Forgive me for my brutal honesty but today is the final straw for me with the LFL and everything it stands for. Jacinda Barclay is dead and as touching as it is to see the outpouring of support for her, where were all of you when she battled the demons that killed her? No, I don’t know Jacinda personally, but she was an accomplished female athlete who, despite being one of the most talented in the world, had to juggle a career on top of being great.
Many of us, including me, didn’t know her name until today. Until she committed suicide. Why are female athletes so under appreciated and utterly disrespected by the world until they become a tragic and cautionary tale? How could the world have neglected someone so gifted?
Jacinda was a world class athlete who represented Australia in the World Cup for baseball for several years. In 2012 she made the mistake that many talented female athletes, including myself, have made… Participating in the Lingerie Football League AKA Legends Football League commonly known as LFL. Despite this league being an utter joke and disgrace to football, Jacinda led two separate teams to championships as a quarterback. This is no easy feat, given the league is poisonous to anyone who dares to participate.
The fact that her Wikipedia page only has one paragraph devoted to her American Football career, an astonishingly impressive one at that, goes to show you why someone with so much talent could feel so powerless as to take her own life.
When you see the images of LFL athletes, they appear to be super heroes. Wonder Woman with football pads, goddesses of the gridiron, Amazonian warriors. When I look back at my own photos, I see that in myself. I looked unstoppable. But Jacinda truly looked the way every woman in the entire world wishes she could look. Strong, fearless, confident and genuinely happy.
What you don’t see is the tears shed after brutal hits, the feelings of bones under your skin detaching from their proper alignment and never returning to proper form, the aches and misery of competing savagely with improper equipment. The undiagnosed concussions and injuries you play through because you feel like you’ve already devoted so much to the sport that you can’t bare to give up. The demeaning words shouted by your coach, teammates and competitors. The simultaneous pity and hatred you feel for the women across the line from you who are going through the same silent battle.
And the controversial opinions everyone feels the need to express to you. The 50% of people who think the LFL is badass and then the other 50% who think you’re an attention craving slut for participating. Even the people who don’t express it, you can see it in the way they treat you every day, even long after you’ve moved on from the sport. With the sinking suspicion that they have Googled you and viewed your photos only to draw their own conclusions.
Jacinda’s demons likely did not exist solely because of the LFL, but the LFL surely lit a fuse that would eventually consume her. There was a period from December 2018 to January 2019 where I laid in my bed alone at the home I grew up in in Minnesota and thought about how to kill myself. I wondered what would be the fastest and easiest. I sat at the bottom of a rut that I felt was impossible to dig myself out of.
None of my LFL teammates were there for me. None of them even bothered to reach out when I walked away from the league. Most of them were cruel to me while we played, even though I fought beside them every single game of the season. Even though I gave every ounce of myself to the team and to the game.
I have to wonder who was truly there for Jacinda. I wonder if all of the people who are posting on Facebook had even reached out to her in the last year. I wonder if her coach is having any second thoughts about the things he said to her when she was playing. This is someone who played Quarterback, the most important position in the game. Someone who led two separate teams to championships. How could anyone let her feel so alone? How could anyone allow her to believe that her life was not worth living?
All of this stems from a selfish league owner who has no desire to help women. An owner who regularly fat shames girls while simultaneously only providing them with simple carbohydrates for nourishment on game-day and expects them to feel confident in a poorly-made bikini uniform. A man who plays mind games with coaches and players for his own personal enjoyment, who withholds payment from the people who earn him every dime he has.
Let me be clear on this- I did not make a single penny playing for the LFL. I don’t think Jacinda did either. Meanwhile Mitchell Mortaza has made millions. Has rebranded the league 3 times and now refers to it as the X League. The abuse that Jacinda suffered continues to this day and the women who participate refuse to admit they are being taken advantage of.
It will be too late. More lives will be lost. If someone who had as much success as Jacinda did as a female athlete can feel the way she did, how about all of the players who go through the trial and tribulations only to never touch the field? Or to touch the field and have their career end because of a brutal injury that would never have happened if they were wearing the proper equipment or if the rules were in place for anything other than viewers’ entertainment??
The worst part about writing this is that I know the people who need to see it will not see it. The people who need to hear this will ignore it. Talented female athletes will continue to suffer until this league is permanently shut down or until someone brings down Mitchell Mortaza. The reason the league continues is because WE ALL ALLOW IT TO.
Enough is enough. We need to stop wearing this league as a badge of honor and start doing something to save the future generations of women who will see the photos of us looking like super heroes and think it is something worth aspiring to. I need to undo all of the autographs I signed, all of the little girls I looked in the eye and told they could be a football player just like me some day. You do not want to live with the demons that the LFL will instill in you. You deserve better.
I have not done nearly enough to stand up for all of us. Especially the women who played for multiple seasons with nothing to show for it but pictures and pain. This is my commitment to everyone, but especially Jacinda, I will not rest until something is done about this league. I will not give up until we get some sort of justice for what we’ve been through.
Rest in Peace Jacinda, you deserved so much better.