SBD/January 20, 2011/Olympics

Softball Players Choose Pro League Over U.S. Team In Hopes Of Growing Sport

Mendoza and several teammates opt to play for the National Pro Fastpitch League
Jessica Mendoza and seven others who competed on the ’08 U.S. Olympic softball team last week announced that they "would not play for the United States this summer and would instead compete" in the National Pro Fastpitch League, a “little-known professional league with only four teams and no television contract,” according to Katie Thomas of the N.Y. TIMES. They said that the move “holds the key to building a future for their sport, which was eliminated from the Olympics after the Beijing Games.” The players said that the "defection was the culmination of years of discussion about the best way to promote their sport, including with Billie Jean King, who encouraged them to follow her example and those of other women’s tennis players who formed their own tour in the 1970s." After softball lost its Olympic status, the USOC “cut its financing for softball’s national governing body, which in turn eliminated its stipends for national team players.” Mendoza said that when the national team “asked players to commit this year to a series of international competitions that would have interfered with the professional schedule," the decision "became easier.” Mendoza said that players “typically earn $8,000 to $50,000 a season” in the NPFL. NPFL Commissioner Cheri Kempf said that she “expected the league to grow” now that softball’s “biggest names have committed to playing in the league.” Mendoza, who served as an ESPN analyst for the Women’s College World Series last year, said that she “was in talks with ESPN to carry the professional league’s opening weekend as well as the championship game.” An ESPN spokesperson said that those negotiations “were in the early stages” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/20).
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