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Angel City FC

The Lowdown: Lisa Baird assesses her first year as NWSL commissioner

One year ago Monday, the epicenter of the women’s soccer world was at Red Bull Arena, where the middle leg of the 2020 SheBelieves Cup was being played. COVID-19 — the coronavirus — was known of, and it dominated discussion. “I keep touching my face without even thinking about it,” one journalist remarked of the early guidance that suggested we keep our hands washed and away from our faces. The remark came in the middle of the traditional post-game mixed zone, during which reporters and players stood shoulder to shoulder.

In the building that day was the new National Women’s Soccer League commissioner, Lisa Baird. She was so new on the job that she had not even reached her official start date. There was no formal media availability but Baird spent some time introducing herself to the assembled press. There were a few informal questions. COVID-19 was not a focus.

“When you think back on it, we had no idea,” Baird recalled during a recent phone interview with The Equalizer, noting that her prior job at a New York Public Radio station had her slightly ahead of the curve in terms of news coverage of the budding pandemic. “I don’t think anybody foretold how deep and profound this pandemic would affect the world. I mean, not even close.”

Three days later was the tipping point. The National Basketball Association suspended its season after a positive test, starting a chain reaction of events that quickly brought the entire sports world to its knees. Now, Lisa Baird is celebrating one year on the job. It has been a year unlike any other, unlike anything anybody could have expected, and yet the NWSL has thrived on Baird’s watch. And there are big plans moving forward.

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