Lack of communication since the league’s year-end fundraiser prompted questions on social media about 2021 plans
After spending more than two months without releasing any official communications, the Premier Ultimate League has resumed public conversation after more and more questions about their return-to-play plan and the use of donated funds resulted in an online dispute. in which the league co-founder and alumnus President posted a racist tweet.
Ultiworld spoke this week with current PUL board and executive member Janel Venzant on a number of topics, including the league’s plan for the competition in 2021, staff and transparency. financial, and the promised response to the Medellín Revolution tournament in Colombia.
Summary of recent communications from the League
In his first official update of 2021, the PUL announced that its board of directors had been formally restructured from two team representatives to one, adding seven senior representatives and increasing the representation of BIPOC in its leadership. The update confirmed that the founding executive committee of Maddy Frey, Angela Lin, Colleen Wright, Nichole Kwee and Bonesaw Kepner had not returned after their terms ended at the end of 2020, and announced the election of ” an interim executive committee to sit for at least the first six months of the year. The current committee is made up of Janel Venzant and Malika Smoot as general representatives, as well as Mariana Rodriguez, Maddie Purcell and Anna Hagstrom as team representatives.
Additionally, paid staff positions in the league – including equity manager Julia Johnson, Commissioner Kepner and development associate Hannah Leathers – were cut at the end of 2020; the organization is in the process of determining what its staffing needs will be in 2021, and the role of commissioner has not been filled. The members of the executive committee as well as the members of the board of directors of the new parent association of the PUL, the PUL Foundation, are paid for their work.
“The PULF is still in its start-up phases on internal structure, programming and external communication,” the PULF board said in a statement to Ultiworld. “We are an organization almost entirely run by women from BIPOC, and we pay our officers for their work as the foundation becomes operational. We will be contacting the community with updates in the near future.
These developments follow a period of major organizational restructuring in the league over the previous year. A letter published to stakeholders in June 2020 detailed the PUL’s commitment to refocus its mission on anti-racism and activism; the letter listed nine goals for the league, including raising funds for black-led organizations, creating new leadership positions for BIPOC, prioritizing compensation for color council members, and using accounts social media campaign to amplify BIPOC’s voices. An August update announced the league’s partnership with the NINA collective, an equity-focused advisory group that would assist the PUL in their restructuring process and still work with the league today.
In December 2020, the PUL launched a fundraiser called “#ThisLeague” with the goal of raising $ 60,000 to “enable our sustainability in 2021 and support our work on racial equity and anti-oppression in the ultimate and professional sport “.
Many PUL supporters took to social media to promote fundraising and encourage people to donate to #ThisLeague, making a community effort to collect donations through DIY efforts including Twitch feeds, art commissions, Zoom events and pledges for likes. By the last day of fundraising, Dec. 31, the league had surpassed its goal with a total of $ 60,712 raised with hours to spare.
But ahead of the March 9 update, the league’s lack of information on their plans for 2021 raised questions about how that money would be spent.
“In the short term, the PUL has its work to do if we are to continue and expand our commitment to healthy and sustainable growth,” Venzant said in a statement. “To this end, the PUL continues its work to become an anti-racist organization, ensure to create a return-to-play plan that prioritizes fairness and safety for players and fans, increase fan engagement. , seek stable and reliable sources of income, and think outside the box to enable the long-term success of the organization. The goals we have set for ourselves are ambitious and will take more than six months to achieve, but I have no doubts that the new board will continue PUL’s trend towards progress.
Additionally, Venzant told Ultiworld that the league will be releasing a more comprehensive update on the total amount of funds raised, including matching donations and the use of funds in the coming weeks.
Social media questions
In the first two months of 2020 – and with no league updates since its fundraising in December – some members of the ultimate online community have started to wonder about the lack of communication from the PUL on a potential 2021 season, as well as on its silence. on social media channels. After scattered comments from various users on Twitter and Reddit, things escalated this weekend when Delrico Johnson, an American club and player in the Ultimate Disc League and activist in the ultimate community, tweeted at PUL, looking for an update on several aspects of their operation.
Johnson commented on the league’s lack of communication so far in 2021, including during Black History Month in February. He also noted that the league had two very successful fundraisers in 2020, the One-Player Sponsorship Team campaign and the #ThisLeague campaign.1 and asked how the money was being used, saying they weren’t ready to pay their expenses in the New Year.
With AUDL’s recent announcement of their return to play plan and no similar announcement from the PUL, he said he felt like “it’s 2015 everywhere with AUDL lining up its league and women forced to fend for themselves.”
Johnson’s tweets elicited significant positive engagement, including likes, retweets, and supporting comments from many of the ultimate community members who had supported the PUL or the #ThisLeague campaign. Although he didn’t tag the @PremierUltimate account directly, his tweet drew responses from current and former board members in their own replies and discussion threads.
In a thread on her personal account, Leah Tsinajinnie – who currently sits on the board of directors of the PUL Foundation – expressed his frustration with the idea that the PUL and PULF should show “IMMEDIATE results in 4-5 months”, highlighting the organization’s emphasis on long-term structural work rather than short-term “performative actions” that are more visible to funders. Johnson responded and a back-and-forth followed several discussions in which Tsinajinnie questioned Johnson’s intention, perceiving his tweets as a bad faith attack, with Johnson insisting his only goal was to get answers to his questions.
As Johnson and Tsinajinnie’s conversation continued, Maddy Frey – co-founder and former president of the PUL – joined us in supporting Tsinajinnie, to affirm that Johnson’s claims were unfounded and that he had not “done his homework”. Frey then quoted Tsinajinnie’s tweet about the predominantly white ultimate community enjoying the drama of the exchange, saying, “AMEN. [Delrico], it’s a looooootta of white people who love your tweets. Is this to whom you are an accountant? Who are you speaking on behalf of?
The tweet was quickly condemned. Frey, who then locked his Twitter account and deleted the tweet, quickly apologized: “After a crash course in uncle tomming (Thank you [Anraya Palmer]) I see I just did this for [Johnson] – accusing him of speaking on behalf of whites when he clearly speaks for himself. I am really sorry.”
On March 9, the PUL released a statement on Twitter condemning Frey’s tweet:
Frey and the PUL both declined to comment further on the Ultiworld incident.
Revolution tournament response
A controversy that arose during league fundraising fueled some of the questions about league updates: the organization and participation of Medellín Revolution in an ultimate tournament that at times lacked COVID-19 safety rules.
At the end of December, the PUL tweeted: “We recognize the discussion around the return to the game of Revolution. We are in conversation [with] their leadership and discuss the next steps publicly as soon as possible. We ask for patience as we center our relationship [with] their leaders and work to seek accountability together.
Since that tweet, the PUL has not commented publicly on how it has approached the situation with Revolution.
Venzant said that dealing with the situation of the Revolution was complicated because “it is an international team playing in a pandemic which is a club team but also a pro team”.2 As a result, the PUL decided that there must be a clear line between Revolution’s operations as an independent club team and its operations as a member of a semi-professional league. That means different names and brands, and setting the same rules for all future club teams who might want to go pro.
Today on Instagram, Revolution posted about how they will distinguish between pro and club:
Additionally, the PUL asked Revolution to follow up with all tournament participants to ensure that no transmission of COVID-19 had occurred during the tournament. No cases were linked to the event.
Venzant said that while the PUL has received direct comments from people that there should be repercussions for the team, the league believes in using a “transformative, non-punitive, forward-looking response.”
Return to play plan
The PUL is currently working on a return-to-play plan with hopes of having some action on the pitch in 2021. Venzant said the league is almost done polling players on their thoughts on the pitch. .
“The primary focus of everything the PUL does will be an equity center,” she said, adding: “We want to make sure that we don’t leave anyone behind, as there is has racial and class undertones in the pandemic effects and response.
The league doesn’t expect to be on the field until July 1; Venzant hasn’t offered any additional updates on a season’s potential structure. A return-to-play committee is expected to present options to the board this week.