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MLS owners threaten lockout, NWSL Challenge Cup draw, and more: Freedom Kicks for 6/2/2020

If you need a respite from the big issues, we’re here for you

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MLS: Real Salt Lake at Orlando City SC James Gilbert-USA TODAY Sports

I hope this post finds you well. I’m not just saying that because it’s a handy figure of speech, but because I really do hope you’re still in a good place. Last night, and really the past few days, have been tough to take. The state-sponsored violence against Black people and those protesting for change has left me broken-hearted and enraged. I’m sure a lot of you are hurting in the way I’m hurting. A lot of you are hurting in ways I can’t even fathom, I’m sure.

This site is a community, and these morning posts are supposed to be light, informative, and fun. I’m probably not going to be able to bring you the normal wisecracks today, but I’m going to try my best to make this round of Freedom Kicks informative, and to make it some kind of respite from what’s going on in the streets. Take care of yourselves, and take care of those around you.

D.C. United finally got back to training, only for MLS ownership’s threat of a lockout to leave the players little choice but to stay home and work out their response. I probably don’t have to tell longtime readers this, but I stand with the players.

Lockout threat is a cynical, callous move by MLS owners | The Athletic
Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio did a great job laying out the case of why this might be theoretically advantageous choice from MLS’s owners, and why sticking to it would really miss the point right now.

Lockout looms as MLS push back on latest offer from Major League Soccer Player Association | ESPN
More reporting from Jeff Carlisle on the details of the dispute, which are not about percentages and nitty-gritty details. It’s hard to get over it when you feel betrayed by the other side.

MLS Orlando Tournament Talks Morph Into CBA Standoff as Reported Lockout Looms | Sports Illustrated
Brian Straus offers a necessary takedown of the actual Orlando plan while also getting to the bottom of the whole thing: Ownership decided they have leverage, and they decided to use it, optics be damned.

Initial reports had MLS giving the players a deadline of noon today (hence the players not training), but that has reportedly been moved back 24 hours:

Washington Spirit learn 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup schedule after today’s draw | Black and Red United
The Washington Spirit dodged both of last year’s finalists in the Challenge Cup draw, but they also missed out on last year’s two bottom sides, so it’s a very middle-of-the-road draw.

From the Owner: Pride Month |
Spirit owner Steve Baldwin has reaffirmed his commitment to hold Pride Night next season, since there won’t be any home games during Pride Month this year.

NWSL sees CBS, Twitch deals as ‘monumental leap forward’ for women’s pro soccer | The Athletic
Per the NWSL, they’ve had larger-than-expected numbers of people watching replays from last year on Twitch, and they’re getting real buy-in from CBS, who hosted the Challenge Cup draw in a real studio rather than making it the kind of streaming-only event that feels small time.

Now, that’s not to pretend that it was perfect. The draw only came with information on each team’s first game rather than the full schedule (which took about 2 hours to come out, and was initially broken to the public by one team tweeting it out), and a post-draw soccer segment involved exactly zero people with any experience or involvement with covering the league. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and this was progress for the league.

Speaking of progress, the Houston Dash unveiled their new away kit, and if you ask me, it’s another really good jersey in the NWSL:

Dundee United midfielder Ian Harkes set to sign a new two-year contract with the Tangerines | The Courier
Ian Harkes is apparently going to get a contract extension with Dundee United, who won promotion to the Scottish top flight with the former DCU academy product as a starter.

Sports owners are using the pandemic as a leverage tactic, and it’s gross | For The Win
Nate Scott draws a line from baseball’s owners (billionaires who are cutting minor leaguers loose rather than pay them peanuts) to MLS’s owners. Not exactly the company you want to be keeping right now!

Cincinnati Enquirer journalist detained during protest coverage | Cincinnati Enquirer
There’s no hiding from world events right now. Yesterday, FC Cincinnati beat reporter Pat Brennan was arrested for simply trying to help coworkers report on the streets in Cincinnati. While he was released within the hour, it’s still telling that a member of the press could just be hauled to the ground without so much as someone asking to see a credential.

Are you listening? | Power Plays
Let’s wrap it up with three perspectives from Black women athletes, including Tziarra King of Utah Royals FC.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got. Be good to one another, even if it’s tough today. Talk to your people.