COLLECTIVE POWERS RECLAIM THE GAME
This week, we’re spotlighting how our soccer community is using collective power to demonstrate how we can work together as an industry to push for safety and equity for all players and the wider soccer community. Dive into this spotlight to learn how the collective actions of journalists, grassroots leaders, supporters groups and players have led to institutional change and have highlighted the need to keep pushing for equitable working conditions and a safer soccer future. This is how our community reclaims the game!
TW – mention of abuse, sexual assault
JOURNALISTS RECLAIM THE GAME
In wake of the mounting allegations of abuse of power from institutions throughout America, Canada, and the global soccer community, we’re thankful for the journalists whose work ensures that it isn’t the responsibility of survivors to stand alone against institutional failure. We believe every single player who has courageously spoken up against abuse and we stand with them in solidarity.
ACT: Journalists like Meg Linehan, Katie Strang, Molly Hensely-Clancy, and Matthew Hall have consistently led with action and compassion by ensuring that stories of abuse are believed, retold, and brought to the attention of the media and larger soccer industry. Thank you for your commitment to telling the truth and providing a platform for our players to speak out.
SHARE: Sharing these stories ensures more pressure is put on institutions to address their failures and prioritize player safety. Follow and share content from journalists like Meg Linehan (The Athletic) and Katie Strang (The Athletic), Molly Hensely-Clancy (The Washington Post), and Matthew Hall (The Guardian US) to ensure you are furthering the impact of their work.
REFLECT: How can we as a soccer community support survivors of abuse while pushing towards an industry that is held accountable and prioritizes player safety?
SUPPORTERS GROUPS RECLAIM THE GAME
Across the industry, there are trailblazing groups of soccer fans who are vocally holding their clubs to account to ensure the best experience for players and fans alike.
“Good times or bad, we’re here for the players, and we’re following their lead on this,” said Jen Muller, leader of Gotham’s Cloud 9 supporters club.
THE SPIRIT SQUADRON RECLAIM THE GAME
The Spirit Squadron, the official supporters club of the Washington Spirit, were one of many NWSL supporters groups to stand against the waves of institutional abuse that were made public in 2021. In the wake of The Washington Post article detailing the abuse experienced under club owner Steve Baldwin, the Squadron publicly backed former Spirit player Kaiya McCullough and every other survivor, demanding accountability and a change of ownership.
Act: The Squadron ensured that players felt supported while holding the club management accountable until its institutional failures were rectified by protesting at the stadium and encouraging the soccer community to join them in boycotting season tickets and merch sales.
Share: Fans are a huge part of why the game is so special. Support your local team’s supporters group and share stories like this one as a reminder that our actions as soccer fans can influence the industry.
Reflect: Does my own team prioritize player safety? What can I do as a fan to use collective power to influence institutional decisions that affect the well-being of the soccer community?
THE ROSE ROOM COLLECTIVE RECLAIM THE GAME
The Rose Room Collective is a supporter group for the Spirit and DC United that defines itself as a collective of intersectional people of color (POC) soccer supporters. Their mission is to create support for Washington, D.C’s soccer teams that reflect the diverse demographic of the city’s population, with particular emphasis on Black D.C. history.
Act: The Rose Room Collective is all about action, leading with their targeted approach to include and amplify the voices of POC in soccer. The group also takes a proactive approach to promote equity for all in the game.
Share: Developing this community further will take more voices and resources. You can join here; if you do not identify as POC, the collective always welcomes allyship in the form of social media engagement (@roseroomcollective and @RoseRoomCo) or any other means you can offer to amplify their impact.
The Anti Racist Soccer Club (ARSC) is a coalition created to fight racism in American soccer. Since leaving the Washington Spirit, Kaiya McCullough has become chairwoman for the coalition. She shared what building the coalition means for her: “Ultimately, I think it’s clear that there is not a safe space right now in soccer for [Black, Indigenous, and Person of Color (BIPOC) players]…the most idealistic goal that I can have, is that everybody has equal opportunity to play the sport, without fear of repercussion, without fear of harm. But there’s a long way to go with that.”
Act: The Anti Racist Soccer Club’s “10 point plan” serves as a foundation for what American soccer clubs can do to begin to implement anti-racist accountability and action within their institution. This coalition will continue to guide any clubs that wish to adopt and implement the plan.
Share: Post and share the work of the Anti Racist Soccer Club.
Reflect: What can my organization be proactively doing to fight racism in soccer? The Anti Racist Soccer Club is calling also for supporters groups to join the coalition too.
THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S SOCCER LEAGUE PLAYERS ASSOCIATION (NWSLPA) RECLAIM THE GAME
NWSLPA is a labor union run by players for players to create equitable working conditions and improve player safety. In protest of the long-lasting institutional abuses of power that were made increasingly public in 2021, the organization stated:
“We reclaim our place on the field because we will not let our joy be taken from us. But this is not business as usual. Systemic transformation is not something you say. It is something you do.” – Statement from NWSLPA October 6, 2021
On October 29, 2021, the NWSL agreed to meet all 8 of the NWSLPA’s demands for an institutional transformation that practices player safety and accountability.
The progress made by the NWSLPA is a beacon of the power of collective work. This month, the organization has also secured a landmark collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the NWSL that secures far safer working conditions and financial security for professional players. Some of the major accomplishments of the agreement include:
- 160% increase in minimum salary to $35k, with 4% year over year increases.
- Free agency starting in 2023.
- Robust workers comp coverage and up to 6-months paid mental health leave.
Of the CBA approval, NWSLPA executive director Meghann Burke said: “Players drove every decision in this process. Over more than 40 bargaining sessions, these players stood strong and stood together, right up to the moment of ratification. This is a historic moment not only for our sport and our League but for all working people who stand up and stand together.”
ACT: The NWSLPA uses its collective power to proactively address any unjust and inequitable playing conditions for NWSL players. Their actions have led directly to several landmark transformations in the soccer industry already.
SHARE: Spread the word about crucial campaign initiatives that the NWSLPA are running and donate if you can. The latest is the Support The Players National Emergency Trust, which will provide financial assistance to players who cannot afford basic living expenses and will remove cost as a barrier to accessing mental health services.
REFLECT: What lessons can we learn from the NWSLPA and apply to creating change in our own soccer communities?
On and off the pitch, journalists, fans, grassroots leaders and players are showing institutions that the beautiful game is nothing without us. These stories of collective power are a reminder that together we can create real systemic change for today’s players and future generations of soccer lovers.
Let’s keep reclaiming the game!
WIS member spotlights are created and written by our content producer Pip Penman.
Did you catch last week’s #ReclaimTheGame story about the women of the Vancouver Whitecaps? The actions of some of the Whitecaps former players led directly to change at the highest level as well as a reckoning in the club and a promise of a safer future for its players. Read it here.