The NWSL received a loan as part of the government's Paycheck Protection Program as a means to pay players for two months amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to The New York Times' Andrew Das and Andrew Keh.
The PPP loan, which was confirmed by the league to the Times, was entirely used to pay player salaries. The amount given to the league was unspecified.
“Our sole intent in applying for the PPP loan was to continue player compensation,” Lisa Baird, the league’s first-year commissioner, told the Times. “With ours, the calculus was pretty simple. Either you’re going to pay your players or you’re going to furlough them. What could we do?”
The NWSL was not the only sports entity to become involved with the program. The Lakers secured a more than $4 million loan before returning it shortly after news reports surfaced regarding the topic. U.S. Soccer, which pays the salaries of select U.S. women's national team players, also returned the money it had received via the loan program, something previously reported by Sports Illustrated.
To qualify for the relief program, companies needed to be small businesses. The loan served to prevent layoffs within the league.
Saturday marked the start of the NWSL Challenge Cup. The tournament's opening game between the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage featured a show of solidarity from the players during the national anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Subsequent games have feature similar shows of solidarity.
According to The Athletic's Meg Linehan, the opening game had a total of 572,000 total viewers on CBS, a new record for the league.