Why I Don’t Support the AUDL Boycott

by | December 19, 2017, 10:22am 1

I’d love to see mixed AUDL – but I can’t support the calls for a boycott

Let me start by saying that I support calls for the AUDL to transition into a mixed league.  As a woman and a mixed club player, I would be excited to see my division represented at the pro level.  I also think that moving to the mixed format could, with effective marketing, be a financially savvy move for the league.

I also understand that the organizers are explicitly not calling for a mixed league as the only way for the AUDL to achieve equal gender representation.  They identify a parallel women’s league as an option and leave open the possibility of other paths to the goal of equal gender representation.  From my perspective though, a single mixed league is the most logical and financially feasible way to achieve the goals presented in the statement.

That said, I think calls for a boycott are premature and unlikely to be an effective way of engagement with AUDL owners and league officials. Here’s why:

Lack of a unified goal:  If a total boycott of the league is on the line, there need to be clear goal posts for an acceptable AUDL response.  If the organizers are struggling internally to decide what equal gender representation should look like, it’s hard to imagine that the AUDL will do better on short notice.  Asking the community to sign a petition asking for an endorsement of values rather than actions also makes it harder to gather momentum behind a concrete demand for changes to the league.

What a boycott would (and wouldn’t) accomplish:  In a franchise system, financial viability is a key issue for AUDL owners.  If current players and fans boycott AUDL games and teams take a financial hit in 2018, some owners may conclude that the current structure of the AUDL is a bad business deal.  It does not, unfortunately, make the case that a mixed league is a better financial bet.  

The emotional v financial appeal:  The current boycott effort is primarily an emotional appeal – we as a community value gender equity, and the AUDL should reflect those values.  Our values are important, and should be part of the approach.  But putting the onus on AUDL owners to “view a league with equal representation as a better business deal” misses an opportunity for our community to proactively make the case for how a mixed league can create market growth for the pro league.

A short timeline:  With less than four months before the 2018 season, a threat to boycott unless the league commits to restructuring its operations (or develops an alternative solution) doesn’t leave a lot of time for discussion and compromise.

While I applaud the intent of AUDL players signing on to the petition, I don’t think that support for gender equity (or equal gender representation) requires support for the boycott.  I have no plans to stop attending or watching games at this point, and won’t encourage friends and teammates to do so.  Ultimately, we should prioritize engagement that produces results.  An approach that highlights opportunities for the league to earn money and visibility is more likely to get traction than one that begins with a threat to inflict financial penalties, and AUDL’s response to the boycott petition suggests that the league is open to discussion on these issues.

Far from a distraction, presenting a specific vision for an inclusive AUDL is an important first step. My suggestion is a push to make the AUDL a mixed league, whether that means preserving the 4-3/3-4 format of club ultimate or a 4-4 setup to reflect the larger fields.  Our pitch to AUDL leadership should focus on equal gender representation as a good business move, highlighting mixed ultimate’s recent inclusion in the World Games and the growing number of youth players competing on mixed teams.  The organizers should also move away from demands for change by the start of the 2018 season.  None of this guarantees results, of course – but a more focused, longer-term strategy is a stronger step towards gender equity.

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