Deodorant company backs women’s hockey with $1M

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association announced that Secret Deodorant has made a $1 million commitment to fund their Dream Gap Tour for 2021.

It is the largest corporate commitment ever made for professional women’s hockey in North America. The Dream Gap Tour will feature 125 of the sport’s top players, 38 of them Olympians — including Team USA’s Kendall Coyne Schofield, Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker and Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner and Sarah Nurse. There will be five teams, based in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Minnesota and New Hampshire. The teams will play in six showcase events across North America, and (for the first time) players will compete for cash prizes, and ultimately the Secret Cup.

“COVID-19 affected our positive momentum and threatened our upcoming season,” PWHPA head and Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford said in a statement. “We’re so thankful for Secret’s ongoing support of the PWHPA. The PWHPA is made up of the best hockey players in the world, the fans deserve a chance to watch these women play and our players deserve to be treated equitably. This is a pivotal moment to create real change in women’s professional sports.”

The PWHPA was formed in 2019, shortly after the CWHL folded citing an “economically unsustainable business model.” Though there still is a professional league in North America — the U.S.-based NWHL, which recently added a sixth team in Toronto — many of the top players opted out.

“We didn’t want to just jump into the only option, because it was the only option,” PWHPA member Alyssa Gagliardi told ESPN last year. “We wanted to make sure we were thinking long term about the future of the sport. I was grateful to have the NWHL opportunity, but looking forward, I want to be part of a professional league where I can make a livable wage, have health insurance, full-time staff, all of those aspects.”

PWHPA members say they don’t expect the millions that NHL players make, but they do want to be able to have hockey as their primary vocation. The NWHL last year had a team salary cap of $150,000, and almost every player also held a full-time job.

“As a brand committed to empowering and emboldening women, we can’t stand by and see gender equality unravel,” Secret senior brand director Lisa Reid said in a statement. “Secret proudly stands with the PWHPA and its players to fight for a new professional league to ensure all players — regardless of gender — are given the same chance and support to play. …Countless women are being told they don’t deserve the same opportunities as men; tackling professional hockey equity is our first, but not last, fight. The PWHPA and its players represent the top athletes in the sport who deserve to have the same opportunities as the men.”

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Sue Bird backs Megan Rapinoe on contrast between women’s soccer, WNBA

Seattle Storm point guard and 2020 WNBA champion Sue Bird reiterated remarks made by her girlfriend, soccer standout Megan Rapinoe, about why the U.S. women’s soccer team seems to enjoy more public support than the U.S. women’s basketball team and the WNBA in an interview with CNN that aired Saturday.

Bird, speaking to Don Riddell of CNN’s “World Sport,” was asked about Rapinoe’s remarks in an Oct. 5 article in The Players’ Tribune in which she talked about the U.S. women’s soccer team getting broad-based acclaim for the winning the Women’s World Cup in 2019, and contrasted that to less attention paid to women’s basketball. Rapinoe wrote that the perceived demographics of the sports was a primary reason.

Asked by Riddell to summarize that, Bird said, “To be completely blunt, but also kind of simple, soccer players generally are cute little white girls. And I think basketball players, we’re all shapes and sizes.

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“It’s 70-80% Black women, a lot of gay women. We’re tall; we’re big. And I think there’s just maybe this intimidation factor with that. People are quick to talk about it, judge it, put it down. And soccer, you just don’t see that just based on how they look.”

Bird and the Seattle Storm won the WNBA championship on Oct. 6 in the bubble in Bradenton, Florida. It was Bird’s fourth WNBA title, and she also has four Olympic gold medals. Rapinoe spent the summer in the bubble with Bird. They’ve been a couple since 2016.

Rapinoe wrote in her piece for The Players’ Tribune that the players for the U.S. women’s national team in soccer were perceived as “straight, cute, unthreatening, suburban white girls next door. It’s not actually who we are — the WNT’s racial diversity, though not yet where it needs to be, is improving every year. And, you know, breaking news … I’m gay. But by and large, that’s the perception. And it’s certainly how we’re marketed to a lot of people.”

Riddell asked Bird if the WNBA needed to market itself in a similar fashion to how Rapinoe described soccer’s marketing. Bird, who turned 40 on Friday and has been in the WNBA since 2002, said she was part of a similar “girl-next-door” marketing approach that the league tried several years ago. But she said that does not represent a lot of the league’s personnel. Bird also has spoken in the past about how limiting and restrictive that view of women’s sports is.

“The problem is not the marketing, per se,” Bird told CNN. “The problem is how society and how the outside world is willing to accept the cute girl next door, but not willing to accept, or embrace, or not judge these basketball players who are tall, Black, gay.

“That’s kind of, to