Accusations against powerful men are not new, but what is slowly beginning to change is that some people are denouncing the abusers instead of excusing them. But some people are still sticking up for abusers like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, and an astonishing amount of people voted for and support admitted sexual assaulter Donald Trump. Some were confused that Weinstein harassed and assaulted women, given his professed commitment to progressive issues. Weinstein used his public commitment to women’s causes as a distraction so he could get away with his heinous treatment of women.
Just five years ago, Women’s Professional Soccer in United States was selfishly and bitterly taken down by a wealthy and powerful man, all while he publicly claimed to champion female athletes.
That man was Dan Borislow, an entrepreneur in Florida who in 2010 bought a Women’s Professional Soccer team and named it magicJack, after the tech device that had earned him millions. A definite red flag, anyone?
He talked a big game and recruited big names like Abby Wambach and Hope Solo to his team. But he also referred to players as “fucking idiots” and “retards.” A former coach once likened him to Donald Trump. In fact, Borislow once took his team to Mar-a-Lago and dined on caviar and lobster with Trump.
Wambach was impressed by him and appreciated his luxurious ways, which she discusses in her excellent 2016 memoir, Forward:
I like Dan and the feeling is mutual; he sees himself in me—loud and unfiltered, prone to blurt out what others are thinking, his steadfast trust in his own instincts. He invites us all to test-drive his collection of luxury cars, my guilty pleasure, and ensconces us in condos with lavish amenities: a private theater, a spa, a rooftop pool.
Wambach admits that Borislow was prone to horrible behavior, including demanding that players call him "Daddy" and asking them about their sex lives. What she fails to mention is that this is blatant sexual harassment and that it is unacceptable.
The accountability lies with the perpetrator of the abuse, and Borislow is responsible for his actions, not Wambach. It is clear that Borislow bought her acquiescence, much like Weinstein and other rich men do to barter power. Her book mentions that he continued to financially support her in various ways and that there were boundary issues, suggesting that Borislow formed a performative allyship with her so that he could get away with his abusive behavior.
“There are many, many nights out with Dan that I don’t remember at all,” Wambach mentions in her book, alluding that they became drinking buddies while she was a player on his team.
While Borislow was publicly demanding increased pay for soccer players, he was forcing his players to undergo seriously unethical treatment.
• He continued to verbally abuse players.
• He refused to allow athletic trainers for the team because he didn’t believe in them.
• Instead of taking one player with a broken nose to the hospital, he took her out with his family.
• He made players take scalding hot Jacuzzi baths before practice.
• He inserted himself on the field and made the team play against not only him, but his 13-year-old daughter and her friends during practice.
• He personally monitored their Twitter feeds and disallowed players from speaking to the media.
• He took players on walks around the field, scolding them on how “Daddy” wanted them to act.
Many of the lesser-known players on magicJack had had enough of his inappropriate behavior and filed a grievance against him while he was away watching Wambach in the 2011 World Cup. Borislow was banned from WPS games and installed Wambach as the coach. MagicJack and the Women’s Professional Soccer league folded in 2012, largely due to the ongoing legal issues with Borislow.
When asked about Borislow at the 2012 London Olympics, Wambach told ESPN, "It's not always going to be easy. And it doesn't always need to be a feel-good. When it comes to Dan, sometimes you are going to take some of his punches. I was one of those players. But Dan has always supported me, always loved me."
He also paid for her family’s airfare and hotels so that they could be at the Olympics. In 2013, Wambach got married; she states in her book, “Dan Borislow generously offers to pay the bill for the open bar.”
In her book, Wambach details how she dealt with Borislow’s death from a heart attack in July 2014:
By morning, I’m in Florida with his family. Dan was fifty-two, and died after playing a soccer game. He played every bit as hard as he worked— one of the reasons we connected—and while his death is sudden, it’s not shocking. I speak at his service in front of five hundred people. “We love you, Dan,” I say and turn to his family. “I’m here for you all.” I remember the last time I saw Dan, at my wedding. The morning after the ceremony we held an impromptu poker party on the balcony—alcohol flowing, chips piled up, high rollers only. In his honor, I book a trip to Las Vegas, withdrawing fifteen thousand dollars...
Borislow was a wealthy man that paid to be close to talented female athletes and took advantage of those relationships. Wambach has demons of her own that she has bravely admitted to (alcoholism, gambling), and he capitalized on that by blurring boundaries to gain her allyship so that he could get away with abusive behavior. Wambach has since retired and is championing many worthy causes on her own and with her partner, the author and activist Glennon Doyle Melton.
At the end of Wambach’s book, she writes that hard work isn’t “always pretty” but that she learned “no matter how badly you want to achieve anything in life, that the way in which you go about achieving it is actually the most important part.”
The Washington Post recently asked a man that has been friends with Trump for 30 years how he has been able to sustain a relationship with such a selfish person and he responded, “I’ve never needed anything from him.”
But men hold the majority of positions of power, and many women have had to suffer through abuse just to have a livelihood. As Brit Marling wrote, “As a gender whole, women are poor. This means that, in part, stopping sexual harassment and abuse will involve fighting for wage parity.”
Men like Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump carry out their abuse through a confusing mixture of threats and coercion, along with bargaining techniques such as praise and offers of career advancements. There is no such thing as an evil villain that only does bad things all of the time, but there are predators who know how to groom allies and victims alike.
Powerful men who abuse others should be held accountable for their actions no matter how wealthy they may be. Bravely, many magicJack players and the Women’s Professional Soccer league took a stance against Borislow, but it came at a high price: the league folded and jobs were lost.
Hopefully, the National Women’s Soccer League and US Soccer Federation will provide equal pay and hire more women for leadership positions.
Top photo: magicJack players gather at midfield for the start of the second half during magicJack's 2-0 win over the Boston Breakers, Saturday, August 6 at Harvard Stadium in Boston, Mass. photo by Jcantroot/Wikimedia Commons
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Rachel Rose Gold covers soccer for SB Nation. She loves Beyonce, cats, sports, and books. She tweets at @RachelRoseGold1.