On January 4th, we published an Open Letter to AUDL Commissioner Steven Gordon, requesting increased transparency and dialogue regarding gender inequity in the AUDL. The letter contained questions such as: Is the AUDL willing to commit to a goal of giving equal resources, coverage, and playing opportunities to men and women? If so, on what timeline?
Since we published that letter, many things have happened.
- The AUDL announced their plan to support the Eurostars Tour over the next three years as well as a new media partnership with Stadium.
- Individual AUDL franchises (Nashville, Detroit, and Indianapolis) have all announced their plans to launch parallel women’s teams this season.
- Plans for launching the United Ultimate League (UUL), a mixed professional league, were announced.
- Additional individual franchises in the AUDL are exploring options, and we anticipate additional announcements will be made in the coming months.
In addition to the lack of response to our open letter, AUDL league leadership has not initiated conversations about gender equity nor significantly highlighted recent efforts by individual franchises to support women in their communities. We believe their silence in response to our letter clearly establishes their position, implying the following:
- The AUDL is not willing to give equal resources, coverage, or playing opportunities to men and women.
- The AUDL is not willing to commit to the goal of giving equal resources, coverage, or playing opportunities to men and women, with or without a defined timeline.
- Even with a boycott list of over 800 people and a reasonable request for transparency, the AUDL league leadership does not feel the need to provide a response.
And yet, the AUDL calls on the community for support: come to tryouts, run clinics, play in showcase games, attend games, watch highlights, and spread the league.
So, what next?
Here are suggestions on how to navigate your boycott, from the AUDL boycott organizers.
1. Continue the boycott and demand a response from the AUDL league leadership.
The purpose of the boycott is to fight for equal representation for men and women at the highest levels of our sport, including professional play. We, players and community members, must hold the league accountable for their failure to ensure visibility and opportunity for women commensurate with what they finance for men by committing to boycotting the league in 2018.
2. Think critically about participating in AUDL affiliated endeavors.
First, know that there are two significant levels of decision making in the AUDL: league leadership (commissioner & financiers) and franchise leadership (owners). Right now, there are a handful of individual franchises that are making legitimate attempts to achieve gender equity within their local organizations. The efforts of these individual franchises is laudable and should be expanded! However, such action is not taking place consistently in franchises across the league, and is not reflected in the actions of league leadership. Given the lack of support and direction from league leadership and inconsistent and varied efforts by franchises across the league, individual franchises who have shown progress and commitment to achieving gender equity (for example, by fielding a parallel women’s team or switching to mixed) are facing the question: how can a franchise achieve equal representation for women in their own community when other franchises in their region and league are not pursuing similar efforts and the league leadership has articulated no roadmap for achieving gender equity?
The above situation has created a challenging environment for players committed to the boycott who live in communities with franchises that are trying to make significant changes to achieve equal gender representation. We have received many questions about what individual players should be doing and want to share our thoughts. Here is our advice on how to approach the following situations:
I’ve been asked to run AUDL clinics/youth events this year. Should I?
We believe that although AUDL clinics do help to promote ultimate to a large youth population, and do (sometimes) put women in front of these youth as coaches, this opportunity is minimized and overshadowed by the reality that these women do not have the opportunity to play in the league they are being asked to promote. We believe that declining an invitation to participate, engaging the organizers in meaningful dialogue, and explaining your choice to your community can be more powerful than participating in an inequitable system. Additionally, there are often other avenues available to run clinics and expose young people to our sport that prioritize equity.
I’ve been given the opportunity to play in AUDL affiliated showcase game(s) this year. Should I? The AUDL League Leadership has committed to supporting 8 games of women’s ultimate in 2018 through the Eurostars Tour. If we look at the numbers, it is less than 5% of the number of men’s ultimate games they will be supporting in 2018. We believe the league can do more, and that we should not settle for a fraction of representation, resources, and opportunities for women.
As far as additional showcase games, we hold a similar stance. These games are a very small fraction of the opportunities the men in our sport are receiving. We believe that by taking radical action and not participating in these games, we can in turn affect the most change.
I’ve been given the opportunity to try out for a women’s or a mixed AUDL team in my city. Should I? If they are providing you equal opportunity, absolutely. If you don’t know the details of the opportunity yet, we advise that you attend tryouts, and during this trial process request the following information:
- Leadership: How many women are involved in the formation and leadership of this team?
- Compensation: What will my compensation be in comparison to my male counterparts?
- Number of Games: How many games will I have the opportunity to play in compared to my male counterparts?
- Marketing, Production, & Publication: Will our team be provided an equal amount of marketing dollars to our men’s team? Will our games be filmed, edited, and produced at the same level of execution? Will the same amount of content be produced on all social media channels?
- League Obstacles: If the resources allocated to the women’s or mixed team are less than the men’s team due to infrastructural challenges (i.e. fewer games because there are fewer teams to play), is there a plan to achieve equal representation throughout the course of the season or over time?
- Transparency: Is franchise leadership transparent about the details of its gender equity plan? Do they have clear answers to where they stand on the above questions? Are they clear about what has been decided and what is still being figured out, and who and how the details will be determined?
- Gender Ratio (mixed-specific): What will our on field gender ratio be?
- Equitable Play (mixed-specific): What steps are being considered to promote equitable play on the field?
If the answers to those questions reveal equal representation, opportunity, and resources, we believe that although the league has not committed to the same, these microcosms of attempted equal representation should be supported.
3. Continue the conversation around gender equity.
Change will not happen without education. Over the next few months, it is important that we all…
- Spark conversations with our teams, communities, coaches, and youth organizations about gender equity in ultimate and why equal representation at all levels (semi-pro, club, youth) matter.
- Educate the AUDL organizers in our communities on why working towards equal representation is necessary.
What will happen to the boycott moving forward?
If the AUDL responds, we will engage in public or private dialogue with them on these issues. If they present a comprehensive plan for equal representation for men and women at the professional level over a reasonable timeline, we will propose to signees that we end the boycott.
If additional individuals choose to boycott the league, they may sign on publicly here. We will periodically update the list online.
We understand the challenge of navigating muddy waters regarding your personal position on the boycott, the actions/inaction of the AUDL and the efforts of individual AUDL franchises to support women’s opportunities and visibility. However, we hope you consider that there are other ways — not associated with the AUDL — that we as a community can support gender equity in ultimate that don’t include working with franchises of an ultimately inequitable league.