As the state of indoor women’s football in America continues to come under scrutiny, a group of dedicated and underappreciated women have just been unduly dumped from their respective league. Franchises based in the states of Florida, Maryland, Ohio and Wisconsin are not part of their league’s plans for the upcoming 2015 season.
Sadly, this marks the third consecutive season that teams have been contracted. Last season, teams from Minnesota and Pennsylvania faced the same predicament. Compounding matters was the fact that the Pennsylvania squad had competed in the league’s championship game for three consecutive teams. At the time, their contraction was a horrible example of the league being poorly run and a slap in the face to the women who tried so valiantly to win a championship.
For the players on these four now defunct teams, their situation is an ongoing example of the tragedy concerning the women who compete in this league. Of note, all the players throughout the league’s dismal history have never been the recipients of any compensation. Instead, they were the recipients of criticism, intimidation and verbal abuse.
Said players were expected to sell tickets and face benching if certain quotas were not met. In addition, players were levied to fines if conduct was deemed inappropriate (somewhat ironic concerning that there is no compensation to begin with). Forced to wear multiple hats as athletes, sex symbols, sales representatives, fund raisers and overall ambassadors for the league, the poor treatment reflected an overall lack of class.
The remarkable sacrifices of the players, whose personal lives were affected by continuous practice and charitable endeavors, all in the name of their team, were not even acknowledged in the aftermath of their indoor football careers being abruptly altered. Taking into account that a player from the Wisconsin team nearly lost her life last season in a game that took place in Nevada, the league has shown a serious lack of leadership, choosing to sweep problems under the rug, rather than work towards solving them.
Perhaps more damaging is the working relationships that have broken with coaches. Of note, the Maryland and Wisconsin teams both featured head coaches that were not only former competitors in the NFL, but also Super Bowl champions. These individuals not only earned the respect of their players, but added a credible, major league feeling. Taking into account the strong bonds of friendship that exist within pro football, there is no question that these disillusioned coaches will never refer anyone of significant pro background to serve in any capacity with this league.
Aggravating matters is the fact that the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2014 actually played on the Florida team. For her efforts, she is rewarded by not having a team to play for. Although some of her teammates have opted to suit up for a rival in Georgia, it hardly makes up for a group of women who spent the last four seasons trying to build momentum in the Sunshine State.
An intriguing element considering the MVP is that she was one of a handful of Florida players who accepted the league’s offer to play in the second season of the league’s Australian version. Before the second season even began, it was announced that all regular season games were being cancelled, stranding over a dozen players.
Following this debacle, a new female football league sprouted in Australia. The vast majority of the players stayed and participated in the rival league’s inaugural event; the Nations Cup, featuring national teams comprised of the United States, New Zealand and host country Australia. As a side note, several players from the Florida and Ohio teams donned the US colors to participate. Upon the players return to the United States, the bombshell was dropped about the contraction.
Although there is no factual evidence to support such a decision, the US league’s poor track record and continuously worsening reputation certainly augments conversation that this was a premeditated and malicious act of attrition. What certainly exists as fact is that these players are treated as nothing more than disposable.
The bridges burnt with the players and fans in these respective markets means that a league which is already on life support can never return there in the future. Unfortunately for the league, the number of markets that have felt betrayed is far bigger than the remaining teams still existing today.
For the players that remain, how can they still approach the league with any confidence? There is no question that the women of indoor football are hard-working, dedicated and very confident, strong women that deserve the admiration of the fans. Yet, the parallel is that they are also looking over their shoulders, cautiously curious as to whether their efforts will end up in vain. Although the league shall reach its inevitable end, fans can only hope that these same women will show an even greater courage, and work together towards emulating the Australian example and launch a new league, preventing such horrible occurrences from happening again.