Portland Swifts Withdraw from Western Ultimate League

WUL now down to six teams; Portland board member stays on

Portland Swifts.

On January 16th, the Portland Swifts announced that they would be withdrawing from the Western Ultimate League (WUL), the women’s semi-professional league that is still waiting to play its first game.

Portland cited several reasons for postponing 2021 activities and leaving the league. “The coronavirus left its toll on our team’s resources — financial, administrative, organizational — and it has played a major role in our decision to suspend activity,” the team wrote in a statement released on Twitter. “More importantly, we want to address our unpreparedness to advocate for and create a meaningful and safe platform for the Black ultimate community.”

The announcement emphasized that the team was focused on improving their organization before they would participate. “The Swifts will not be returning to play until we are confident that we can exist as an anti-racist organization, and that we can participate in a league that shares those same values,” the team wrote.

The following evening, the WUL put out a statement on Twitter, primarily addressing the latter part of the Swifts’ statement, regarding the sudden departure of Portland from the league. The WUL noted the league’s work to operate equitably and acknowledged that though they are not perfect, the leaders of the league have been “proactive about committing to cultivating an inclusive organization and being advocates for underrepresented communities.” They concluded the statement by expressing their disappointment but wishing the Swifts well.

The WUL board received notification of the Swifts plan less than an hour before the team announced its departure, leaving league leaders scrambling to discuss and react. Felicia Yang, the Executive Director of the WUL, spoke on the Deep Look podcast last week about the aftermath of the sudden announcement.

“One of the things I’d like to really highlight here is in receiving pretty short notice on Saturday evening before Portland’s statement got posted onto Twitter, our Board responded in a way that was really, really impressive,” said Yang. “We ended up having four or five of us spend three hours on Saturday night talking through what we were going to do, what were our next steps, how do we communicate about this, and what does this mean for our organization. So again, something that isn’t ideal, turning it into–or seeing the good part of it–which is how dedicated and thoughtful this board is, and I think we were able to respond really effectively. We put out a statement within 24 hours, we had a meeting with team representatives on Sunday night, and we’re continuing to work through the ripple effect of Portland’s action.”

Yang also noted that, although Portland has withdrawn from the league, there is still interest from the community to support the WUL. “The Board has voted to retain Aly Steinfeld on the WUL Board,” she said. “She was originally the representative from Portland, and without a team, there is no seat for that team on the board, but our bylaws do allow at-large seats and Aly believes in our vision and wants to be a part of it, and we want to include her. We want her to be there.”

“I was not part of Portland’s decision to leave the WUL,” Steinfeld told Ultiworld. “I decided to remain on the board because I believe in the work that the WUL is doing. I’m excited to continue working to create an equity driven league with opportunities for underrepresented athletes in the ultimate community.”

With Portland out, the league now has six teams — Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Utah, and Arizona. The Swifts declined to comment further on the team’s decision to leave the WUL, which hopes to play its inaugural games later in 2021.

“It comes down to–it’s not the right time and place for Portland to participate in the league at this time,” said Yang. “They’re doing what feels good to them and we support them in that and we’re going to continue on with the mission we started out with.”

  1. Kelsey Hayden
    Kelsey Hayden

    Kelsey Hayden is an Ultiworld reporter, covering the Premier Ultimate League and Western Ultimate League. She is originally from Goulds, Newfoundland, and currently resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She plays with a women's club team, Salty, and coaches an open club team, Madhouse. You can follow Kelsey on Twitter (@hikelseyhayden).

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