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:

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.)

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?