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🏆Motherhood and maternity leave in sports

May 09, 2021
Source: NCAA Sports/Giphy
Source: NCAA Sports/Giphy

QUOTE OF THE DAY

You can be great at all these things. You can be someone representing, and doing it with class, and professionalism, and doing well at your job. You can be a mom; you don’t have to stop coaching.

— Arizona women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes, who led her Wildcats to the NCAA title game six months after giving birth to her daughter Capri...and graciously handled (literal) sh!t along the way. Can you say super mom?

🎾 Queen of the court

SOURCE: SKY SPORTS TENNIS/TWITTER

When it comes to moms changing the game, we have to start with tennis legend Serena Williams. After winning the 2017 Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant (imagine?), Serena faced life-threatening health complications soon after the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in September 2017.

Williams also led the way on the court. Prior to taking mat leave in April 2017, she was ranked No. 1 in the world. But upon returning to competition in February 2018, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) ranked Williams No. 453. Sorry, WTF?

  • Luckily, Serena speaking out about her situation prompted change. Now, if a player takes a leave of absence due to pregnancy, injury or illness, their ranking freezes and that “special ranking” can be used to gain entry into tournaments upon return.

Along with the rankings rule change, the WTA also made dress code-related policy changes in 2019. After Williams received backlash for wearing her iconic catsuit (to help with her blood clots) during the 2018 French Open, the WTA updated their policy, lifting their backwards restrictions on what players wear. Her impact.

🏃‍♀️ Racing toward change

SOURCE: TODAY

Back in 2018, six-time Olympic track & field gold medalist Allyson Felix was negotiating a new contract with Nike when she announced her pregnancy. And when Felix asked for pay protection surrounding maternity leave, Nike declined, instead planning to reduce her salary by 70%. Once again, WTF?

And once Felix was done with Nike, she testified before U.S. Congress in May 2019 on the maternal mortality crisis. Felix also discussed her own pregnancy health struggles with her daughter Camryn via emergency C-section.

👏 Progress to praise

SOURCE: ELLE

Even with Williams and Felix leading the way, the fight for sufficient maternity leave policies in sports is ongoing. We’ve already covered the WTA’s progress, so now it’s time to talk about how mat leave policies have changed (or haven’t...) across the other major women’s organizations. First, the good:

🏀WNBA: The W leads the way (of course) when it comes to maternity leave, but even their progress is only recent. Storytime: In 2018, WNBA star Skylar Diggins-Smith played while pregnant and “didn’t tell a soul.” And Diggins-Smith didn’t just play, she averaged 17.9 points per game for the Dallas Wings and was named an All-Star. What can’t moms do?

  • Part of the reason Diggins-Smith kept her pregnancy a secret is that under the WNBA’s old collective bargaining agreement (CBA), players were only guaranteed half of their (already small) salary if they took mat leave.
  • Luckily, the league made herstory with their new CBA in 2020, which includes fully paid maternity leave, guaranteed two-bedroom apartments while on the road for players with a child under 13 and a $5,000 annual child care stipend.

⛳LPGA: Prior to 2019, any player who left the tour for maternity leave was restricted to play only 10 events during their leave year. But, because women can make their own decisions (what a concept!), players are now allowed to compete in an unlimited number of tourneys.

  • We also have to shoutout Stacy Lewis and her sponsor KPMG. When Lewis announced her pregnancy in 2018, KPMG stepped up to pay the full value of her contract, regardless of the number of events she competed in. More of this, please.

🎓NCAA: In 2001, former Sacred Heart basketball player Tara Brady had her scholarship revoked after informing the school of her pregnancy. The heck? Brady’s case went to the U.S. federal court, where lawyers argued that her pregnancy should have been protected under Title IX.

  • Brady and Sacred Heart ultimately settled out of court in 2003, but the case shed light on the NCAA’s lack of adequate protections. In 2019, the NCAA produced a toolkit for pregnant and parenting student athletes. About time.

🚨 Looking for change

SOURCE: ARIN WRIGHT/INSTAGRAM

We know progress can take time, but what better time than the present? Here are the organizations that still have some work to do when it comes to mat leave policies and supporting moms. Change would be the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

🎓NCAA: Player progress aside, the NCAA has to do better at supporting coaches who are parents. We already know the NCAA failed at March Madness, but this goes beyond weights. Under the tournament’s COVID-19 guidelines, teams were only granted a 34-person travel party and despite young kids not needing a plane ticket to travel, they did count against group.

  • That means coaches were forced to choosebetween bringing their kids into the bubble or bringing along a trainer or coach who had been with the team all season. Ugh.
  • And if a coach did decide to bring their child into the bubble, resources were scarce. There was no space for kids to play, no guaranteed suites for families and no child-care stipend offered. Clearly, there’s still a long way to go.

⚽NWSL: The NWSL doesn’t have a CBA, so maternity leave is handled on a case-by-case basis. Chicago Red Stars defender Arin Wright recently returned to the league after giving birth to her son in April 2020, and is shining a spotlighton the NWSL’s lack of support. And thankfully, negotiations for the league’s first-ever CBA are underway.

🏒NWHL: When the U.S. women’s hockey team boycotted the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) world championships in 2017 to protest unequal pay and treatment, maternity leave and child care were on their list of demands. And while a deal was reached in that situation, it’s not clear their fight impacted how things operate over in the NWHL.

  • Similar to the NWSL, players in the NWHL do not have a CBA. Hopefully the recent increase in the salary cap is a sign of even more progress to come.

🤝 The future

SOURCE: AP PHOTO/PHELAN M. EBENHACK

As we know, there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equity in sports, and motherhood and maternity leave must be considered in this fight. Athletes should not feel like they need to put their career “on hold” to become a mother, nor be punished for choosing to become a parent.

  • In the words of sports journalist Holly Rowe, “let’s normalize working mothersincluding athlete mothers. And let’s make sure their leagues, sponsors and fans support them along the way.

🏆Motherhood and maternity leave in sports

May 09, 2021
Source: NCAA Sports/Giphy
Source: NCAA Sports/Giphy

QUOTE OF THE DAY

You can be great at all these things. You can be someone representing, and doing it with class, and professionalism, and doing well at your job. You can be a mom; you don’t have to stop coaching.

— Arizona women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes, who led her Wildcats to the NCAA title game six months after giving birth to her daughter Capri...and graciously handled (literal) sh!t along the way. Can you say super mom?

🎾 Queen of the court

SOURCE: SKY SPORTS TENNIS/TWITTER

When it comes to moms changing the game, we have to start with tennis legend Serena Williams. After winning the 2017 Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant (imagine?), Serena faced life-threatening health complications soon after the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in September 2017.

Williams also led the way on the court. Prior to taking mat leave in April 2017, she was ranked No. 1 in the world. But upon returning to competition in February 2018, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) ranked Williams No. 453. Sorry, WTF?

  • Luckily, Serena speaking out about her situation prompted change. Now, if a player takes a leave of absence due to pregnancy, injury or illness, their ranking freezes and that “special ranking” can be used to gain entry into tournaments upon return.

Along with the rankings rule change, the WTA also made dress code-related policy changes in 2019. After Williams received backlash for wearing her iconic catsuit (to help with her blood clots) during the 2018 French Open, the WTA updated their policy, lifting their backwards restrictions on what players wear. Her impact.

🏃‍♀️ Racing toward change

SOURCE: TODAY

Back in 2018, six-time Olympic track & field gold medalist Allyson Felix was negotiating a new contract with Nike when she announced her pregnancy. And when Felix asked for pay protection surrounding maternity leave, Nike declined, instead planning to reduce her salary by 70%. Once again, WTF?

And once Felix was done with Nike, she testified before U.S. Congress in May 2019 on the maternal mortality crisis. Felix also discussed her own pregnancy health struggles with her daughter Camryn via emergency C-section.

👏 Progress to praise

SOURCE: ELLE

Even with Williams and Felix leading the way, the fight for sufficient maternity leave policies in sports is ongoing. We’ve already covered the WTA’s progress, so now it’s time to talk about how mat leave policies have changed (or haven’t...) across the other major women’s organizations. First, the good:

🏀WNBA: The W leads the way (of course) when it comes to maternity leave, but even their progress is only recent. Storytime: In 2018, WNBA star Skylar Diggins-Smith played while pregnant and “didn’t tell a soul.” And Diggins-Smith didn’t just play, she averaged 17.9 points per game for the Dallas Wings and was named an All-Star. What can’t moms do?

  • Part of the reason Diggins-Smith kept her pregnancy a secret is that under the WNBA’s old collective bargaining agreement (CBA), players were only guaranteed half of their (already small) salary if they took mat leave.
  • Luckily, the league made herstory with their new CBA in 2020, which includes fully paid maternity leave, guaranteed two-bedroom apartments while on the road for players with a child under 13 and a $5,000 annual child care stipend.

⛳LPGA: Prior to 2019, any player who left the tour for maternity leave was restricted to play only 10 events during their leave year. But, because women can make their own decisions (what a concept!), players are now allowed to compete in an unlimited number of tourneys.

  • We also have to shoutout Stacy Lewis and her sponsor KPMG. When Lewis announced her pregnancy in 2018, KPMG stepped up to pay the full value of her contract, regardless of the number of events she competed in. More of this, please.

🎓NCAA: In 2001, former Sacred Heart basketball player Tara Brady had her scholarship revoked after informing the school of her pregnancy. The heck? Brady’s case went to the U.S. federal court, where lawyers argued that her pregnancy should have been protected under Title IX.

  • Brady and Sacred Heart ultimately settled out of court in 2003, but the case shed light on the NCAA’s lack of adequate protections. In 2019, the NCAA produced a toolkit for pregnant and parenting student athletes. About time.

🚨 Looking for change

SOURCE: ARIN WRIGHT/INSTAGRAM

We know progress can take time, but what better time than the present? Here are the organizations that still have some work to do when it comes to mat leave policies and supporting moms. Change would be the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

🎓NCAA: Player progress aside, the NCAA has to do better at supporting coaches who are parents. We already know the NCAA failed at March Madness, but this goes beyond weights. Under the tournament’s COVID-19 guidelines, teams were only granted a 34-person travel party and despite young kids not needing a plane ticket to travel, they did count against group.

  • That means coaches were forced to choosebetween bringing their kids into the bubble or bringing along a trainer or coach who had been with the team all season. Ugh.
  • And if a coach did decide to bring their child into the bubble, resources were scarce. There was no space for kids to play, no guaranteed suites for families and no child-care stipend offered. Clearly, there’s still a long way to go.

⚽NWSL: The NWSL doesn’t have a CBA, so maternity leave is handled on a case-by-case basis. Chicago Red Stars defender Arin Wright recently returned to the league after giving birth to her son in April 2020, and is shining a spotlighton the NWSL’s lack of support. And thankfully, negotiations for the league’s first-ever CBA are underway.

🏒NWHL: When the U.S. women’s hockey team boycotted the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) world championships in 2017 to protest unequal pay and treatment, maternity leave and child care were on their list of demands. And while a deal was reached in that situation, it’s not clear their fight impacted how things operate over in the NWHL.

  • Similar to the NWSL, players in the NWHL do not have a CBA. Hopefully the recent increase in the salary cap is a sign of even more progress to come.

🤝 The future

SOURCE: AP PHOTO/PHELAN M. EBENHACK

As we know, there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equity in sports, and motherhood and maternity leave must be considered in this fight. Athletes should not feel like they need to put their career “on hold” to become a mother, nor be punished for choosing to become a parent.

  • In the words of sports journalist Holly Rowe, “let’s normalize working mothersincluding athlete mothers. And let’s make sure their leagues, sponsors and fans support them along the way.

🏒New York Rangers Fire President and General Manager

May 06, 2021
Source: Bruce Bennett/USA TODAY Sports
Source: Bruce Bennett/USA TODAY Sports

The incident: It started during Monday night’s Rangers vs. Washington Capitals game. Caps strongman Tom Wilson — who has a history of rough play and subsequent disciplinary action — acted severely outside traditional hockey violence boundaries and went after Rangers’ star Artemiy Panarin, injuring him.

  • Though many expected Wilson to be suspended for multiple games, he was only slapped with a $5,000 fine (the maximum) from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, which is led by another goon George Parros.

The backlash: The Rangers shared a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, calling for harsher punishment and for the NHL to fire Parros. The statement was well-received by everyone...except the NYR owners, who (plot twist) fired Davidson and Gorton yesterday.

  • The two teams faced off again in their final meeting of the season last night, and unsurprisingly, things started with a line brawl. The first period alone ended with 20 penalties and Wilson leaving with an upper body injury. 
  • The Caps are off to the playoffs now and the Rangers aren’t, but something tells us that in October, they’ll pick up right where they left off.

The postseason: Speaking of, there’s still no postseason start date. Due to the Vancouver Canucks’ previous COVID-19 outbreak and ensuring four-week hiatus, the regular season won’t end until May 19th, way past the original May 11th playoff start.

The happy news: Let’s end on a high. Team Canada made it to the IIHF U18 Men’s World Championships final after a stunning 8–1 defeat over Sweden yesterday. Canada will now face Russia in today’s final. Watch it on TSN3 at 9 p.m. ET.

Thorns Host Gotham FC in NWSL Challenge Cup Final

May 06, 2021
Source: Portland Thorns FC
Source: Portland Thorns FC

The game: It all comes down to this. After four weeks of play, the Portland Thorns will host NJ/NY Gotham FC on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET in the second iteration of the Cup. And thanks to loosening COVID-19 restrictions in Oregon, the stadium will host around 3,800 fans, giving the Thorns an extra home-field advantage boost.

  • And for the non-live fans (present!), CBS will air the match in the U.S. and Twitch will stream it live internationally. 

The teams: Both teams enter the Cup final undefeated, with the Thorns notching three wins and a draw (aka tie) in the group qualifying stage and Gotham FC winning two and drawing two. That said, the Thorns are the stronger team. After all, they are captained by the GOAT herself, Christine Sinclair.

  • The Canadian legend definitely gives Portland the upper hand, alongside USWNT star Lindsey Horan, but Sinclair will have to face her CanWNT teammate — rising star Évelyne Viens who already notched a goal for Gotham in the group stage.

The off-field dynamics: In other NWSL news, 15-year-old Olivia Moultrie filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league to let her sign a contract. Moultrie, who turned pro at 13, trains with the Thorns, but NWSL rules state players cannot sign contracts until they’re 18 (a rule that doesn’t exist in MLS, BTW). Any chance they can get this sorted by game time Saturday?

A golf super league has been proposed

May 06, 2021
Source: Peter Morrison/AP Photo
Source: Peter Morrison/AP Photo

The idea: A golf super league to rival the PGA TOUR, initially called the Premier Golf League and now the Super Golf League (SGL), has been proposed. We know what you’re thinking: “Not this again?!” But, despite its poor timing just two weeks after soccer’s European Super League debacle, the SGL has been somewhat-well received

  • Word of the SGL has been floating around for at least a year, but with some solid financial backing from Saudi oil magnates, organizers are now ready to get it off the ground.

The set-up: The league has started reaching out to players to join, and only the best of the best are receiving invitations. Golfers like world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and No. 10 Brooks Koepka (pronounced KEP-ka) are being asked to play in the 18-event season starting September 2022 that would have them compete both as individuals and teams.

The payout: If it comes down to it, players will have to choose between the legacy of the PGA and the “money grab” of the SGL. And if they go for the latter, they’ll likely face a permanent ban from the PGA TOUR. 

And even though the PGA TOUR recently announced a $40-million Player Impact Fund for the game’s 10 biggest social media stars to split, the SGL could see each participant earn at least $30 million a year. Uh, where’s our invite?