First Impressions Of A Post-WPS World: Truth Telling

If you’re reading this sentence, chances are you’re one of the hundreds (or thousands) of readers who helped crash Pitchside Report’s server this evening. If you’re reading this sentence and aren’t sure what the previous one refers to, click here.

See? Ella Masar’s blog entry may have elicited as much – if not more – public reaction than Monday’s news of the league’s suspension.

Prior to the World Cup, a commenter said it was a good thing the mainstream media didn’t pay attention to WPS. The never-ending nonsense with magicJack surely wouldn’t cast the league in a positive light (although it did help produce a few funny titles on Deadspin). Perhaps Masar’s piece will rouse some interest.

First off, one must applaud Masar for her courageous decision to step forward and shed insight into what transpired during her time with magicJack. It’s important to note that her account is hers and hers alone, and does not necessarily reflect the experiences of her teammates. Still, it confirmed the assumptions. She may have even merely scratched the surface. Unseemly things definitely occurred in South Florida; things that went far beyond the pale; things that shouldn’t be tolerated in any professional setting, never mind that of a women’s professional sports team.

Masar’s raw, upsetting, and candid entry stands in stark contrast to the interview Julie Foudy conducted with Abby Wambach after the U.S. defeated Costa Rica last Friday to qualify for the Olympics. To put it mildly, Wambach reiterated her unwavering support for Dan Borislow. The blessed few who are unfamiliar with the magicJack saga likely wouldn’t know Masar and Wambach were referring to the same man.

So what happens Wednesday? More fallout from Masar’s blog? (Hope Solo replied to a query on the matter on Twitter.) Will we see a number of copycat blogs penned by scorned players eager to come clean about situations previously restricted to rumor? For one, Tasha Kai has promised to spill the beans on what happened in 2009 – presumably the incident with former Sky Blue FC head coach Ian Sawyers.

Such sudden candor could be an element of the catharsis that follows the messy dissolution of a relationship. The anger here is real and it’s everywhere; fans and players with owners, owners with lawyers, teammates with other teammates, the WoSo world at large with Dan Borislow.

It’s still difficult to make sense of everything that’s gone on since Monday morning. Life as many knew it is now gone, and it likely isn’t coming back. The latest outpouring of uncomfortable truths has only made everything more surreal – and sad.

We’ll see who else is willing to lend more clarity to WPS’s murky demise, and all the ugly episodes that preceded it. Perhaps those who remain silent are the ones with the most to tell.

40 thoughts on “First Impressions Of A Post-WPS World: Truth Telling

  1. goaleemama

    I can’t imagine any professional organization in this country that would allow a situation like that of Ella Masar’s injury. Maybe in some cold-war era country with a ruthless dictator… Absolutely sickening…

  2. WNTfan

    This is really sad. Everyone knew the league was dysfunctional, but this outpouring of nasty details will damage the sport for a long time. Masar’s career is as good as over. Only Hope Solo can talk like this in womens soccer and that’s only because Hope Solo is the best keeper in the world.

    Tasha Kai won’t likely be relevant. Her reputation is that she just really really likes attention.

    The big question is why Abby Wambach is so supportive of Borislow. She maybe the only thing standing between him and the torch-wielding mob.

    1. Leo

      “Masar’s career is as good as over”

      Well, possibly her nat’l team career, yes. But she’s got a contract w/ French side PSG that goes through June. She’s done well enough there that my guess is that she will be able to sign w/ another Euro team. Most of them don’t really care about USA soccer politics.

  3. Louis

    I commented to Foudy’s article on espnW before I read Masar’s letter;
    I think a major part of the problem is Borislow is in bed with the national team. He was flying the team around at the world cup and I’ll bet you Solo, Rapinoe, Rampone, and especially Wambach are still on his payroll. That’s why they didn’t sign with any WPS teams. You don’t hear any disparaging quotes from these leading soccer players because he’s told them to keep their mouths shut or they’re fired. He controls them so he has a lot of leverage in the sport.

    1. cranscape

      They are all out of contract since mj disbanded. Hope hasn’t supported Dan since coming back from the World Cup. She took a lot criticism for not being more involved with mj at the time or even being there in Florida but it seems wise now.

      Not that long ago she saw her name being thrown in the headlines about him and his new team the league was going to let him have and she immediately tweeted she made no agreements with Dan. She’s one of the few who has been consistently distancing herself from Dan/mj since she got back.

  4. Dude

    This Borislow stuff is odd. (and not that surprising)

    It reminds me of one of those sexual harassment cases.
    Where some guy is harassing women in the workplace, but the situation is just murky enough that no one wants to be the first person to really put their foot down, and possibly put people’s jobs at risk.
    But that is exactly what is needed sometimes…

  5. VaFan

    It probably was only a matter of time.
    One of the rtuly appealing thing about U.S. women’s soccer always has been the we’re-all-in-this-together attitude, which began at least as far back as the early days of the WNT. That attitude has affected and enhanced the women’s — and girls’ — game at every level, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
    Other pro sports have been afflicted with egomanical or even unbalanced owners, people who were racist, sexist, predatory, greedy, or whatever, and could not give a hang about the long-term health of their sports or leagues, and certainly not about the players — er, employees. For such people, the “common good” means a share of the loot.
    But all those leagues had enough ballast to stay afloat and even prosper with petty tyrants in charge of things. (Network TV contracts are wonderful things.) The WPS does not have the weight to withstand such irresponsible and immature behavior by 20% of its owners.
    It’s sad and it’s the end of a idealistic era.

  6. PhillyFan

    Louis – DB was NOT flying the WNT around at the WWC. He was flying a certain non-WWC member of his MJ team around, but your insinuation that he was flying WWC teams members around at the World Cup is utter nonsense.

    1. Louis

      This is not something I made up, but heard about from, I thought, a reliable source. If I am wrong, I sincerely apologize.

  7. PhillyFan

    Jenna – when reading these comments for moderation you need to remark about the absurdity of comments like Louis’s. Do you really think US Soccer is going to have DB flying WWC members around during the freakin’ world cup!!?? I mean, come on.

    1. Jenna Pel Post author

      PhillyFan is indeed well-informed; that I can vouch for. It’s extremely hard to believe that Borislow had that kind of access to magicJack players during the World Cup. But don’t beat yourself up too much, Louis. Distinguishing fact from fiction became a very difficult task throughout the mJ saga.

    2. Bill

      It does make me wonder, though – Dan always claims that he’s all about helping the national team. Would he listen if the USSF themselves told him to go pound sand?

      I would think someone would have at least tried that route. Or I suppose he could have an in with USSF, which is probably even more scary.

  8. e

    I am sad and I am so angry. I am sad and angry that Ella Masar, Tasha Kai and other WPS athletes have had to go through these experiences. It doesn’t matter who is “relevant” or not as an athlete, they are still human beings. I don’t care how much heart you have as a player or how hard you work at your sport because when you stop playing, those things fade away. It is all about integrity…as a teammate and as a person. I think Ella Masar has a great deal of integrity and I admire her for standing up for her teammates and herself. I would like to see some USWNT members do the same.

  9. wps faithful

    Borislow is a bad guy in this situation. He is also a brilliant and convenient scapegoat for the other WPS owners who are not willing to make the long term financial commitment necessary for the future success of the league. The know it all owners can now blame everything on MagicJack!

  10. wps faithful

    The league was doomed when the know it alls (wps owners) released super talented Commissioner Tanya A. and closed a talented and dedicated league office. 18 months later as a result of the know it alls direction (or no direction), WPS no longer exists!

  11. Ffschweden

    I had a very good opinion about Abby Wambach, but after reading Ellas post and then listening to Abby’s interview with ESPN after the qualification where she sort of says that Dan Borislow is still her heroe, I am deeply disappointed. I thought she was a great character player. After that she only seems to be a great player.

    1. CW in LA

      Wambach is a magnificent beast on the pitch. Sometimes, like now, I really wonder what her deal is off of it, though.

  12. jen

    I am just a soccer fan but if I could, I would get rid of Sunil tomorrow and bring Ernie Stewart back from Holland to run US Soccer Federations. Sunil is useless from the start. He who should get involved in helping WPS or a women’s pro league but he ain’t caring enough to do anything.

    1. CW in LA

      I really wonder why Gulati doesn’t get more scrutiny. For US soccer in general he strikes me as the Peter Principle in action, but for the women’s game in particular he’s been a sleepwalking catastrophe. The WNT hardly gets any attention at all when there’s not a World Cup going on. It’s infuriating because I hear one of his pet causes is women’s and girls’ soccer in India. And that’s great. But for women’s soccer in the US, which part of his job, he seemingly can’t be bothered.

      1. Joshua

        Wikipedia has a short and flattering biography on Sunil Gulati that probably unintentionally explains his “detachment” from everything.

        To Quote: “In practice, the USSF has a full-time professional staff in Chicago to handle the federation’s day-to-day business (in addition to training/development facilities in Florida and California). This provides Gulati with the ability to maintain a parallel, full-time career in academia. He is currently in his second stint as a highly regarded lecturer in economics at Columbia University, having previously served on the Columbia Economics Faculty from 1986 to 1990.”

        To summarize, USSF has a president that just isn’t there.

  13. Quick as a Flash

    Dan’s story was that the WPS was all about supporting the USWNT. Given what we know, the US players that agreed to play for the future magicJack were presumably assured of considerable future financial support. People rationalize and compromise and while we may be saddened, are we sure we would have behaved differently? Maybe one day one of them will look back and tell the whole truth.

    But let us not get distracted from the central issue. Except for those Olympians in countries that provide significant financial support (and some counties pay almost nothing,) the players have been very poorly treated by the league. A decision should have been made months ago. A player with no team can, in principle, sign on to any European team. However at this late date, all those teams have already stretched their budgets to get the strongest possible players. So the WPS players that do find teams will mostly be living on scraps.

    Here is the saddest part. It will be very hard to get a National WPS League running in 2013 with 8 teams when there is no evidence from 2012 to show potential investors that fan support is continuing to grow. And if there is a league it will likely have very tight total salary caps and therefore will not attract the top talent. This will mean little media attention. The remaining hope for professional women’s soccer whoops, football, will be in Europe.

    But at least we will be talking about the beautiful game and not the magicJack’s “daddy.”

    1. cow pasture alum

      There will still be indicators of fan interest. For instance, there are USWNT friendlies. I have seen reports that at least 13,000 tickets have been sold for the upcoming WNT friendly in Frisco, TX, even though New Zealand is hardly a marquee attraction. There will also be TV ratings for the Olympics.

      Also, just about all European leagues are semipro operations. Salary caps would have to be very tight indeed to make Europe an attractive alternative for most players.

    2. CW in LA

      I’m hoping Canada ’15 will be a springboard for someone (else) to try again.

      The WPS didn’t make the same mistakes as the WUSA. But they came up with new ones, some of which were doozies (Borislob being pretty near the top of the list). The margin for error for any new sports league is really narrow, but I’m convinced a women’s soccer league can last if done right – the soccer itself has generally been excellent.

  14. john

    What a cluster! Are we sure that out of WPS/majicJOKE contract is the same as not contracted to DannyBoy? Might explain some of the “loyalty”. Also, Abby’s stature (physical and cultural) might have greatly changed her relationship w/ “Daddy” vs Ella’s chances in the relationship. Having been in these types of solidarity meetings myself I have learned the cold hard truth of 2 things: silence is not agreement and (shock) people lie. I have to say (w/o proof obviously) that DannyBoy strikes me as such a scum bag that I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t “bug” the meeting. Is anyone else curious what Ella’s contract said re: medical care f/ job related injuries? Would a personal injury/workwomen compensation lawyer please give her a call? Having to defend his own heiney in court could be interesting f/ DannyBoy. Not to mention the sexual harrassment case if Ella’s not just venting big time. Unfortunately, Ella is going to struggle to get corrobarators f/ alot of reasons: it’s easier to just flow along, fear of being “blacklisted”, was DannyBoy a jerk to the group or in singular instances, etc. As f/ Kai I’m sorry, but as a guy w/ gray hair I can’t take a whining tweet written in the language of a street thug very seriously. She is not a kid anymore. If her tough girl persona helps her thrive on the field goal f/ it. Kai is a little too old, w/ experience on the USWNT w/ it’s communications team as an example to not know how to make a statement of this magnitude. I have no doubt she has a unsavory story to tell, but Kai please think about it and get some advice to maximize its impact after you decide what you want your report to accomplish.

  15. Greg

    Jenna, has there been any indication as to what specific step of the arbitration/termination process was bungled? It seems inexcusable that the league would make such a mistake when the process was apparently so straightforward – not to mention written by the league itself. All I’ve heard is that in their haste to expel Borislow they didn’t properly follow all of their own predetermined steps. Was their some sort of financial or time constraint that caused them to panic, or was this an example of them being afraid that the arbitration ruling could somehow (and inexplicably) go against them?

    1. cow pasture alum

      Or they simply believed that a decision to terminate a franchise was not among the things that fell within the scope of the arbitration process. Borislow offered a different interpretation of the language, which the judge bought.

  16. Jeff

    I was very sorry to hear that the WPS had folded. I think it is a major blow for US woman’s soccer and for Women’s sports in general. After doing some reading on the web and seeing some of Dan’s documented correspondances, it is pretty clear that he is a narcissistic schmuck that has too much money and thinks that he can do whatever he wants. He likes to threaten lawsuits and flaunt his cash when he doesnt get his way. I haven’t seen any support for him from anyone who has dealt first hand with him except from those who are probably gaining a lot financially. I have to admit that I like Abby as a player, but have lost a lot of respect for her with her continued endorcement of Dan in light of everything. She may not need the WPS for her financial or professional advancement, but the next generation of female Stars do. The fact that Dan is willing to sink the league simply because he can is truly sad. My hats off to Ella for standing up to him and not being intimidated. I’m sure he would try to sue her if he could..


  17. arnim

    I have to say a few things to add reality to the players ‘leverage’ in healthcare matters and about Ella. Ella is a good human in the deepest sense. High integrity, good character. I have no doubts about the accuracy of what she said and further that she had the restraint to not say things that were even more damaging. She went just far enough and I believe it was very hard for her to go that far. Her career is far from over unless she chooses so. Yes some coaches/owners may worry about players that will speak about what goes on in the locker room, but this is an extraordinary circumstance. My belief is that if the owner and the coach are proud of what they are doing they have nothing to hide from players speaking out. Ella is welcome in Chicago in perpetuity if she so chooses and she has our full support finding opportunities throughout the world. I have and will continue to personally vouch for her.

    Separately you guys have to understand that even with health insurance and workers comp the claims can remain unpaid and linger for years in dispute — really. We are still working through issues from 2009 that are between the hc provider, the insurance company, player, etc. If an owner wanted to create problems for a player he could through various administrative means create personal financial hardship (ultimately the healthcare provider will go after the patient personally to cover the bills if unpaid). Believe me we are still working through this with a player on a claim from 2010 (sorry!) and we mean well but she is getting hounded by the collections folks anyway. The players know this and it affects their personal credit ratings for life. So it makes perfect sense that Ella or others if they thought they were in a hostile situation (where overt threats had been made about not playing again) would hesitate to get expensive treatment that was ultimately covered by the team. Its horrible to use this and other threats as a lever to control player behaviour. Only the WNT senior players with their USSF contracts PLUS the additional pro contracts have the true financial and career security to stand up to owner/coach abuse without feeling like they are jeopardizing their careers and clearly they may choose not to even then.

    Finally, there will be another and further attempts at a top women’s league, absolutely. We all continue to learn much about how to do this sustainably. The key is having owners in it for the right reasons with a long-term goal of providing a post-college platform for elite US players AND a fanbase to continue develop steady sustainable growth — call it pro, semi-pro, whatever. Owners whose explicit goal is attention, ego, quick financial reward, drawing attention to their other businesses, or to simply win the Olympics or next World Cup need not apply. There are many good folks in WPS, WPSL, and W-league who have the right intentions and continue to do things the right way.

  18. Gerry Marrone

    Arnim – I completely, 100% agree with your points about both Ella and the healthcare situation. We were dealing with leftover remnants from the W-League season of 2008 in 2010 when was still there. Healthcare providers threatening players to get paid, etc. The players are not prepared for this, and in a few cases we were also dealing with parents trying to help.

    As far as Ella – I don’t know her like you do, but I have found her to be above reproach. I can only imagine the type of courage it took for her to write what she wrote, and not write what she could have. The part most disappointing about this entire situation is the lack of courage on the part of the other players – primarily the more senior players who are clearly choosing to back Dan instead of their teammates. In the absence of their words all we can do is speculate as to why they are remaining quiet.

    The main concern in the blog post for me personally is the clear cut control that the owner had over his players. Not providing a trainer and being the final word on medical treatment is frightening. We dealt with the training staff and medical staff regularly regarding player injuries. We were consulted about options, but the best available treatment was always provided. In 2009 we had a developmental player that was only with the team 4 weeks total. She had to have surgery on her nose and it was done immediately – you don’t mess around with a person’s face. She then needed a second surgery months after the season, we paid for that one too. The fans don’t understand that the owners were carrying the first $250K in healthcare claims before the insurance kicked in.

    And finally, the concept of an owner being the coach is one thing, asking his players to call him “daddy” is a whole other thing. If what Ella described wasn’t a hostile work environment than I don’t know what is.

    1. CW in LA

      “The part most disappointing about this entire situation is the lack of courage on the part of the other players – primarily the more senior players who are clearly choosing to back Dan instead of their teammates.”

      An uncomfortable echo of the 2007 World Cup there, I think.

    2. Christine Smith

      “-primarily the more senior players who are clearly choosing to back Dan instead of their teammates.”
      Gerry, I had the same thought, but have since concluded that maybe the senior players should be given the benefit of the doubt. Who knows what they’re being threatened with? Are ALL of them so corrupt and money-driven that they can’t stand up for the junior players? Seems improbable and, given the situation, it’s more likely they’ve been forced into silence. Maybe I’m just in denial – it’s a hard pill to swallow.

  19. 1Soccer

    I think people should know how much players were being paid. Some players got a lot of money, and didn’t even know their teammates were getting next to nothing. Some teams like Philly had at least worthwhile minimums, while others like Atlanta paid players only 350 per game if they played in it. There is no way to be able to live off of that without getting a job. If the top players know how much others are sacrificing just to be able to play, maybe they will lessen their demands for huge salaries.

  20. Nora Kervroedan

    I don’t get it, us women soccer has it all, you just have to watch a uswnt or a wps game to know that, why is all of this happening ? I’m french, so I don’t get everything, but of what I understood, this story is crazy, why is this Borislow still around ? Soccer is a beautiful game, and it has been my passion for 11 years now, USA is the one country that plays it beautifully well (I’m a huge fan of the USWNT) it has players like Wambach, Solo, Rapinoe, Morgan, Cheney, Krieger, Lloyd (and more), how the professional league could still have (big) problems ?
    And if I get it right, it’s all about money, but damn it, when are people going to understand that soccer is a sport that you play with passion, and love and talent and because being on the field makes you feel incredibly free and happy and not because you want to have money ? Money has already killed male soccer, we can’t let it kill women soccer… Come on Abby WAKE UP ! DO SOMETHING ! SPEAK UP AND SAVE THIS AMAZING SPORT !!


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