News has broken that the NWHL is being sued for $650,000 by one of it’s early investors. People have come out of all sides to paint this as evidence of the NWHL’s doom. While the sheer financials of it may make that come to fruition, I don’t think the filing of the lawsuit is evidence itself of failure by the NWHL.
As David Pendrys points out, this sort of flux and disorganization is not unique to the NWHL. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a men’s sports league that hasn’t gone through periods where the future was tenuous at best. Every sports league in its early years has struggled with organization, scheduling, assigning players to teams, or finances. Most have struggled with all of them.
The NWHL is unique in that we’ve never really seen anything like it before. Even the CWHL, the closest comparison, was founded nine years ago (which feels like an eternity in internet and social media time) and didn’t begin with the intention of paying its players.
The truth of it is that none of us know what the founding of a successful professional sports league is supposed to look like, and especially not a professional women’s hockey league.
Obviously not getting sued is a better look than getting sued, but I have no idea what the latter means without any sort of historical context. I do know what it doesn’t mean, at least at the outset:
- It doesn’t mean that commissioner Dani Rylan is crooked or acted with impropriety
- It doesn’t mean that the NWHL is a failure, even if it ultimately folds
- It doesn’t mean that the NWHL was or is poorly organized ( I do think that if you invest an alleged ~$200,000 in something without any paperwork, you might have poor organization though.)
- It doesn’t mean that pro women’s sports are untenable
Let’s remember that.