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NWSL responds to criticism of unsafe playing times with schedule changes

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After Houston’s Rachel Daly collapsed from heat exhaustion, the league has changed up some start times.

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It was a scary moment: in the last minutes of the Houston Dash’s home game against the Seattle Reign, Dash player Rachel Daly collapsed to the pitch and lay insensate. She had been running for 90-plus minutes in direct sun and 92F weather, with a heat index of 102F. The game had kicked off at 3 PM local time, still blazingly hot in Texas. Daly went to the hospital for heat exhaustion and was later released after her condition improved.

Criticism was instant, especially from Houston fans who had said from the moment the league released the 2017 schedule that mid-afternoon kickoff times would be dangerous for players. Today NWSL and Lifetime responded by announcing changes to the schedule for 23 games that “reduces the number of games during times of the day where potential environmental conditions such as high temperatures, humidity, and solar radiation would be more prevalent throughout the summer months in the United States.”

The changes also come with new guidelines on delaying matches in case of extreme heat, and Lifetime will now allow other games scheduled at 4 PM to act as backups for their game of the week to be rescheduled as necessary.

Lifetime has also changed their game of the week schedule on August 12 to show the Washington Spirit’s home game against Boston instead of Orlando vs Sky Blue FC, with Orlando’s game moving to later in the day. The Breakers will now show up on two Lifetime games of the week instead of just one for the season.

This schedule change will affect three of Boston’s games in total, all away. Below are the new kickoff times:

July 15, vs Seattle Reign: 10:00 PM ET
August 12, vs Washington Spirit: 3:50 PM ET
September 2, vs Orlando Pride: 7:30 PM ET

It’s good to see the league responding to criticism about conditions that endanger player safety. This is the kind of flexibility Lifetime will need as it adjusts to being a network that also broadcasts live sports. Hopefully they’ll take that to heart when considering the 2018 schedule.