For professional soccer player Jess McDonald, the first five years as a single parent were challenging because she was traded between six different teams. Sometimes she had to bring her 8-month-old son to practice since she had to share a hotel room with a teammate. U.S. Women’s National Team player: “If I’d have a bad game, you know, my kid would be blamed for it at times, and it was just like, ‘Oh, was your kid up late at night?'”
Charli Turner Thorne, the head basketball coach at Arizona State, had three children without taking a single day off to care for her newborns. And New York Liberty head coach and former WNBA player Sandy Brondello, who knew she’d find it tough if she became pregnant while playing, waited to start a family until she was 38 and had already retired.
Since the WNBA, the first women’s professional sports league, was founded 27 years ago, the industry has been rife with pay disparities, harassment, and bullying, and juggling the demands of parenthood with those of a professional sports career has been just one of many.
Right before the season started, WNBA player Dearica Hamby brought the subject back into the spotlight when she claimed that she had been harassed by her coach because she became pregnant during the season.
Aces in Vegas Six-time WNBA All-Star and legendary coach Becky Hammon has refuted allegations that she bullied her player, Abby Hamby, into being traded to the Los Angeles Sparks when she was pregnant. “Everything” about the transaction, she claimed, “had to do with freeing up money to sign free agents.” The WNBA has never had a policy against pregnant women playing in the league; in fact, Sheryl Swoopes, the first player to join with the league in 1997, was pregnant at the time. However, over the years, pregnant athletes have experienced mixed to hostile reactions from leagues, coaches, teammates, and sponsors.
The two Olympic runners who became pregnant while employed by Nike, Allyson Felix and Kara Goucher, have lately spoken out against the company. It has taken years for women’s professional leagues to establish the infrastructure that players need to juggle personal and professional responsibilities. Dr. Kathryn Ackerman has expressed concern that female athletes may lose their drive after having children. A fallacy, as she put it.
Female athletes who had children while still competing at the top levels are nothing new.
News on SNBC13.com