#WhatIf is a social media campaign to challenge businesses and celebrities to identify one way they could take action to contribute to an improvement for women and girls within the football industry. According to Beyond Sport, Anna Kessel, co-founder and chair of Women in Football, said: “On the anniversary of Women in Football’s tenth season I am extremely proud to see us launch the #WhatIf campaign, standing alongside industry leaders, corporations and individuals, working together to create real and meaningful change. “Ten years ago gender equality was barely even a conversation in football. Now it is firmly on the agenda. Bring on the next 10 years, and an exciting new era for women in our sector.”
A number of large businesses have made commitments and have challenged their peers to make pledges of support to change the landscape for the better. The key thing is that if you aren’t part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem. As a result, companies are holding its colleagues and peers accountable to make a difference. A few companies that have taken the pledge include:
Synergy - #WhatIf Synergy pledged to create one pro-bono campaign per year for the next three years to promote women's football.
Sky Sports – #WhatIf Sky Sports committed to including female talent as studio pundits on Gillette Soccer Specials from the 2018/19 season onwards
Twitter - #WhatIf Women in Football had its own emoji on Twitter to raise the visibility of women working in the industry, and celebrate their achievements
Forza Football - #WhatIf Forza Football made live score updates and results for women’s football games easily accessible across the world
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The NFL announced a few weeks ago that it had come to an agreement with its teams and players surrounding the national anthem. Couple this with the league’s landmark decision to give $89 million to the NFL Players’ Coalition, it would seem as if the league and players were as aligned as ever. However, The NFL’s new policy says that players may stay in the locker room during the national anthem, but if they are on the field, they must stand or be subject to discipline from their team. The teams would be liable for fines from the league, which would be levied onto the players. This is a result of the players #TakeAKnee protests over the past two years over racial injustice seen in communities.
The protest’s meaning had been misconstrued and twisted as a result of our government and the media, resulting in splintered reactions. The anthem is a very patriotic moment and it has caused tension between the league and its players. The league and its owners believe that this is a major reason why attendance and TV numbers dropped, which effected revenue. However, Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, has come out and said that business has never been better. In addition, there were major stars injured last season and TV numbers dropped across all industries, at a higher rate than the NFL.
It seems as if this “compromise” was merely a ploy, as it was not unanimous as the league made it seem. Owners came out in defense of their players and others abstained from the vote as a whole. What can be certain is that this issue is not going away, and for a league concerned about perceptions, it seems as if the league has capitulated to the President’s demands. Of course, immediately after the league made the announcement, the President said that all players should stand and if they don’t, they should leave the country.
If the league wanted this issue to go away, it might have been better off saying nothing at all and letting the very small minority of players who protested continue. As a result, many more players are upset at the so-called “compromise.” Contrast this with the NBA, which is seen as a league that supports its players and the issues they stand for. It’s not to say that the NFL doesn’t believe in this as well, but the optics surrounding it and the questions that arise politically make it seem like revenue was the driving force rather than what is best for the league and its players.
MLS clubs are using June to showcase their efforts throughout the league to foster more inclusive communities. According to Beyond Sport, Soccer For All represents “MLS’ commitment to end discrimination and showcase the collective efforts taking place throughout the league to drive positive social change.” The league is providing an environment for all staff, players and fans to be treated with dignity and respect, and all are embraced regardless of religion, race or color.
MLS players will wear Soccer For All shirts, with the proceeds of these shirts going to MLS Works partners. In addition, Soccer for All will be promoted on social and digital channels in order for fans to join in on the conversation. Local activation will focus on celebrating the diversity of MLS players and fans, Special Olympics Unified Sports Soccer matches, diversity workshops for student athletes, coaches and administrators through RISE, LGBTQ Pride Nights, and other events.
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