Alex Morgan, one of the biggest stars of the U.S. Women’s National Team’s run to the World Cup finals and an Olympic gold medal, will be among the players in the new women’s professional soccer league that will launch this spring. But before she and the other players take the field, Morgan wants to ensure that the players have a strong collective bargaining presence.
Morgan, whose salary will be guaranteed by U.S. Soccer, the sport’s American governing federation, doesn’t have to worry about the money the league will pay her. Other women will, though, as concerns have arisen that some players will have to take second jobs to make ends meet. And those are the players Morgan is fighting to protect with the collective bargaining process, she told ESPN:
“We’re still looking to finalize our negotiations with U.S. Soccer, both the women’s national team contract and the [contract with the] league,” Morgan said of the details still to be worked out for the national team as a whole and the participation of those players, subsidized by U.S. Soccer, in the NWSL. “And we’re hoping that is going to be solved in a timely manner so we can focus all of our efforts on the league and getting it started in March.” [...]
“When I was drafted [in WPS], I wasn’t really sure what went on and what kind of salaries are given, what the quality of the team was — not only in terms of players, but coaching staff, training staff, training facility, that sort of stuff,” Morgan said. “Now being on this side of it, we really wanted to not only fight for us, but also those players not on the national team that didn’t really have a say. We had to be their voice. I think it’s finding that middle ground between sacrificing a little bit of what we want for the betterment of the league and for all of the players.“
Most of the focus on the new women’s league has been on how to achieve sustainability, and how to make it past the third season that doomed the previous two leagues. And as important as Morgan and other stars are to that success, people I’ve talked to who are familiar with the previous leagues have told me that sustainability ultimately relies on building an all-around brand separate from just the big names. So while Morgan and the stars may give the league some flash, the players you’ve never heard of will be as much a part of its backbone as anyone if it hopes to survive.
And if those players make up a significant part of the backbone, sustainability may also depend at least in part on making the league sustainable for them. Skimpy budgets and lower salaries may be an unfortunate reality in the league’s infancy, but achieving sustainability and giving women a professional place to play soccer won’t do much good in the long run if most of the players won’t make enough money to live.
Collective bargaining has played an important role in making sure that sports leagues benefit not just stars like Morgan but also the players on the end of the bench too. It’s encouraging, both for those women and for the overall future of the league, that a young star like Morgan already realizes that the league’s survival doesn’t just depend on her success, but also on the success of players who aren’t as gifted and well-known as she is.