Did one man destroy the WPS?

 
 

How many of us has had a boss we didn’t like? Oh, look at all those hands shooting up. How many of us has worked with, or for someone who was a little bit skeevy? Oh, look more hands. I certainly have. I worked with someone who was known around the office as “The Creeper” who had a penchant for talking to your boobs rather than to your face. Would you be willing to put up with a boss like that if you were well paid?

A lot of times we’re kind of stuck and don’t have much of a choice so we put up with the Creepers out there. In an interesting article from ESPN: The Magazine we get a glimpse of a guy who the article paints as a huge Creeper but one who is rich and powerful enough that some of the most talented people will work for him. His name is Dan Borislow and he is the owner of Team magicJack which used to be part of the WPS before his actions forced the league to halt operations.

The article, which is really interesting but might make you want to take a shower after reading it, paints Borislow as a controlling, abusive, and generous owner of a team that boast many of the U.S. Women’s National Team’s best players. His team still exists and he has retained the loyalty of stars like Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx and Christie Rampone because magicJack still sponsors these players. He has the money to collect stars for his team and has shown a willingness to pay top dollar for them. While the average salary for a player in the WPS was $25,000 Borislow used the league’s lack of a salary cap, not to lower costs as was intended, but to throw money at the players regardless of the whether the team was going to make a profit or not.


Photo from ESPN: The Magazine

He also moved more than a dozen of his players into luxury condos, allowed them to drive his fleet of Bentleys and Mercedes Benzes and treated them to lavish meals. It was during one of these meals that the article claims that Borislow’s charm unraveled.

According to some of the players present, Borislow leaned into one woman and asked about her roommate: “Which one of you is the giver and which one is the receiver?” he blurted out. Then he turned to another player and asked, “Why have you never had a sexual relationship with a woman?”

A few of the women laughed — either because they thought he was amusing or because they were supremely uncomfortable.

Shortly after that dinner, one of his new recruits found herself confused about what to call her employer: Dan? Mr. Borislow? Boss? Coach? His reply says a lot about the man who can make or break professional women’s soccer in America.

“Call me Daddy,” he replied.

Ick.

The article also has plenty to say about the way Borislow mistreated lesser-known players while he pampered the stars. He threatened them with what the women dubbed “suicide miles,” required players to take hot Jacuzzi baths before practice because he thought it was good for them, and many of the players worried that they would not be given medical treatment if they were injured. The non-national team players finally banded together to file a grievance with the league which banned Borislow from the sideline. He responded by threatening to shut down the team if the players did not rescind the grievance.

It appears that Borislow will try to reconstitute his team with the players who are still loyal, or at least who still receive sponsorship money from magicJack. Who these stars will play against is anyone’s guess. But in a world where players have few options, they can go to Europe where the pay is less, they can play for the USWNT if they are good enough, or they can try to eke out a living playing games for $200 a piece, you can better understand why many might make the Faustian bargain to play for Borislow. In a country that is trying to find a way to make women’s professional soccer viable owners with deep pockets and a love of the sport, like Borislow, are crucial to a league’s survival, but this article begs the question about the costs to the players of having owners like Borislow.

Would you be willing to work for a boss like Borislow for the right pay? Does this story change the way you view the WPS or what it might take to have a successful league in this country?

 
 

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