Bill Lynch is not Dan Borislow.
He is not the next iteration of a man who paraded elite athletes for his own amusement until the legal ramifications caught up to him. While we may be inclined to conflate his decision and the greater narrative of the Washington Spirit organization into a sort of convoluted doomsday scenario, Lynch will not cause the imminent implosion of the National Women’s Soccer League. However, we really cannot consider the Orlando Pride’s acquisition of Ali Krieger in exchange for their second-overall spot in the Distribution Ranking Order to be a true “trade” facilitated by the Washington Spirit.
A trade in professional sports implies an exchange of one team’s assets for another that has been negotiated and agreed upon by both ownership groups of concern. As General Manager Chris Hummer could tell you, trades for players or assets in sports are intended to give teams the “best chance at” winning “championships” or whatever the highest honor of that respective sport and league is.
On October 9, 2016, Ali Krieger played the last thirty seconds of her career with the Washington Spirit believing herself about to become an NWSL champion—until Lynn Williams changed all of that. Over the course of a 20-game regular season and a post-season, she displayed unparalleled commitment and class to the NWSL that has not been matched by any other allocated US Women’s National Team player thus far. Over the course of the historic fourth season, the Washington Spirit organization was implicated in a series of rumors of player discontent, petty behaviors, and greater questions of character. With the transaction of Ali Krieger for a likely meaningless slot in the “Distribution Ranking Order,” the Washington Spirit effectively gave up their most valuable player for the sake of Bill Lynch’s pride.
While perhaps not as well-known as Merritt Paulson and Joe Sahlen, Bill Lynch is not an owner unknown to followers of the National Women’s Soccer League after its historic fourth season. To the contrary, he has come into the crosshairs of the larger NWSL audience for his particularly controversial set of hypocritical behaviors.
While the NWSL is hailed as one of, if not the, most LGBTQ inclusive sports leagues around the world, Bill Lynch’s Washington Spirit is the sole team to never have hosted an LGBTQ “Pride Night.” In reaction to calls for an answer to this controversy, he has claimed that he does not want to endorse the personal politics of himself or others by hosting a Pride Night. In classic fashion, he ironically bought his personal politics into the conversation when, at the Spirit-Reign game in September where Megan Rapinoe planned to kneel, he played the national anthem while the players were in the locker room. In response, Ali Krieger coordinated a players meeting to discuss their grievances and published a letter expressing their views that were in vehement opposition to their owner. She had the wherewithal to oppose her owner as an allocated player paid by United States Soccer Federation, whereas her fellow teammates have to rely on paychecks from the team that average 10-20 grand for a six-month season.
Ali Krieger was not “traded” by the Washington Spirit to the Orlando Pride organization in exchange for an equitable amalgamation of assets and terms. Rather, from comments disseminated on a variety of platforms, it is clear she was offloaded for the sake of an owner’s need to control and assuage a perverse superiority complex.
Any and all claims that she somehow asked for a trade are not only definitely false but also besmirch her leadership, sheer athletic ability, and character. When businesses are faced with dissent by an employee with leverage to act in opposition to the goals or politics of the individuals in power, it is the right and privilege of those individuals to dispel and squash opposition. When you’re competing for championships, that’s not the case. The objective is to build the strongest squad with depth in every position. The actions of the Washington Spirit organization in this “trade” do not correspond with this basic logic.
If we’re going to boil this “trade” down into a more generalized statement or larger idea, this was a business decision that is a testament to the immaturity of the National Women’s Soccer League.
Despite this off-season being uncharted fertile ground for growth in the stability and prestige of the United States’ longest-running professional women’s soccer league, this is only the start of the forth offseason. We are still toiling and troubling in pre-kindergarten, with some kids throwing Play-Doh at each other and others not able to able to afford it. The NWSL’s approval of this business transaction is, for lack of a better term, a slap in the face to the talent and stature of Ali Krieger.
However, we shouldn’t be surprised that a transaction of this magnitude, in regards to its utter triviality and lack of logic, has happened, considering the state of the NWSL.
The NWSL is not failing or close to failure; it is a stable league with leaps and bounds to grow beyond its current position. But immaturity on the part of ownership and league leadership is an issue that must be addressed, so as to not stifle its development. There is a fundamental reason for disparity in the assets of different teams within the National Women’s Soccer League, and that is money and expertise. It is not practical or fiscally responsible to ignore the fundamental fact that the business of sports encourages competition and the consequential investment of money.
While the monetary regulations of the NWSL is an entirely different convoluted conversation, it is pertinent to the Ali Krieger trade because she was “traded” as an asset far below her value. To any casual observer of the NWSL or even a bandwagon follower from the World Cup, who only watches highlights of their favorite players, this trade is obviously lopsided. The function of the front office of the National Women’s Soccer League is to facilitate the maintenance and property of the NWSL that arguably reigns as the world’s best women’s soccer league, due to the competitive nature of the league. On any given day, the league’s worst team can draw the NWSL champions or lose to them by a six goal margin (sorry Boston). Amandine Henry did not leave the fur-lined trappings of Jean-Michel Aulas’s hefty pocketbook for a salary cap that is nowhere near her monetary value in European leagues. This “trade” is in contradiction to the best essential selling point and asset of this league as juxtaposed with the Frauen-Bundesliga, Damallsvenskan, and the Women’s Super League.
Bill Lynch is an owner that may not always be a proprietor of the National Women’s Soccer League. As leagues grow and develop in the United States and abroad, clubs foreclose and owners are bought out or forced out. At this point in the development of the NWSL, the Ali Kreiger trade harkens back to the turbulent days of WPS, when Dan Borislow was able to play with salary caps and players like backyard pool toys.
Yes, we’ve moved on from the dark days of power-tripping owners demanding their employees call them “Daddy.” However, we do not forget those days so easily.
The Washington Spirit were 30 seconds away from winning the NWSL Championship. That alone should be enough heartache for the team and its fans. Yet, we’re in the penultimate month of 2016, and the club’s captain—its heart and soul—was just sent away for reasons we can only speculate about. But this trade is more a testament to the present authority of the league, while can easily be stifled or stagnate its own growth. Courtesy of Bill Lynch.
Addendum: The author acknowledges that she did make a considerable number of assumptions about the facts and conditions of the situation. Within the facts that have been provided to the general public, this piece was written as a reaction to the small quantity of information that is publicly available.