Through #NoMoreSideHustles campaign, pro women soccer players call out NWSL's low wages

Melanie Anzidei
NorthJersey.com

Waking up at 3 a.m. to handle an early shift at Orange Theory.

Working a 10-hour shift on her feet packing Amazon boxes before heading to coach a group of young girls.

Cleaning homes for extra cash. Mopping floors. Teaching a 6 a.m. high-intensity interval training class.

These are just a few of the side hustles that professional soccer players in the National Women’s Soccer League have picked up to make ends meet — and it’s a reality they hope to alter.

The NWSL Players Association, the union that represents the top professional women’s soccer players in the United States, has been flooding socialmedia since late July with testimonials like these to spotlight the low wages across the league.

Dubbed the #NoMoreSideHustles campaign, the initiative highlights a bleak reality. In order to afford playing soccer professionally, many players in the NWSL are working two, three or even four jobs at a time — all while juggling the physical and mental demands that come with being a pro athlete.

North Carolina Courage's Jessica McDonald waves to fans during the trophy presentation following an NWSL championship soccer game against the Chicago Red Stars in Cary, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

“I have to constantly make sure I load my weekly schedule with enough [coaching] sessions to earn enough money,” Sabrina Flores, a Livingston native and defender with Gotham FC, said in her testimonial. “However, I also have to think about balancing my ‘physical load’ so that I don’t put myself at risk [or] a disadvantage for my own physical performance on the field.”

The campaign comes at a time when the players association is negotiating its first collective bargaining agreement with the league since its founding in 2012. And the association has stressed in its messaging that a fair and livable wage will be a priority in those negotiations.

“NWSLPA will not wait another decade to achieve fair contracts, equal pay, and professional playing conditions,” the association said on its campaign website. “Our goal is to set the global standard and ensure that a career in NWSL becomes a viable professional career choice in the years ahead.”

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Despite the league’s growing popularity — in 2020 there was a 493% year-over-year jump in TV viewership for the league — wages in the NWSL remain dramatically low. According to the players association, about a third of its members make the league’s minimum annual salary of $22,000. Roughly 75% of its members make $31,000 or less. The maximum salary for an NWSL player is $52,500.

Salaries have risen significantly since the league’s inception. Compared to last season, the minimum salary jumped 10% and the maximum salary rose 5%. In 2012, the minimum salary for a player was $6,000 and the maximum was $30,000, according to the soccer publication The Equalizer.

For comparison, the average male player in Major League Soccer earned $398,725 in the 2021 season, according to numbers released by their players association.

The #NoMoreSideHustles campaign, which parallels the national conversation around the United States Women’s National Team’s equal pay fight with U.S. Soccer, has picked up steam in recent weeks.

Former players, like newly appointed Gotham FC general manger Yael Averbuch West, have voiced support. “So many of my friends and teammates and I did all kinds of crazy things to make ends meet. Many players still do. The old ‘reality’ of women’s pro soccer needs to change,” Averbuch West wrote on Twitter.

Organizations such as Cloud 9, the supporter’s group for Gotham FC, and Kansas City Blue Crew, the supporter’s group for Kansas City, have unveiled large banners on the sidelines during games with the trending hashtag in bold letters.

The MLSPA also aired their support. The association wrote on Twitter: “All professional athletes should be able to fully focus on playing without having to worry about making ends meet.”

And as much as this fight is about livable wages for players in the NWSL, its players have said it’s about a much bigger picture, too.

“Training the next generation of upcoming NWSL players to make a living possible not only helps supplement our low income, but it gives us hope,” said Ashley Hatch, a forward for the Washington Spirit, in her testimonial. “Hope that if we keep fighting on and off the field for more, these kids we are mentoring will step into a world where NWSL players are properly compensated.”

Melanie Anzidei is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: anzidei@northjersey.com

Twitter: @melanieanzidei