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Why the Premier Lacrosse League and Women’s Professional Lacrosse League Joined Forces

The new partnership will see the two leagues collaborate with an emphasis on co-hosted events, youth initiatives, broadcast exposure, and new media.

Bailey Knecht




Photo via Premier Lacrosse League

In a major move toward gender parity in sports, the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) and the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League (WPLL) have entered into a partnership with an emphasis on co-hosted events, youth initiatives, broadcast exposure, and new media.

The partnership stemmed from parallel values between the two young leagues — the WPLL was launched by Michele DeJuliis in 2018, while the PLL, founded by Mike and Paul Rabil, kicks off its inaugural season this upcoming summer.

“It was a culmination of six months of in-person meetings, hours on the phone, and an exploration of what a partnership would look like,” said PLL co-founder Paul Rabil. “We discovered a match both intellectually and of company core values. We’re especially excited about this one because it is important for our sports — and all team sports — to align the men’s and women’s games and work toward creating a more powerful industry, but also to focus on correcting historicals around gender gaps in sports.”

DeJuliis, who serves as CEO of the WPLL, added that the partnership originated from a shared commitment to providing players with a top-notch experience on and off the field.

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“Honestly, we are 100 percent dedicated to making this experience great,” she said. “Of course, money is always important, but providing the opportunity to play at a high level and build their brands, showcase their talent, connect with the next generation, and grow as amazing players — that is our focus. I think Paul is the same way. He really values what lacrosse has given him, like I value what it’s given me, and it’s at the forefront of our minds.”

The collaboration will take advantage of a business model aimed at bolstering the PLL and WPLL brands using new media and technology.

“I think we have that major focus, getting it across as many media platforms as we can,” DeJuliis said. “Obviously, with us partnering with the men, it gives us even more opportunities.”

“We believe that these two groups are far better together,” Rabil added. “There are tactical ways to deploy it, from both a commercial business standpoint and so that players feel that unification — co-hosting events, combining our commercial assets to work with brands, and a broader distribution of our athletes and games.”

The co-hosting aspect will take shape in the form of joint events held by the leagues, showcasing men’s and women’s players on the same stage.

“One example is, we’ll have a major-market city where WPLL and PLL teams are playing, and we will each have games played that weekend, and a single ticket will get you access to both games,” Rabil said.

The leagues also plan to work together to host youth initiatives — something the WPLL has prioritized since its origin.

“(The WPLL) has done a terrific job with this, taking players into existing markets where teams play, and new markets, and having them interact with women’s players, to hosting tournaments,” Rabil said. “We have a similar initiative, with the PLL Academy. It will be similar to co-hosting game weekends, where we are co-hosting youth events with both men’s and women’s players.”

“We all know how important this is for young boys and girls to see two individual pro leagues supporting one another, respecting one another, and how important that life lesson is,” added DeJuliis. “It’s critical to the development and success of boys and girls.”

The partnership was a natural fit for Rabil and the PLL, considering that the league was created with inclusion and equality in mind from the get-go.

“For us, we’re building our business around core values like critical thinking, unifying, diversification and inclusion,” Rabil said. “The latter, for us, stems from a number of areas, from the partnership with the women’s pro lacrosse game, to speaking on behalf of groups that have been primarily under-serviced and under-amplified, like Native Americans who were the initial lacrosse creators, and African Americans and Hispanics who play but don’t have the same access to the sport as white people.”

Unlike many partnerships in which the men’s league was established before the women’s — such as the NHL and NWHL and the NBA and WNBA — the WPLL was founded just prior to the PLL. As a result, the PLL will look to the WPLL as an example, and the two will collaborate as equals, rather than facing an uneven power dynamic from the inception of the partnership.

“We’re really excited because, for a long time, men’s and women’s sports have been bifurcated,” Rabil said. “We’re basically starting from scratch where the WPLL is two years in, and this is our first year, so this is the messaging out of the gate, and we can have a greater impact. It’s primarily a byproduct of timing, but it’s still an important factor nonetheless.”

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Another strength that the leagues can lean on is the fact that both were founded by those who know the game of lacrosse better than anyone. Rabil holds the all-time scoring record in Major League Lacrosse, while DeJuliis is a former member of the U.S. national lacrosse team.

“Not only do players have multiple strong touchpoints on where sports are going, from the new technology and new media, and the product on-field, but we also have existing relationships, and, in business, relationships are so powerful, especially if they align both from a hard and soft-skill standpoint,” Rabil said. “We have a collective vision of the sport — where our players have passion, the commitment and sacrifice it takes, and alignment on collaboration and coalescing our assets where it makes more business sense.”

That firsthand experience allowed Rabil and DeJuliis to create their own unique leagues, and now, a progressive partnership based on coinciding values.

“We help them as much as they help us, and I see us as being equal, and they treat us as such, and we treat them as such,” DeJuliis said. “We have just as much respect for each other, probably because we’re all putting everyone else first. If we do that, we can’t go wrong because we know we’re following what we think is right for everyone else before thinking of ourselves.”

Bailey Knecht is a Northeastern University graduate and has worked for New Balance, the Boston Bruins and the Northeastern and UMass Lowell athletic departments. She covers media and marketing for Front Office Sports, with an emphasis on women's sports and basketball. She can be contacted at


Adam Silver Wants More Gender Diversity

The NBA commissioner states his desire to get more women into the sports industry. The NBA currently has a 31.6 percent ratio of women in team management.

Front Office Sports




Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

If Adam Silver has his way, 50 percent of the new incoming NBA officials will be women.

That number applies to coaches too, Silver said speaking at the Economic Club of Washington.

How do the leagues stack up?

The following numbers, outside of MLB, come from 2018 reports put together by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. MLB is the first league to have a report done on it this year.

1. NBA – 31.6% of team management are women / 37.2% of team professional admins are women

2. NFL – 22.1% of team senior admins are women / 35% of team professional admins are women

3. MLB – 28.6% of team senior admins are women / 26% of team professional admins are women

4. MLS – 26.5% of team senior admins are women / 31.6% of team professional admins are women

5. WNBA – 48.6% of team VPs and above are women / 58% of team managers to senior directors are women

6. NHL – No report done

Quotes from Silver… 

“It’s an area, frankly, where I’ve acknowledged that I’m not sure how it was that it remained so male-dominated for so long. Because it’s an area of the game where physically, certainly, there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman, when it comes to refereeing.”

“The goal is going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league. Same for coaches, by the way. We have a program, too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball.”

That’s not all Silver wants to see change…

Silver, who has been adamant about getting rid of the one-and-done rule, provided some clarity as to when that might be achieved.

According to the commissioner, the 2022 NBA Draft will likely be the first one since the 2005 NBA Draft to allow high school players to go straight into the league rather than playing a season in college first.

Citing “active discussions” with the NBPA, Silver noted that they are still “a few years away.”

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“I Thought This Was a Good Deal”: AAF Vendors Speak Out

Amidst the spring football league’s collapse, countless vendors are still waiting to get paid for services rendered.

Robert Silverman




Ultimately, it was the little things that best told the story of how dire things had gotten for the Alliance of American Football (AAF), an ex-team social media manager said. Starting in Week Five, social media managers no longer traveled with the team for road games. Even before, they’d doubled up on hotel rooms. The final bit of penny-pinching was the most bizarre: For the eighth and final AAF game, social was told Getty’s photographers would not be in attendance. Instead they would have to rely on “generic images,” making the job vastly more difficult.

Less than a week later, on April 2, the chaotic, short-lived lifespan of the spring professional football league, launched in March 2018 by filmmaker Charlie Ebersol, the son of venerated TV producer Dick Ebersol, came to an abrupt end. A little over two weeks after that, the AAF filed for bankruptcy, as first reported by Front Office Sports.

In the aftermath, stories like the social media manager’s have become ubiquitous. A  former player was sent a medical bill for treatment received during training camp. Scores of others reportedly had to cover their own airfare or were sent four-figure bills for hotel rooms. There was the class-action lawsuit filed by two players, claiming that ownership misled them about the league’s long-term fiscal solvency. Founders pointed fingers at one another after the debt-ridden league came crashing down. All manner of now ex-employees, from team officials to players,  learned they were out of a job thanks to social media.

The league’s bankruptcy filing revealed that $48.3 million was still owed to a variety of creditors against a $11.3 million in concrete assets, a scant $536,160.68 of which remained in the league’s bank accounts. Moreover, the AAF informed the thousands of creditors that any attempts to recoup their losses would be pointless right now, because, per Sports Business Journal, its coffers are entirely bare… “If it later appears that assets are available to pay creditors, the clerk will send you another notice telling you that you may file a proof of claim and stating the deadline,” the filing states.

But like the social media manager, many of those selfsame creditors began to suspect the AAF was on rocky financial ground long before the league officially pulled the plug.

Shortly after Tom Dundon, the majority owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, who built his financial empire on the backs of subprime auto loans, bought a majority share of the financially-strapped league, he started to cut corners, looking to pare down expenses by any means necessary according to a report by Sports Illustrated. “As soon as Dundon took over, our f——— expense reports were getting approved out of Dallas,” where Dundon Capital Partners’ office is located, a former mid-level AAF employee told the magazine. (Dundon did not respond to multiple requests for comment sent via the Carolina Hurricanes. The form to contact Dundon Capital Partners on their website was removed at some point in the past few months )

With the AAF bleeding millions each and every week it remained in existence, per USA Today, Dundon deemed it necessary to scrimp and save wherever possible including on the margins. So vendors—companies that supplied locker room supplies, traveling equipment and more—were approached hat in hand and offered less than the full amount owed by the AAF.

READ MORE: AAF Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 

While AAF officials served as the point of contact, two sources involved with the negotiations told Front Office Sports that the debt-clearing plan was conceived and ordered by Dundon’s financial team. If that meant exploiting AAF officials’ pre-existing relationships with vendors and playing on the faith placed in the league, so be it. As one former AAF official told Front Office Sports, it was “just a shit situation.”

Some of the companies did take the lowball offers, but others refused to accept less, insisting on full payment. It didn’t matter. Both paths led to vendors getting stiffed by the AAF. Dundon’s financial team kept stalling, promising the equivalent of “the check’s in the mail,” right up until the moment when the AAF closed its doors for good.

Now those vendors have been reduced to poring over the bankruptcy filings. They know all too well that, despite being out five or six figures, they’re way at the back of the line, trailing giant conglomerates like MGM and Aramark which are owed millions. And they’re not happy about it.

“I definitely feel scammed,” one vendor said.


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Team IMPACT Aims to Make Bigger Ripples in College Communities

The eight-year-old nonprofit has big plans to continue impacting children, their families and college communities throughout the country.




Team IMPACT Colleges

Photo Courtesy Team IMPACT

Team IMPACT has already connected 1,700 children to more than 600 schools and 50,000 student-athletes, but there are even bigger plans on the horizon for the nonprofit that works to alter children’s lives.

Team IMPACT  began with the goal of influencing the lives of children suffering from chronic or life-threatening illnesses, with an eye toward creating a ripple effect within their communities. Team IMPACT partners a child aged 5-through-16 with an athletic team for at least two years to help increase their confidence and reduce stresses like anxiety, depression and social isolation that often accompany their illnesses.

Founded in 2011 by Dan Kraft and Jay Calnan, the organization has come a long way, and now Team IMPACT CEO Seth Rosenzweig said it’s time to elevate the program’s mission to the next level.

“We’ve done a lot to evolve the program from a nice organization to a truly impactful one,” Rosenzweig said. “It’s in our name, so we should be able to live by it.”

READ MORE: 26 x 26 Targets Unprecedented Philanthropy for 2026 World Cup

To that end, the organization now has three target populations: the children, their families and college athletics. For the children, the program hopes to build confidence and establish a sense of belonging. For families, it’s meant to decrease anxiety and foster a supportive environment. The athletes, meanwhile, are taught empathy and civic mindfulness.

“If we do it right, we get a win-win-win,” Rosenzweig said.

Children are matched with teams throughout the year, with visits at games and hospitals several times during the season as well as during the offseason. The University of Michigan drafted Larry Prout, who became a national story and Team IMPACT’s most visible effort in 2017. Prout is a perfect example of how the children become part of the team and affect an entire collegiate community.

“They really become family,” University of Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel said. “They become a part of the team. And when you’re a student-athlete and you think things are so hard in life, it just puts it in perspective and just helps our student-athletes understand that their connection and the way that they give to the community is so important.”

Overall, Team IMPACT Director of Programs Amy VanRyn said there are nearly 1,500 NCAA and NAIA schools the program potentially can partner with to become a default piece of the athletic program.

“The approach we’ve taken is holistic,” VanRyn said. “We want to build a relationship with an entire campus as much as we can.”

VanRyn believes that, as Team IMPACT’s mission becomes ingrained in a school’s athletic community, it will continue to build organically as a piece of the program’s culture. Schools like Merrimack, UMass-Lowell and UConn all have nearly a dozen children matched every year.

“Once the baseball team is matched, the softball team wants it,” she said. “The competitive nature of athletes hasn’t once hurt us. That’s really how the partnerships on a campus-level start.”

VanRyn says the next step is at the conference level. Team IMPACT announced a partnership with the East Coast Conference and Great Midwest Athletic Conference on Tuesday, who will undertake a “combined effort” to support the organization annually.

“This is a great opportunity for our lacrosse-playing schools to highlight our men’s contests, bring some more attention to Division II Men’s Lacrosse and contribute to Team IMPACT, an outstanding organization that is helping so many young people across the country,” East Coast Commissioner Robert Dranoff said in a statement.

Team IMPACT has also launched a fellowship program for its student-athletes through Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society. VanRyn hopes the program can serve as both professional and personal development opportunities for student-athletes who miss internships and study abroad opportunities while in-season. The fellowship program will also grow Team IMPACT’s influence, she said, and potentially foster more inter-campus and inter-conference collaborations.

An inter-school partnership of sorts has already emerged, as Merrimack and UMass-Lowell have established an annual home-and-home hockey series for the Team IMPACT families. “A lot of these families identify within a disease community or a hospital,” VanRyn said. “This gives them a different community to be a part of.”

Increasing the organization’s geographic footprint might be its greatest goal of all. Originally founded in Boston, Team IMPACT’s presence is still largely restricted to the Northeast. Rosenzweig said a large majority of the funding comes from the Boston area, including its annual Game Day Gala, which brings supporters like New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and wide receiver Julian Edelman and University of Michigan men’s basketball head coach John Beilein.

Rosenzweig hopes to take Team IMPACT national with an eventual $60 million budget, which would represent a massive increase over its current $5.5 million number, which itself is a sizable step up from its $1.25 million operating budget in 2015-16. The target budget includes $2,500 per child for Team IMPACT’s 3,000-child goal by 2022, with an eye toward continued growth.

READ MORE: Oklahoma Baseball Use Effective Communication To Create Positive On-Campus Experiences

To do that, Rosenzweig knows the organization likely needs to look at diversifying and increasing its corporate, university and medical institution partnerships. Team IMPACT has also piloted four regional staffing infrastructure plans in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Philadelphia. Within the next five years, he’d like to add seven regions, including Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Denver and Kansas City or St. Louis, with the growth then projecting into sub-regions.

“We’re at an exciting moment as an organization,” he said.

It’s an ambitious one, too. But Team IMPACT is ready to live up to its name. 

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