Alex Morgan and the Bedbugs That Ate the NWSL

As with many other Internet shoutfests, it all started with an innocuous tweet:

Can’t blame Sinclair for venting there. Bedbugs are every traveler’s nightmare. The big hype about bedbug resurgence came about a couple of years ago, and I’m still putting my bags up on hard surfaces to minimize the risk of anything hitching a ride back to my place. (I draw the line at the “pry the headboard off the wall, put your bags in the bathtub and wrap anything that you own in several layers of Saran Wrap” survivalism that was en vogue for a while.)

So we have one incident in which a hotel — one with a fairly notable brand name — had bedbugs. This won’t escalate into any sort of —

Uh oh.

Morgan’s since-deleted tweet says “There’s no other way to address continuing problems.”

If you go around and ask NWSL people, you’ll get the response, “What continuing problems? This was a one-time thing. It’s been handled.”

And bedbugs are, frankly, luck of the draw.

For the record, I was wrong about MLS. Alexi Lalas has clarified.

Morgan also mentioned mold, which should actually raise larger long-term concerns about this hotel because (A) it can make you sick and (B) given proper maintenance, it simply should not appear.

None of these nuances, of course, made it into the Twitter response.

But some on Twitter at least shifted blame from the NWSL:

https://twitter.com/et_home13/status/633731045456609280

And there were these clever ones:

And there’s this angle:

The mainstream media, on the other hand, pretty much took the ball and ran:

(From that story: “The bed bug fiasco is just one example of the inequalities between male and female professional soccer players. As a simple point of comparison, the all-male New York City Football Club announced its partnership with the four-star Grand Hyatt back in March. No bed bugs have been found there…yet.” Yeah, that’s a fair comparison.)

https://twitter.com/STERLINGMHOLMES/status/633685515330392064

Well that’s fair and balanced.

Let’s be real clear ourselves here — no one is saying anyone should take a vow of silence over a bedbug encounter. And no one is saying we don’t wish women’s soccer players had it better. If it were up to me, women’s soccer players would live in Dan Borislow’s condos but have a professional training staff at all times. Best of both worlds.

But let’s also acknowledge this — professional women’s soccer is fragile. If you think living conditions and wages for the Ella Masars and Chantel Joneses of the world are grim, consider what Lori Lindsey, Sarah Huffman and Becky Sauerbrunn did when they played amateur ball. We can’t change this just by yelling at people.

You can certainly blame the media. They’ve added the “s” to “bedbug-ridden hotel” without making the slightest effort to clarify what Morgan was talking about with “continuing problems.”

And no one even asked the NWSL. It took me all of 12 minutes to get this response:

“During a recent road trip, a Portland Thorns FC player reported finding bed bugs in her hotel room at the team hotel in Kansas City. The hotel apologized, quickly provided a new room, and insisted the problem had been corrected. Upon learning of the situation, the League immediately spoke with both clubs, and FC Kansas City had already addressed the issue. For the remainder of the season, rooms have already been secured at another hotel. Player safety and comfort is important to all teams of the NWSL, and we are always seeking ways to improve our club and League operations. We regret this situation and apologize to the player involved.”

In any case, the damage has been done. The NWSL is now the league with the bedbugs. And if you care about conditions for players, you might also wonder if this was the best way to go about business for a league that still needs sponsors and a real TV deal to turn the corner.

Little wonder Morgan deleted the tweet. She knows the power of her words with her 2 million Twitter followers. If she didn’t before, she surely knows now. Because as much as we question the national team players’ dedication to the NWSL, they don’t want it to disappear. Right?

So maybe the next time something good happens in the NWSL, she might consider mentioning it?

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6 thoughts on “Alex Morgan and the Bedbugs That Ate the NWSL

  1. Deleting Tweets in an era of instantaneous communication is problematic: deleted because you’re sorry, or deleted because the message is already out and you can appear magnanimous?

  2. In fairness to Alex Morgan, I just scrolled through her tweets the last few months, and she has a bunch about the thorns games, shout outs to the team, alongside what I am guessing are sponsor deal tweets for coca cola and others. So agree that she should have been more thoughtful for before tweeting the vague bedbug comment, but let’s not repeat the flaw by unfairly criticizing her…

  3. “So maybe the next time something good happens in the NWSL, she might consider mentioning it?” Same could be said for journalists, you know?

    What no one seems to mention is that in her tweet she says “there’s no other way to address continuing problems for @NWSL”… this to me is the bigger issue. What are the mechanisms for player feedback + representation? https://www.mlsplayers.org/about_mlspu.html

  4. So, I comment as someone who really only started to pay attention to women’s soccer in 2011 at WWC and have followed along casually with the pro league(s) in the last four years through now.

    I would like to say that the WPS and the NWSL are gangs that can’t shoot straight, but they (along with the players) do seem quite adept at targeting themselves directly in the foot when riding on a wave of publicity from a WC. It seems the players stay out of trouble from saying something wrong about the league during the WWC by excising any mention of the professional league they purportedly support during such time when they have such a rare massive audience. Sigh.

    First, post WWC 2011, we have the MagicJack/Borislow mess engulfing a league trying to grow, that ultimately took the league down. Now, post WWC 2015, we have bedbugs and “neutral site” messes to “steal” headlines from a developing league.

    I put “steal” in quotes, because I’m not sure controversies are taking away from mainstream stories about the league(s), I think they are really the only way it gets coverage outside soccer circles. Well, that and Hope Solo stories seem to be the only things that break through in non-tourney (post-tourney) years.

    Anyway, that’s my long-winded preamble to saying….”hey things are looking up!”, we’ve gone from destruction of a league in post-2011 to a bedbud kerfuffle in 2015.

    Progress!

  5. As a founding member of a W-League turned WPS turned NWSL franchise I’ve followed the growth as well. I agree with ajbr in that the USWNT players as well as the USSF itself are all culpable in the NWSL silent treatment during the WWC. Broadcasters as well bolstered the beloved National Team as the triumphant top of the pyramid. Player interviews were all about making this team, earning this spot, working hard, paying my dues, thanking mom and dad.
    The end effect is that the NWSL franchises were exposed for exactly what they are, mere stepping stones for those who play on the better team. These pro franchises train them, house them, feed them, provide world class competitive environments only to concede their investments to a higher authority.
    It is no secret a pro system is the way to go as 7 out of 8 of the 2015WWC quarterfinal teams were from countries with a pro league. The praise, credit and thanks are wildly missing however.
    Case in point – the Olympic Dream Team of pro basketball players of years past each were identified and promoted as stars from their respective pro franchises. It was the NBA not the US Olympic Organizing Committee who built those squads, received the praise and of course leveraged all aspects of the broadcasts and marketing.
    US Soccer is a foundation not a professional sports entity. It has no direct interest in the financial success of NWSL franchises. The NWSL needs a national sponsor to take control from US Soccer and appoint a business leader with no interest in building a team for any outside entity. If US Soccer then wants NWSL players they can then request them.
    As for Alex, when she can retain a sponsor interested in her skills and her teams fill multiple pro stadia with patrons worth more than $10 a head she’ll earn a more comfortable hotel room.
    As for US Soccer, they might earn the sanction of the NWSL when they recognize who butters their bread.

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