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Commentary: Women’s soccer received a major slap in the face by its own professional league

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We start with the best April Fools Day joke of the weekend. Except it’s not April. And this wasn’t an intentional joke.

The Seattle Reign FC were forced to play on an illegally narrow field at a minor league baseball stadium in New York yesterday, since the Western New York Flash’s home field was unavailable. It was a field their own league somehow approved, despite the width being a full 12 yards shorter than their minimum requirement. It was an utter disaster that spurred a ton of comments from national team members and Reign players alike.

Megan Rapinoe tweeted to the league’s commissioner Jeff Plush, “This field is unacceptable. Are you watching this? Why would you allow this?”

Jess Fishlock tweeted, “Tonight was embarrassing and insulting to every single player in this league. It has to be better.”

Even Reign FC coach Laura Harvey risked a major fine by calling it a farce and unacceptable.

All of them are absolutely right. How can a league ask for respect, when it doesn’t respect its teams and players enough to allow this to happen?

The outcry led Plush to release this statement: “Due to various factors, the league office made the decision to grant an exception for this evening’s match. In retrospect, we made the wrong decision. As a professional league, we need to ensure that the integrity of the game is always respected both on and off the field. We did not do that tonight and we apologize to the NWSL players, coaches and fans.”

It’s an empty apology that comes too late. The damage was done – and the result surprisingly stands.

Even worse, it comes at a time when women’s national team players are fighting for equal pay, yet their own professional sports league allowed them to play in a mockery of a match. So much for helping build the league’s reputation and legitimacy.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is notorious for citing field dimensions as 100 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide. Imagine if the NFL approved a game on a field significantly smaller than regulation. Or if the NBA or WNBA for that matter approved a game using just one side of the court. They’d be the laughing stock of the country.

Could you for one minute picture Major League Soccer approving a Sounders match in the outfield at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma? Do you see what kind of joke that is?

And considering the Reign were facing the Western New York Flash, you’d think that somewhere in the 20,000 square miles on the western half of that state…. there would be a regulation-sized soccer field to accommodate the match.

If anyone had a little foresight, they should’ve sacrificed the revenue from a few fans to find a suitable location to prevent the nonsense that actually took place.

These are world-class athletes who deserve respect. What they got yesterday on the field and the league’s subsequent apology was a total slap in the face.