San Diego has an NWSL expansion team entering the league in 2022, according to the latest messaging from all parties, and with the likes of Jill Ellis and Casey Stoney, among others, in place with roles at the club, they seem to be getting along well in terms of establishing the groundwork for the new team.
But it’s worth wondering: Where’s the name? The crest? The colors? The fresh merch?
Great questions. With the expansion draft happening in about two months, which will commence the roster-building process in earnest, it seems past time for the team to reveal their branding and all.
In normal years, that would make total sense, but 2021 has not been a normal year for the NWSL. Not at all.
Most notably, the league has been rocked by a series of scandals. In no particular order:
- North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley was fired and his coaching licenses were stripped after he was accused of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse by multiple players.
- Portland Thorns GM Gavin Wilkinson is on leave for that team as he is under investigation for remarks he made to a gay player back in 2015, related to the allegations against Riley.
- Racing Louisville head coach Christy Holly was fired for cause, although the exact reason has not yet been revealed in public.
- Gotham FC GM Alyse LaHue was fired for violating the league’s anti-harassment policy, but the exact reason has not yet been released publicly.
- OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti was asked to resign by club ownership after he disrespected a player in front of the team and the team collectively reported the infraction.
- The Washington Spirit have had a cascading series of scandals themselves the past few months:
- Head coach Richie Burke was fired by the league after his initial departure was covered up by the team. Turns out he routinely verbally abused players and regularly used racist and homophobic language.
- Assistant coach Tom Torres was fired in 2020 after he harassed players while drinking during a party. The team did not reveal why he departed and it was only made public this year through independent reporting.
- Two of the club’s owners have been locked in a power struggle over control of the team and the league has stripped the club of governance powers in league matters indefinitely.
- The team violated league-standard COVID protocols to the point that they had to forfeit two games this season.
- NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned after it was revealed by Alex Morgan that Baird lied about not previously knowing of the bombshell allegations against Riley.
Goodness gracious, that’s a lot of scandals, spread around a lot of teams.
Needless to say, I think it’s quite likely San Diego have their brand reveal totally ready to go, but the sheer volume of unfolding scandals (there has hardly been a week when something significant didn’t happen in the past three months) means they’ve probably had to sit on their hands, and likely more than once.
Still, with no league commissioner at present (the league is being run by a trio of female executives in the breach) and a cascading series of scandals that just keep dropping, the optics of doing a big bash and celebrating a new team gets awkward pretty quickly. That is understandable.
And yet, eventually they need to release the branding, right? Yes, I realize that Kansas City’s NWSL reboot has gone the entire season without a name and with a placeholder crest, but that’s because the team was moved literally weeks before the season. San Diego has a runway, they just don’t want to step in it in terms of timing because the other teams in the league appear to be a total mess.
While I wholeheartedly believe the truth needs to come out and if there are any other scandals waiting in the wings, we need to find out about them, when the coast is seemingly clear, hopefully we can see the new details about San Diego’s identity before too long. And then, of course, hopefully they can provide a good, scandal-free example for the rest of the league to follow. That would be pretty great, indeed.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.