Melissa Margulies bravely leads the charge to stand up for players rights

If there truly comes a time in every life where one must stand up and be counted, Melissa Margulies has engaged in such. Employing bravura, complemented by a strong sense of courage, she is setting a precedent by engaging in legal action against her former (and infamous) league of play.

After making countless physical and personal sacrifices in order to provide Los Angeles with three indoor female football championships, the reality of Margulies’ efforts reached a crushing reality in 2013. Suffering a knee injury which nearly ended her career, she made a remarkable recovery. Establishing herself as one of the toughest and admirable women in football, this former USC track star and Pac-10 All-Academic displayed a peerless perseverance in her return to the gridiron.

Sadly, the hard work to recover was met without full financial assistance. As one of the league’s elite players, she was one of the more visible players whose sweat and sacrifice built said league. At one time, she was described by the league as a legend in the making. Despite such accolades, the penny pinching ways superseded any loyalties.

It was a dehumanizing feeling that showed a serious lack of business acumen on the part of the league. Taking into account that this was not her first injury suffered in league play, a broken cheek and orbital bone are other casualties from her tenure with the league. Sadly, it was another situation where a player was made to feel disposable despite the fact that their efforts helped line the league’s coffers.

Aggravating the situation was the fact that she was one of many players who endured intimidation. Hard work may have helped an athlete earn a roster spot, but keeping that spot was another story. From being forced into attending promotional events, threatened with a release or fine for lateness at a practice to the selling of tickets, the reality was that such working conditions amounted to nothing more than an athletic dictatorship.

Having filed a class action lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior County, Marguiles has sent a very serious message that the league’s arrogance shall be its downfall. Channeling the courage of athletes such as Curt Flood, the first to challenge baseball’s reserve clause, Spencer Haywood, who believed a player did not have to finish college in order to play pro basketball and Carl Brewer, the first athlete to expose former hockey czar Alan Eagleson for misappropriation of union funds, Margulies is making a statement that fairness, equity and dignity are the cornerstones for a successful organization.

Arguing over the classification of players as independent contractors, the heart of the 20-page complaint revolves around a lack of compensation. In theory, wages were supposed to be associated to ticket revenues and performances. In addition, the league also had players sign away other rights such as publicity and promotional.

The complaint also emphasizes that the designation of an athlete as an independent contractor was improper due to players lacking requisite control and discretion over their job responsibilities and duties. Represented by Michael Morrison with Alexander Krakow and Glick of Santa Monica, she is looking to obtain general and compensatory damages, restitution, waiting time penalties, interest and costs,

Extending the hand of collaboration and empathy for any other players that felt poorly treated during the time stated in the lawsuit (2010-13), dating back four years from the time a judgment is reached in the case, Margulies is encouraging them to participate in the lawsuit. Of note, Robin Johnson, a former quarterback with the Las Vegas Sin was one of the first to join the cause.

Despite the sport’s potential for growth, any hope of these remarkable women being treated more humanely did not come to fruition. During the offseason in 2013, any effort to question how things were being run, with the hope of simply brining improvement resulted in being excommunicated from the league. Such mistreatment can only create chaos, leading towards a downward spiral.

From out-of-pocket expenses, bullying over fines, nightmarish road trips and no reimbursement for expenses lost through personal work, one could not help but get the feeling that the league had the ambience of a sweatshop, rather than an arena where women could be empowered and heroic. This disposable treatment of players has resulted in too many bridges being burned for a group of dedicated yet disillusioned women. While this lawsuit may result in more bridges being burned, potentially ending more careers, it is a fire that a group of brave yet exploited players will gladly enjoy.

Should more players get on board, a league which was once seen as an athletic novelty, combining beauty, sports and entertainment in an exciting package that buzzed throughout popular culture will be revealed as nothing more than a fallen house of cards.

For Margulies, her decision to fight back is one that stands as a key moment for women’s sport in this decade. While sporting equality is an ongoing struggle that women are working tirelessly to overcome, the feelings of degradation and bullying that were endured in this league were completely unnecessary. For all her accomplishments as a champion football player, this may prove to be her greatest triumph yet.

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Melissa Margulies provides a stoic, character performance for Temptation

A three-time LFL champion, her greatest performance may have come in 2013. Although the season did not end with a championship, Margulies proved herself as one of the toughest and most admirable competitors in all of female football. Measuring in at only 5’3”, her 2013 season was nothing short of gigantic.

Photo by: Dave Samarzich
Photo by: Dave Samarzich

It may come as a surprise to fans to know that Margulies once worked for the AVP (pro volleyball) and the NFL Network. Hailing from Mammoth Lakes, California, she was also her team’s Most Valuable Player in soccer. In addition, she is also a personal trainer and has successfully completed training as an airlines attendant. One of the true renaissance women of the LFL, her diverse background and university education makes her a force to be reckoned with.

With the Los Angeles Temptation entering the 2013 season with the free agent acquisition of Liz Gorman, the proud franchise was confident it would march towards an unprecedented fourth consecutive title. An opening-day victory over superstar quarterback Heather Furr and the Chicago Bliss certainly was testament to those beliefs.

Injuries to mainstays such as Chloe Butler and then Gorman derailed the team’s ambitious efforts. Suddenly, a sense of urgency befell upon the franchise as the pressure of winning another title only mounted. Determined to pick up the slack was Margulies. Despite suffering a torn ACL and MCL in her knee, she placed the Temptation’s rushing attack on her shoulders.

Leading all players on the squad with 179 rushing yards (including an impressive 5.1 yards per carry), she accounted for 52% of the Temptation rushing attack. The next closest rusher was elite quarterback Ashley Salerno with 97 yards. Having had to grace the gridiron with a completely rebuilt knee, it was quite possibly the most courageous offensive performance in LFL history. Her 194 combined yards from scrimmage accounted for 35% of LA’s offense.

Her shining moment of the season may have come on June 29, 2013. With Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California hosting the 100th game in league history, it would come to be known as the Centennial Game. A convincing 42-26 win over the Las Vegas Sin began with a touchdown run by Margulies.

On the opening drive of the third quarter, her strong running game helped the Temptation march down the field while maintaining valuable clock possession. Such efforts resulted in Salerno finding Danielle Harvey for a passing touchdown and the 21-12 lead. Helping to draw the Vegas safeties on play-action with her rushing efforts, it allowed Salerno to complete crucial passes. Finishing the game with an impressive 76 rushing yards, Margulies was a key factor in the Temptation winning the landmark game while grabbing a postseason berth.

For hardcore LFL fans, many would have liked to have seen her season end with the Mortaza Award. Of note, it went to teammate Monique Gaxiola. Ironically, both have proud roots in the athletics program with the University of Southern California. While Gaxiola was a soccer star, Margulies competed in the 2007 Pac-10 Conference Championships in the 800-meter dash, while earning a spot on the 2007 Pac-10 All-Academic team.

While the highlight of her career came in a 2011 LFL postseason game against Chicago where she returned a kickoff for a touchdown, helping the Temptation erase a deficit, the 2013 season overall may have been just as remarkable.

For those who know Margulies, they would not be surprised by her character and determination. Although the 2013 season ended with a visceral postseason 19-12 loss on August 17 to rival Chicago, no one can deny the courage of Margulies. Providing a solid performance on offense with a rebuilt knee, she truly has the heart of a champion.