it is valid to say that the WPS probably shouldn’t have broken the rules that they made up. Womp womp.

But see, here’s the thing at the crux of it all: Regardless of whatever money and legal troubles the WPS is having, a lot of people are suffering because of this season’s suspension. Current players are out of a job, up-and-coming players who aren’t quite good enough to join the national team are out of the game, and the fans are out of luck. The loss of a professional league is especially rough because of the success the US national team has had over the last year; a second-place finish at the Women’s World Cup is nothing to sneeze at, and it could have turned the WPS into a more legitimate and successful league. The proof is in the pudding: before the World Cup, the magicJack team was playing to crowds of less than 1,000, but crowds of nearly 5,000 started showing up after the national team’s second-place finish. And really, is it too much to ask for a generation of girls to grow up with a professional soccer league that doesn’t end as abruptly as the ill-fated WUSA? My primary emotion is frustration, and my secondary emotion is that I really just want to watch Amy LePeilbet play soccer.

Thank you to Hannah Needleman for fact checking/ making me sound smarter than I am.

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Grace Ellis has been writing and making hack-job graphics for Autostraddle since 2011 and is a co-creator and co-writer of the comic book series Lumberjanes. She is mostly an intern in name only. (Mostly.) She lives in Columbus, Ohio because why anything. Also, she wants to write the Black Widow movie and feels like if she just keeps telling people, eventually she will be allowed to do it. She has a Twitter and a Tumblr, both of which are pretty above average.

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44 Comments

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    I love women’s soccer!
    (OK it’s because I’m ogling at the sweaty bodies 90% of the time… but never mind)

    Aww… hope everything turns out well in the end.

    Guess I’ll have to get my soccer fix from the German ladies’ soccer league then..

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    The Borislow legal battle is certainly a drain on WPS, but it’s not the sole deciding factor in why the league shut down for 2012. I know league commissioner O’Sullivan is citing the legal battle, but WPS also took hits from the ridiculous sanctioning fight with USSF and its own bad decisions over the course of the past three seasons, not least of which was overestimating income and underestimating costs.

    The real question for me has been WHY IS ABBY WAMBACH STILL SUPPORTING DAN BORISLOW? There are numerous articles citing his douchebaggery. Aside from his general grossness, he also ran magicJack like his own personal U-35 travel team, refusing to hire an athletic trainer, sequestering players in Boca Raton, and firing his coach and trying to manage the team himself before appointing Abby as his mouthpiece. I’m just so disappointed in her. Either Ella Masar (and everyone else who ever reported on Borislow’s abuses) is a liar, or Abby is complicit in the way he treated them. Whatever she has to lose, whatever Borislow might have on her, it’s disappointing to think that she would choose that over standing up for her teammates. It hurts so much because she’s long been a hero and leader on the national team, and to see her continue to back Borislow in multiple interviews, even after the Masar article, is like being punched in the face. A lot. By an angry Hope Solo.

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      Abby is really boring and diplomatic on Twitter, too, unlike some of the other players, and I think it’s just her personality to try and keep everything together even when a stand needs to be taken. It probably makes her a good captain on the field, but this seems wrong.

      Ella Masar went to a high school in my hometown and I’ve followed her career avidly since then. Reading her blog made me so angry at everyone in charge. I hope this works out soon. :(

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    I hate to hear abby wambach support him, but there may be reason’s why she is. All the shit he did wrong is ridiculous, like not having EMS at the games, that’s insane, high school teams have that. Maybe he has something on abby, or maybe saying he’s not all bad is the only way she can get some money now that she’s out of a job. I hate that she’s not standing up with some of the other players, but i don’t want to be to quick to judge either.

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      I don’t want to judge Abby either, but it’s hard not to. Borislow in no way would jeopardize her job on the USWNT, where she earns a living wage as negotiated by the team. She also has contracts with Nike and Gatorade totaling approximately 1.5 million dollars. Financially, I really don’t see a reason for her to still be backing this guy.

      Now my other thought is she’s afraid he’ll out her if he publicly loses her support. That’s a rough deal, but in that case she should just keep her mouth shut instead of actively supporting him.

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    im going to miss seeing pinoe and lianne sanderson’s coifs in the field. i’ll miss watching lep drinking water and seeing ashlyn’s amazing dimpled face. no more hao faces or busquets saving the day…. no more officer k.o and no more hope solo’s everything (other than bf, im sure there will still be plenty of that)
    as you can see im pretty much in the wps fandom and sad sad sad that it’s not going to be here ’till next year…. but this cheered me up for unexplained reasons

    bit.ly/ygoQSU enjoy

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    It will be interesting to see if Tasha Kai publishes a similar blog to Ella Masar’s, it sounded like she had some interesting things to say as well. I’m glad that Masar came forward, Borislow always came off as sleezy but it’s nice to hear about some of what actually happened behind the scenes. I saw an article last week and it sounds like there are some ideas for how to make the league more viable in the future, hopefully it’ll come back next year stronger than ever.

    So glad I’m not the only person with a thing for LePeilbet, she’s so adorable.

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      i mean even the canadian players who play in the u.s. are having a hard time getting placed on rosters because they’re already full so….yeah there’s that and i sort of caught something saying that bundesliga wasn’t going to take any more players either :( so it’s either sweden or france

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    There has got to be a dozen or so lesbian executives willing to invest in women’s soccer teams! It’s a shame that one of the only major investors in the WPS turned out to be a sexist and narcissistic guy who mistreated his players.

    “I really just want to watch Amy LePeilbet play soccer.” Seriously, make it happen!

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    So disappointing. There’s been talk of the Western New York Flash and the Boston Breakers maybe joining the W-League this season, and W-L has invited all the WPS teams, so that’s a good prospect if they should so choose. Bonus points to the W-League, they said if WPS teams elect to join, they won’t let magicJack in.

    I know the suspended season seems like the end of the world, and believe me, I was crying about it all last week, but Jennifer O’Sullivan’s done this before with the Arena Football League. There’s not much hope to be found here (other than Solo[that was a bad one]), but perhaps that might provide a little comfort, considering AFL came back and is as thriving as it ever has been currently.

    Got to feel bad for the non-USWNT members. Even the CanWNT players, because Canada Soccer doesn’t pay them shit. At least the US ladies have a pretty cushy national team salary. For those of you who still want LeP action, OLYMPICS GUYS, OLYMPICS! Not to mention a friendly against New Zealand with the delectable Ali Riley on the 11th of this month. Take heart, my fellow WoSo lovers.

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    Oh maaan. And here I was getting so happy for them because they’ve been winning games so far, and I was really looking forward to women’s pro soccer getting more coverage and support. I hope this issue gets fixed soon (why don’t we buy the team?? :D). They didn’t have to end the season so abruptly! Just let them finish and win it gaddameet!!

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    Yeah this sucks, a lot of the Aussie girls play for US teams in our off season and it was really sudden and now a whole heap of them are without teams to play with while our season is over.

    Megan Rapinoe played a game in Aus this year, very cool to watch she is awesome.

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