Get Recruited Faster with a Player Profile on

Professional Jul 22, 2011

MagicJack’s Borislow continues to buck convention in strange sideshow to WPS season

By Charles Boehm

Dan Borislow has rubbed plenty of people the wrong way since becoming an investor in Women’s Professional Soccer with his purchase of the Washington Freedom earlier this year.

He broke the hearts of Freedom supporters by moving the team to South Florida and renaming it after his magicJack telecommunications product. He then elected not to build the standard trappings of a pro sports club like staff, a team website, advertising and communications and the like, citing limited rewards from the financial outlays required, which frustrated and puzzled fans and observers.

In the ensuing months he sparked a series of ongoing feuds with the league over a range of issues, from media access to gameday field logistics, and went so far as to call league officials “infidels” for apparently leaking information to the press.

He dismissed magicJack head coach Mike Lyons and replaced him with a “coach by committee” approach wherein senior players and even Borislow himself have led the team – which prompted further discipline from WPS. (This week, standout striker Abby Wambach was named player/coach for the remainder of the 2011 season.)

But another important component of Borislow’s lengthy disciplinary list didn’t come to light until this week. Earlier this month the WPS players union filed a grievance against Borislow for violating player contract provisions, WPS media policies, U.S. Soccer Federation coaching requirements and the FIFA Code of Ethics, citing “his practice of bullying and threatening players, and his creation of a hostile, oppressive, and intimidating work environment which adversely affects players’ ability [to] perform.”

“This was a grievance filed by the players’ union collectively, on behalf of all players, even non-magicJack players,” said a union official, “because we believe that it hurts every team and every player to have a coach acting this poorly.”

Sources around the league have told Potomac Soccer Wire that a leading factor in the complaint was Borislow’s habit of sending his players postgame emails critiquing their performances, sometimes in strong terms. He also apparently banned his players from using twitter and granting “outside media access.”

After reviewing examples of such emails and other evidence, league officials agreed with the union’s grievance and ruled that Borislow’s statements were “inappropriate, and either included offensive disparaging language or were detrimental to the League, the players and the other teams.”

So Borislow has been “specifically instructed not to appear at field level or enter the team locker room at any time on game day, and to refrain from any form of communication whatsoever with the bench, players or technical staff during and at the halftime of games.

He “must be seated in a reserved area approved in advance by the League” when attending WPS matches, accompanied by the threat of further points deductions from magicJack’s position in the standings, and even a complete ban from all involvement in WPS,  should he fall afoul of league policies again.

But this much can be said on Borislow’s: he’s probably as accessible as any sports executive on earth. The iconoclastic owner has provided rapid responses, via email, to all of Potomac Soccer Wire’s queries, and earlier in the season he even took part in a back-and-forth with fans in the comments section of a blog post by veteran sportswriter Beau Dure about magicJack’s travails with the league.

“This is an old topic,” said Borislow in regards to the union grievance. “I cut a fair amount of players, none of my starters were involved. It’s part of the problem of the league, that a player who is cut has as much say as a superstar. Their needs conflict.”

WPS is eager to capitalize on the popularity and success of the 2011 Women’s World Cup, but the league’s ability to do so may hinge on whether a character like Borislow – who is widely praised for buying the Freedom at a time when the league was facing sudden extinction – can contribute in positive ways, or remain an antagonistic presence.

“I am only in charge of my team, [that’s a] better question for [league president] Anne Marie [Eileraas],” said Borislow when asked how WPS can use World Cup buzz to its advantage. “We will have to figure it out over the next week…I don’t want to speculate what good can come from the league, other than I know the attendance will be way up in New York and Atlanta.”

Is WPS a wobbling league on its last legs? Or can Borislow’s forceful questioning of its status quo shake it out of the doldrums? The final months of the 2011 season will be pivotal ones for the league, and all of U.S. women’s soccer.

Featured Players

See Commitment List