Sky Blue is a Moral Failure for the NWSL

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If Sky Blue FC was owned by a Republican member of New Jersey politics, Governor Phil Murphy may have already called for a special session to ask how someone could own a team and run it so poorly. If Steven Temares, the Chief Executive Officer of Bed Bath & Beyond, had someone interview for a position at his company who ran things as poorly as Sky Blue has been run, they’d be laughed out of the room. And yet these men are the owners of Sky Blue FC, a club that has offered little to no outward sign of change since a run of articles at Deadspin (written by Erica L Ayala and myself), Once A Merto and The Equalizer all reported on the conditions.

Conditions that should have 1) been known to the NWSL and been corrected years ago and 2) set managing director of operations, Amanda Duffy’s hair on fire when they finally got some of the publicity they deserve.

And yet, a few months later and no one is still really talking about Sky Blue FC and its failures of leadership. No one except for Cloud 9, the team’s supporters group, a collection of people who are as dedicated to the players as any you’re ever likely to find.

The media, myself included, have largely moved onto new subjects, and stopped talking about the lack of showers or the shabby conditions. This isn’t surprising, exactly. Media sites generally have a hard time sticking with a story for an extended period of time. Other issues draw our attention, and without any real news–thanks to a lack of comments from players and the team–there’s a limit to how much you want to keep bashing your head against the wall of the same old story. But maybe we should have bashed a bit harder.

The team says they’re changing. But where’s the evidence? They’re still employing Tony Novo, they still think it’s acceptable to have used a trailer as the team’s shower, and playing on the Rutgers field. And there’s no proof they plan to actually do anything but wait until this all blows over and hope everyone forgets. They haven’t responded to critics or supporters, not even when fans have stated directly that they won’t buy season tickets until change is made.

The fault is with the Sky Blue organization. But the buck doesn’t stop there. The NWSL itself has also failed the players and fans of Sky Blue FC by not pushing the ownership to make real changes or pushing for the sale of the team when they didn’t. They have failed every player who steps in to the jail cell of a visitor’s locker room with no access to a shower. They have chosen obfuscation, presumably in the hopes that “wait and see if the blow back dies down” will be a winning strategy.

The current owners have the money to turn Sky Blue in to one of the top teams in the NWSL. They know how to run an organization. They’re in one of the biggest media markets in the country. But the path to success requires responsiveness to these issues. It means accepting the legitimacy of criticism, and making real efforts to meet the rising standards for a professional sports team. Failure to live up to any of that has all but sealed the club’s fate.

Sky Blue FC needs to be sold to owners who are willing to devote the time, money and energy to make the team successful. And if that can’t happen then maybe a quick death is better than the laborious, suffocating death the team is currently sentenced to.

Image courtesy of Leanne Keator