(Image courtesy of NWSLPA twitter)
On Thursday, July 22, the NWSL Players Association launched NoMoreSideHustles.com (#NoMoreSideHustles), an initiative that is aimed at making sure “that a career in the NWSL becomes a viable professional career choice in the years ahead.”
The Player’s Association, launched in 2017, has a stated goal of working with the league and allocated players to “advance continued improvements in women’s soccer…[and to] contribute to the common goal: a world-class product on the field, and to be role models off the field.”
Yet – as #NoMoreSideHustles makes clear – many players have to work another job (and sometimes even more than one) in addition to playing soccer professionally in order to make ends meet. “One third of all NWSLPA members make the League’s minimum salary of $22,000 per year. 75% make $31,000 or less.”
After the announcement of the initiative, many players past and present chimed in to publicize all of the jobs they’ve worked while also playing professional soccer at the highest level.
DiDi Haracic, goalie for NJ’NY Gotham FC posted that she works two jobs. “All my days after practice are packed with trying to find new clients as well as going out to shoot photos for clients. I love what I do but you guys it’s exhausting. I’m fighting for #EqualPay!”
Professional athletes, regardless of gender, shouldn't have to work 2, 3, and 4 jobs to support themselves.— NWSLPA (@nwsl_players) July 22, 2021
The NWSLPA is proud to announce the launch of https://t.co/l6VTKJg7r2! Join us in taking action in the fight for #EqualPay, #FairPay & #NoMoreSideHustles pic.twitter.com/UWjVelV7JJ
Emily Menges, a defender with the Portland Thorns, winner of the 2021 Challenge Cup, who has been on the team since she was drafted in 2014, stated: “All 8 years I’ve played in the NWSL, I’ve worked at least 2 additional jobs during season. I’m eternally grateful for those employers who understood and worked with my schedule, but I’ll fight like crazy so the players who come next can just play soccer.”
Jessica McDonald, a striker who was part of the 2019 World Cup-Winning Women’s National Team, and currently stars for the North Carolina Courage wrote, “I once worked at Amazon packing boxes during 10 hour days on my feet. Head to train younger girls in the evening. Train afterwards myself. All of this while raising my son. #TheStruggleIsNotfake”
It is long past time for all professional women's footballers to make a living playing football alone while also having a choice as to where they play – both globally AND within the NWSL. 👊 @nwsl_players #NoMoreSideHustles https://t.co/9TCKIFzy4Q— USWNT Players (@USWNTPlayers) July 22, 2021
This fight launched by the NWSLPA is not happening in isolation. Within women’s soccer and across sports, players have been calling for equal pay. “Regardless of gender,” the NWSLPA wrote, “players shouldn’t have to work 2,3, and 4 jobs to support themselves.”
The USWNT is also continuing to pursue a suit for gender discrimination against the USSF (United States Soccer Federation). The suit, which is partially documented in the film LFG, currently streaming on HBO Max, was dismissed in part by Judge Gary Klausner of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in May of 2020. Just today, Friday, former and current U.S. Women’s National Team Players filed their opening brief on their equal pay lawsuit with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a statement, Megan Rapinoe said, “We believe in our case and know our value. It’s time [U.S. Soccer] does too. LFG.”
The #NoMoreSideHustles initiative draws attention to the average NWSL salary as compared to the league minimum salary in the WNBA, $58,710. It’s worth noting that the WNBA’s most recent collective bargaining agreement, negotiated by the WNBPA ratified before the 2020 season, included a 53% increase in total cash compensation, as well as drastic improvements in travel standards, an avenue to equitable revenue sharing, and benchmark-setting provisions for maternity and childcare benefits. The leagues, their players, and their unions, should look to each other for inspiration and in solidarity, as the fight for equity anywhere is the fight for equity everywhere.
In response to the initiative, some people ( and by “people” I mean, almost exclusively men) online made what they think of as a “practical argument” against #NoMoreSideHustles: “I would like to see where the revenue is coming from to meet this payroll demand. I don’t sense these NWSL teams as huge profit centers”; “don’t complain if you’re a pro athlete that not enough people want to pay to watch,” etc. (I won’t link to these tweets but you can find them if you search the quotes.) But these comments aren’t “practical.” They’re merely misogynistic. You can’t watch, or fall in love with, a sport that’s barely on tv. You’ve all heard the saying: if you build it, they will come. Well, if you put the sport on TV, people will watch. (This, incidentally, is how I discovered I love college ice hockey, and also how I learned there were professional Cornhole tournaments.) The WNBA, for example, has had a 44% increase in viewership over 2020’s numbers. This is in part because the season is featuring 100 national telecasts, more than any other season prior. And in the NWSL’s first season of partnership with CBS, the league’s viewership grew by nearly 500%. And as more people continue to watch on tv, more people will show up to fields and courts to support their favorite teams and players.
Paying players goes hand in hand with growing the game. And the fight for #NoMoreSideHustles in the NWSL connects to wage disputes in all fields where employees are undervalued. In order for these players to play their best, they must be paid such that their work in sport can be their only professional occupation.