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Ali Krieger: Lessons from the NWSL to the WNBA

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Soccer star Ali Krieger has played a key role in the equal pay movement in soccer. She weighed in on the progress and pitfalls in both soccer and basketball.

With the WNBA season barely a week old, there are early indications that this will be a monumental year. Already, we’ve seen Brittney Griner make her triumphant return to Phoenix, Breanna Stewart break the Liberty single-game scoring record, and the Las Vegas Aces begin their title defense with a 41-point statement win at Seattle.

But with the increased attention comes increased scrutiny. Off-court issues like player pay and charter flights will remain part of the WNBA conversation and, truthfully, they need to.

Just ask Gotham FC‘s Ali Krieger. Aside from being an accomplished athlete, Krieger was — and remains — a key voice in the equal pay movement in women’s soccer. Her efforts were critical in the United States Soccer Federation, the United States Women’s National Team Players Association, and the United States National Soccer Team Players Association mandating equal pay among women’s and men’s players.

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Additionally, the players in the NWSL came together to revamp their CBA in 2022, leading to substantial pay increases and more — though there’s still plenty of progress that needs to be made. On the verge of retirement, Krieger was able to step back and reflect on how far the NWSL has come.

“You see the CBA basically setting that standard for us to say, ‘listen, like this is where you need to be, this is what is gonna make this club and this brand really successful and this is the level that the players deserve and to be valued and appreciated,'” she said.

When it comes to the W — or all of women’s sports, really — the most important part is to keep talking about the issues.

“Having more media outlets talk about the issues that we’re facing really brings things to light and really puts things in perspective,” he said. “Because a lot of our fans and supporters and even family members don’t really understand or have a good grasp on how difficult it is.”

Charter flights in the WNBA is a great example. It’s about more than professional athletes wanting to be treated like professional athletes. It’s a safety concern. Just think about how many WNBA players had to miss time with COVID-19 once the league left the Orlando bubble.

“People were wondering, ‘Well, why is she out with COVID?'” Krieger said. “We have more opportunity to be exposed than maybe the men do because they’re on their own charter flight.”

And as athletes get older, regularly flying commercial while staying in peak physical shape becomes even more challenging.

“[Basketball is] on a hard floor surface,” Krieger said. “It’s hard on your body over the years, and just to have a little bit of an easier travel schedule would really allow players to maybe even play years longer.”

There’s also a tendency, Krieger cautions, to just accept the status quo — particularly if current athletes can make it work. She uses the example of herself as a veteran soccer player vs. rookies just coming up. If she’s flying commercial, she has earned enough miles or rewards points for an automatic upgrade to first class, most of the time. Younger players who haven’t spent their careers crisscrossing the country don’t have that luxury.

Yes, those players are in their early 20s. Their bodies can, for the most part, endure the rigor of long flights during a season.

For Ali Krieger, it’s still a battle worth fighting. She’s seen the results of increased visibility. Not every conversation will be easy, but for athletes and advocates everywhere, Krieger stresses one thing:

“The fight will never be done.”

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About The Author
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg is an editor and writer at Boardroom. He came to the brand in 2021 with a decade of experience in sports journalism, primarily covering college basketball at SB Nation as a writer, reporter, and blog manager. In a previous life, he worked as a social media strategist and copywriter, handling accounts ranging from sports retail to luxury hotels and financial technology. Though he has mastered the subtweet, he kindly requests you @ him next time.