Poor treatment of injured player a serious red flag for failing indoor league

The crumbling state of indoor women’s football in the United States is emerging into one of the most tragic sporting stories of the decade. Despite women’s football experiencing unprecedented growth, it is doing so in other leagues. Instead, this indoor league has engaged in a downward spiral and the casualties are the dedicated players and coaches whose efforts are beyond the worth of those in leadership.

Taking into account that there is no compensation or health insurance for any who dedicate their time, it is a dehumanizing situation built solely on exploitation. If three words can define the current state of affairs, it would be Abuse against Women. Sadly, a recent injury to a veteran player and the treatment afterwards is nothing short of disillusioning, proving that the league must change its ways if it ever hopes to stage another season.

A reliable source has disclosed that a road trip to Las Vegas resulted in a player suffering an injury in which the emotional wounds may not heal so quickly. Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that what happened before the game was nothing short of adding the insult to the injury.

In an effort to control costs, the league does not support the notion of direct flights for road games. As the journey to Las Vegas consisted of a series of connecting flights, frustrations mounted when no transportation was available to get to the hotel.

Despite promises that transport would be made available, along with a credit card allocated for the coach to rent an automobile, two hours passed with no transport and a declined credit card. The result was taxis being summoned in order to get the team to the Hooters Hotel, a bitter irony.

Prior to the game, a member of the league’s hierarchy degraded the team by calling them a joke of a team and declaring how they an embarrassment. The reality is that it is clearly the other way around as this member is nothing short of a misogynist and narcissist. Sadly, these comments would have an ominous tone on the evening to come.

Straps on the helmet must be tied by players in an improper position so that it is easier to remove in order to appease the league’s demands of entertainment and photography requirements. Despite complaints from this player over safety concerns (as she has already suffered a broken nose once before), they had fallen on deaf ears.

Such insensitivity towards player safety truly reared its ugly head in the second quarter. Hit twice, it was the second hit that would push her head back so that a helmet can sneak in past her faceguard and directly hit her nose. Instantly swelling up and bleeding, she removes herself from the field of play, only to have a trainer take 10 minutes to approach her. Sadly, this does not provide relief as the trainer only provides her with ice.

While the concussion tests at halftime should provide relief, it only creates more tension. How could this remarkable athlete not feel significant strain as the young lady who performs the verbal concussion test has to look off of a card? Throughout this whole debacle, her nose has bled for over one hour with no relief.

Despite her best efforts to go one room over to address her team on the progress of her health, she has to argue with a league official. Meanwhile, the blood is still flowing endlessly from her nose and seeping into her throat. With her passages literally drowning in blood, she coughs a stream of blood, sapping her strength and removing her ability to stand.

Tragically, this is the least of the players’ worries. After two hours of constant bleeding, she collapses in the tunnel. Once again, the suggested remedy is ice and something to place up her nose. The only way that she can receive any serious medical treatment is at the urging of her coach. Even that becomes a struggle as the coach has to try and explain to an absolutely incompetent (or perhaps indifferent) group of health care workers that she must be taken to a hospital.

Despite being eventually taken to a hospital, it is one that does not accept her personal insurance. In true inhumane fashion, the league opted to take her to a facility that is closest to the airport because the league wants its player to catch the 1:00 am flight. Any organization that is counting its pennies that much has no right to be in a business that is endangering the lives of its performers.

The only thing more arrogant than the cheapness is the lack of dignity in ensuring this athlete is being cared for. Another representative of the league was so stubborn about having a group of people join her at her side for emotional and moral support. Instead, it was an unnecessary argument and struggles to authorize only one teammate from being at her bedside in such a dire time.

Such insensitivity starts on the top. The individual who was berating the team earlier in the night is on the phone with the teammate at the player’s beside, who is suffering from severe worry in the hospital. Instead of providing comforting words, this individual displays complete and utter ignorance by stating that the injured player is a big girl and will be fine.

Obviously, this individual has little consideration for the health and well-being of players who compete for no compensation or no health care. Under such emergency circumstances, the league should be willing to pay for such medical emergencies.

Instead, the player is rushed to x-rays and told that she must make her 1 am flight since the league refused to pay for a different one. Concerning the teammate who was at her bedside, she was told that she could not stay with her after 1 am (should the injured player opt to stay).

Despite the medical recommendation that she should not go on a flight in her state of severe pain and suffering, she was on the plane at 12:50 am. This was the one instance that made the league happy. Of course, the fact that she did not have any pain pills until she returned home was of no concern to them.

The real pain was the cost of the entire event; an ambulance bill of $1,034, compounded by a fee of $134 for x-rays, and a hospital cost of $2,105, for a grand total of $3,273. Despite the fact that this player has sacrificed two years of her life, missing weekends, holidays, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries, her reward is to pay such a monumental bill for an unappreciative individual who sees the players in the league as disposable.

Although the players are worthy of respect and their accomplishments deserve to be celebrated, their careers would be better if their gridiron careers continued elsewhere. Their lives have been shattered by suffering emotional, financial, mental and physical abuse at the hands of a person whose actions are nothing short of criminal.

Had such an incident taken place in little league baseball or in a high school sport, not only would the media have crucified the individual that carried out the mistreatment, but the lawsuits and possible criminal prosecution would certainly have followed.

This disgusting individual was nothing short of lucky that a death did not happen during this game as this brave and remarkable woman certainly risked her life. Instead, the focus is on the most attractive players and constantly selling sex. Sadly, these players are expected to be more than just sex symbols, they are pushed to be salespeople, marketing a league built on lies.

In the aftermath of this debacle, the player, who is also one of the veterans of her team made the visceral decision, was made to depart from the team. Considering that her safety and her life were both in serious jeopardy, there was no alternative. In a statement to her teammates, it was not the league’s leadership that she felt an obligation to. Her teammates were the group that she felt sad for, testament to the camaraderie and the bond that exists between the two.

While she hopes to continue playing football, gladly, it shall not be with this discredited indoor league. Hopefully, the offseason can result in her teammates organizing a campaign fundraiser to help with the hospital bills. It would be the type of publicity that may help shed light on the disgusting treatment these remarkable women have to endure.

For the players, aspects of the appalling treatment are such that only other players can relate to. In reality, the treatment of this player is but a small sampling of the barbaric treatment that these athletes endure when suffering injury. Many of these women are looking for an opportunity to extend athletic careers past college or experience the joy of camaraderie, but are drawn into a world with promises of superstardom. Instead it is one led by a con man where lies and broken promises result in players being disposable.

Not only does this atrocious treatment lack dignity, but it is nothing short of criminal. Surely, there must be some sort of labor law that can prevent such inhumane treatment from occurring ever again. Although players sign a contract in order to play with the league, the fact that they are not compensated should entitle them to some basic human rights.

As unsold tickets start to grow and franchises slowly fold, it has certainly set the wheels in motion for a downward spiral. Sadly, it is the players who are the victims again. While the league plans international expansion, a sort of delusional manifest destiny in which it believes it can truly compete with the likes of the juggernauts in men’s sports, those can only help that some sort of karmic payback will one day rear its ugly head on the individual responsible for this disaster.


Teenaged rookie shows great maturity as starting QB for Atlanta Steam

While the sophomore season of the Atlanta Steam has endured a myriad of changes, from a new coach, offseason player turnover and a road contest against the Toledo Crush rescheduled due to poor ticket sales, one bright spot is at the quarterback position. Despite being only 18 years old, Dakota Hughes has impressed coaches and players alike with her steadiness and on-field presence as the team’s new quarterback for 2014.

Taking into account that new head coach Dane Robinson went into training camp with many new position players, the presence of Dakota Hughes provided him with a reliable quarterback. That presence may prove to be a key factor in helping the Steam repeat as division champions for the second consecutive season.

Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Hughes is managing to juggle football with academic commitments. Attending Kennesaw State University as a communications major, Hughes brought a remarkable athletic breadth to the Steam. At the high school level, she excelled in basketball, flag football and softball. As a side note, she would sharpen her skills for the Steam by competing in flag football with Kennesaw State.

Although her maturity and respect for her teammates has won Hughes many new fans, it is something that was reciprocated by Jodie Nettles. One of the team’s leaders, Nettles competed at Wide Reciever in 2013 and served as the backup quarterback to Hughes on opening day against the Omaha Heart. Her acceptance of Hughes and the willingness to provide mentorship is one of the reasons why Nettles is one of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Leading into the Steam’s season opener, Nettles made herself available to share her stories with Hughes while assisting her in understanding the team’s offensive system while being able to analyze the opposing defense. There is no question that Hughes’ ability to help the Steam prevail in a 20-13 opening day victory was in part testament to the remarkable team work that Nettles showed.

The fact that Hughes managed to play through a wrist injury also endeared her to fans and players alike. While she will be benched for the next two games due to her wrist injury, it is also testament to her toughness and tenacity.
Suffering the wrist injury on her throwing hand early in the second half, Hughes never showed any sign of quit. Despite throwing an interception late in the fourth quarter, the Steam defense played hard, retrieving the ball back from Omaha. In the final minute, Hughes would reward their effort by tossing the game winning touchdown pass in the victory against a stingy Omaha squad.

Statistically, she compiled nine of 17 pass attempts for 102 yards and two touchdown passes. Ironically, both of her touchdown passes in the contest, included the game-winning pass were received by Nettles.

Inaugural meeting between storied franchises represents historic moment in 2014 WFA season

In the history of the Women’s Football Alliance, it seems strange that the DC Divas and Chicago Force, two of the league’s signature franchises, had never encountered each other in regular season play. Landover, Maryland would serve as the backdrop for the historic inaugural match-up between the two during week three of the 2014 WFA campaign.

This Eastern Conference matchup started in dramatic fashion as special teams played a key part in the opening kickoff. With the Force receiving, Dominique Jacobs reversed field twice, but despite her efforts, ended up fumbling the ball less than five yards from the end zone. The Divas snatched on the opportunity to recover the fumble and run it into the end zone for a touchdown.

Ironically, special teams would follow with high impact on the next play. With DC going for the extra point, Angel Smith managed to block it. Martha Dantuma grabbed the ball and returned it 90 yards for the two-point score (just like collegiate football, a blocked PAT that is returned to the opposing end zone is only awarded two points).

With a 6-2 score on the first two plays of the game, consuming a mere 10 seconds, the stage was set for an exciting contest. Chicago gained possession on the third play of the game and managed to grab the lead for the first time in the contest. Seven plays resulted in a 16-yard toss from Sami Grisafe to Jeanette Gray. With Darcy Leslie running for the two-point conversion, Chicago enjoyed a 10-6 advantage.

Proving why they are the defending league champions, Chicago capitalized on the momentum, never relinquishing again during the game. During the second quarter, DC managed to trim Chicago’s lead to one-point with the scoreboard reading 21-20 in favor of Chicago. Despite the effort to mount a comeback, Chicago quickly squashed DC’s hopes with two touchdowns for the 35-20 halftime advantage.

The passing game for DC was stifled at times due to a pair of different pivots lining up behind centre. With starting quarterback Allison Hamlin suffering a foot injury in Week 1, the Divas have been forced to exercise other options. Callie Brownson and Ashley Wisonant both played quarterback against Chicago, employing a running game which took advantage of Chicago’s defensive line being called for four offside penalties.

Despite their efforts, neither Brownson nor Wisonant could measure up to Force quarterback Sami Grisafe. Her presence on offense is undisputed as the Force managed six touchdowns on their first nine possessions. Of those six TD’s, three were passes from Grisafe, who went 20-27 with a sparkling 308 passing yards.

Although the Force defense committed some penalties which kept the Divas close, the D came through when it mattered. On the final play of the game, a sack was made, preserving the 42-27 victory. Darcy Leslie would lead all Force players with 16 tackles while Angel Smith registered five tackles for a loss among her 11 on this day.

Perhaps the most impressive statistics belonged to All-World player Jeanette Gray. Continuing to distinguish herself as the finest receiver in WFA circles, she had a sensational performance of 15 receptions and a sterling 252 yards. This performance was complemented by three receiving touchdowns, a rushing score and a two-point conversion.

Nicole Allen becomes newest member of CCWFL’s growing family

While the province of Ontario may be somewhat late to the party when it comes to female football, the Central Canadian Women’s Football League is working towards propelling the game into unchartered territory. Although the ambitious league is still gathering its leadership group and establishing its foundation, a photo and video shoot which took place on June 7 at the University of Guelph Varsity Stadium brought with it the chance to introduce an enthusiastic and charismatic new face.

Nicole Allen represents the passion and drive that the CCWFL is hoping to bring to women’s football. Bringing a breadth of athletic experience to the gridiron as well, Allen is a perfect fit. Having competed in rugby, soccer and field hockey, the chance to play elite female football represents the next chapter in her sporting journey.

From a football perspective, Allen may be a novice as a player but brings a wonderful series of experiences. Serving on the support staff for various men’s programs, she understands the importance of teamwork and the camaraderie that defines the culture of a team. Of note, she has worked in athletic therapy for the University of Guelph Gryphons varsity football program, where she also works with the women’s volleyball and rugby programs.

In 2012, a stint as a therapy intern for the Toronto Argonauts provided Allen a brush with history. With the 2012 edition of the Grey Cup signifying its centennial, Allen was part of the support staff that saw the Argonauts finish its season hoisting the coveted Cup. Such qualification is enhanced by the fact she proudly serves as Team Ontario Football’s head athletic therapist. Her travels with Team Ontario have taken her throughout North America, including Alberta, Nova Soctia and south of the border in the football mad state of Texas.

Of all the elements that makes Allen a likeable personality for the league; it is her background off the field. In addition to her athletic accomplishments, Allen is a highly educated individual. In 2009, she graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton with Honors. Majoring in Kinesiology while earning a minor in Health Studies, she continued her studies at Sheridan College. Beginning in 2013, Allen, who also holds a Bachelor of Applied Health Sciences, has been a Certified Athletic Therapist with two associations; the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association and the Ontario Athletic Therapist Association.

Football fans can certainly expect to see more of Allen in the foreseeable future. An upcoming poster campaign will be graced by Allen’s image, helping to spread the message that the women of Ontario are ready for their turn to tackle the gridiron game. In addition, a free skills camp on June 28 at the Trio Sportsplex in Vaughan (located north of Toronto) will be open for women 16 and over. Allen shall be one of many women in attendance, enthusiastic about this new era in women’s sport in Ontario as the CCWFL looks to value the talent of the player while honoring their passion to play the game.

Elite quarterback Nikki Johnson finding new life with Las Vegas in WFA

Having carved a legacy as one of the greatest players in the history of the Legends Football League, Nikki Johnson is starting a new legacy with the Las Vegas Showgirlz of the Women’s Football Alliance. One of the first female football stars in the American Southwest, Johnson (who once worked as an intern for NFL Films) is living up to her potential as a top-notch passer in the ultra competitive WFA.

For Johnson, 2014 is not only the opportunity to turn over a new leaf, but it represents the chance to prove that her talents, charisma and athletic ability make her worthy of calling herself an elite quarterback. After a difficult 2013, in which Johnson, the starting quarterback for the Las Vegas Sin, admired among teammates and foes alike, used her star power to express concerns over player safety, Johnson was no longer welcome in LFL circles.

Unfair to say the least, Las Vegas Sin fans and players were cheated out of the privilege of being able to watch Johnson compete again. On more than one occasion, Johnson sacrificed her physical well-being in order to help her teams compete in both LFL US and LFL Canada. Despite playing with pain, Johnson always signed an autograph and made herself accessible to fans, the signs of a great athlete.

This season, she has shown that the LFL’s loss is clearly the WFA’s gain. Her dedication, character and desire to win are elements that have helped transform the Las Vegas Showgirlz into the new attraction in women’s football for Sin City residents. Showing versatility, Johnson would even compete at Wide Receiver, grabbing seven receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown. She would also compile 142 rushing yards (to rank third on the Showgirlz) while registering three rushing touchdowns, testament to her athleticism.

Behind Johnson, the Showgirlz rebounded from a difficult 0-2 start to finish the regular season with six consecutive wins and a playoff berth. Their 6-2 mark resulted in a first place finish in the Pacific West division, one of six teams in the WFA’s AFC Conference to earn at least 6 wins. Victories against the Arizona Assassins, Nevada Storm and West Coast Lightning resulted in the club scoring more than 50 points in each win.

Statistically, Johnson is nothing short of impressive. Her efforts in the passing game have helped the Showgirlz compile the third best passing game in the entire WFA. Averaging 211.2 passing yards per game, only the Dark Angels and the Militia have gone to the air more often. This was complemented by an average of 38.7 points per game, ranking seventh overall in the entire WFA. In addition, the squad has averaged 349.3 yards per game, finishing with an impressive fifth overall ranking, while eclipsing the 2,000 total yard mark.

Against the other top pivots in the league, Johnson has made a strong case for WFA All-America consideration. One of only eight WFA quarterbacks with at least 10 touchdown passes in regular season play, Johnson’s passer rating of 115.0 ranked fourth in the regular season, trailing the likes of Allison Cahill, Melissa Gallegos and Katie Sowers. In terms of passing yardage, Johnson’s 759 passing yards ranked eighth overall with her longest pass of the season a 71-yarder.

While the next edition of the IFAF Women’s World Football Championships is still three years away, the potential to see Johnson mature and develop into an even better field general over these three years must put her on USA Football’s radar. With her great speed, complemented by versatility as a receiver (a position she has experience playing), she deserves serious consideration as one to watch for a spot on the US team in 2017.