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What are NWSL, CBS really saying with poorly scheduled championship game?

The absurd local start time of 9 a.m. shows the lack of respect for women’s sports.

Providence Park
Providence Park in Portland, Ore., will host the NWSL championship, but it will start ridiculously early.
Don Ryan/AP

Providence Park, home of the Portland Thorns, is set to host its third National Women’s Soccer League championship game on Nov. 20, the league announced this week.

As one of the largest venues (capacity 25,218) in the growing league, it’s easy to see why the NWSL painted it as the perfect place for the title game.

But this arrangement is an epic fail on the league’s part for multiple reasons, the primary one being the illogical start time of 9 a.m. Pacific time.

“Obviously we want the final to be televised,” Red Stars midfielder Danny Colaprico said. “We feel underappreciated because we want to play at a time that works for our bodies.”

Players and coaches typically have their team meal four hours before kickoff.

Sticking with that routine would mean players arriving at Providence Park at 5 a.m. This is not just incredibly inconvenient, it’s unhealthy. Two of the biggest factors for players’ recovery are nutrition and sleep, and neither seems to be a priority here.

The game will be live on CBS, but some players have said they would rather the game not be televised if it meant a better start time.

In so many ways the league shows signs of evolution and growth. In 2022, the league will welcome Angel City FC and a team yet to be named in San Diego.

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird and the league began negotiations with the NWSL Players Association ahead of the 2021 season to develop its first-ever collective bargaining agreement. The NWSLPA’s main priorities are seeking stability, equity and longevity for its athletes.

But the league had not lived up to its commitment to create a better league.

The championship game is one example.

When the NWSL announced its broadcast partnership with CBS Sports that included CBS airing four games, including the championship, it was exciting. National broadcasts are not something players or coaches take for granted, especially on networks that don’t charge fans extra to watch.

But the partnership covered only 14 of the league’s 120 games on CBS or CBS Sports Network. It is hardly beneficial when only 11.6% of regular-season games are broadcast on a major network while the rest are available only on streaming services.

CBS will broadcast college football all afternoon on Nov. 20, which accounts for the NWSL’s early kickoff time. Still, the reason doesn’t justify it.

Coaches and athletes that make up the professional women’s sports landscape are often quoted as saying an iteration of “you can’t be what you can’t see.”

A 30-year study by USC and Purdue published in March in SAGE Journals found that 95% of total television coverage focused on men’s sports in 2019.

The media landscape is asking for more readers, viewers and followers for women’s sports before they’ll invest in more coverage. But how can women’s sports expect to compete with men’s sports when they are getting only 5% of the total television time?

The NWSLPA launched a social-media campaign this year called #NoMoreSideHustles sharing the reality of what many players in the league have to do in order to make a living wage.

The players association estimates that one in three of its members make the league’s minimum salary of $22,000 a year. In comparison, the average salary for senior roster non-designated players in the MLS is $398,725.

Players in the league have side jobs that include babysitting and coaching. The Red Stars’ Sarah Gorden has modeled during her NWSL career to supplement her income.

The movie ‘‘Field of Dreams’’ made the phrase “If you build it, he will come” universally known. The movie’s popularity turned into a prime-time baseball game on Fox last month featuring the White Sox and the Yankees. The game was so successful Major League Baseball announced the game will return in 2022.

Can you imagine if women’s sports leagues were part of an equitable media landscape?

They might be able to earn a living wage.