KUNM

Saturday Sports: A Potential Women's Hockey Boycott

Mar 25, 2017
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And it's time for sports.

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SIMON: The women's ice hockey world championship kicks off next week. The Czech Republic faces Switzerland on Friday. The U.S. women's team are the reigning world champs. They won the last two tournaments, but they might boycott this year's games. We're joined now by Howard Bryant of ESPN and ESPN The Magazine. Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine. These are athletes who've worked most of their lives to get to a championship. Why might they boycott?

BRYANT: Well, what you've got is a strike. And you've got a strike over conditions. And you've got a strike over the balance between being an excellent hockey team, which is what the women have been for all these years, and feeling like they've been treated very poorly.

They earn $6,000 every four years. So you can do the math on that in terms of how much they're compensated. And in this spirit, where we've been over the past couple of years now in terms of players standing up for themselves, you're seeing that right now with the women. I think it's very important for them to do this. If you don't stand now, you get nothing later.

BRYANT: Now, men - men on the men's hockey team don't get paid. But most of them are already millionaires, aren't they?

BRYANT: That's right. Well, you've got the NHL. And I think that this is one of the battles that's taking place here where USA Hockey says that, hey, we're not a professional league. We're not a professional organization. And this is - these are the parameters. I think that one of the big issues that is taking place throughout this is the response. There's not as much negotiation as there should be. The players and USA Hockey finally met in Philadelphia on Monday.

But right now, USA Hockey is about to go into the championship next week and which, by the way, is the first time that it's been played on American ice - American soil with replacement players. Is that what you really want to do? You want to go into a championship with a two-time championship hockey team with strikebreakers?

SIMON: And I read this week, the women's hockey team flies coach while the men's team sit in business class?

BRYANT: And once again, these are simply - for all the things that we talk about with the equality, I think that the real issue here is there are some things that cannot be dictated by money. Yes, the men have the NHL. Yes, the men's leagues are more - they're more exciting. They're more - they generate more revenue.

And I remember when I was at the Olympics in 2010 when the Canadians and the Americans played an incredible gold medal game, the response from the IOC came out was that, you know, this league has to be more - it has to be more competitive or we're going to get rid of women's hockey in the Olympics, which was no message to send after you had this incredible, incredible game. And the women on both sides, USA Hockey and also the Canadian team, were very insulted.

And this is what happens, Scott. You're seeing this across the board. The Women's Soccer Team - USA Soccer is going through the same thing with the women's national team. They're the best soccer team in the world, and they're fighting their federation over conditions. And I think it's a really difficult time right now because it feels like the women - no matter what they do, they can't seem to turn the corner because these federations are really giving them a hard time.

SIMON: Well, Howard Bryant, thanks very much - by the way, you know who's in the studio today with his family is Tom Goldman.

BRYANT: It's Tom Goldman, Yes. The good news on this, though, Scott, I do have to say, is that they are getting support from the men. That's really important. The NHL and MLPA support them.

SIMON: Well, Howard Bryant, thanks very much. But wait, you know who's in the studio today with his family is Told Goldman.

BRYANT: It's Tom Goldman, yes.

SIMON: Tom has to do something important right now. Tom, who writes our theme music on this show?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Not as important, but BJ Leiderman.

SIMON: (Laughter) Little...

GOLDMAN: Sorry, BJ.

SIMON: ...Guest star for the BJ credit today. Howard Bryant, Tom Goldman, wonderful to have you both together. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.