Last month, we shared with you the bare details of Dan Borislow's brief, messy reign as owner of magicJack, the franchise that Women's Professional Soccer elected to terminate in late October after just a single season of play in Boca Raton, Fla.
Borislow was uncooperative with the league; he refused to set up a front office or a website and he alienated longtime WPS sponsors. But why would someone run a team he'd purchased into the ground? Then, this week, a tipster sent along the WPS's filing against Borislow's motion for temporary injunction (viewable below, along with the accompanying exhibits). It turns out that Dan Borislow might just be a terrible human—or maybe he just comes off that way in his emails.
Borislow purchased the Washington Freedom franchise from Maureen and John Hendricks in December 2010, and he established his very particular email style early in his tenure. On Dec. 20, Melanie Fitzgerald, manager of league operations, emailed Borislow with a few questions about the upcoming season. He responded mostly with brisk, one-line responses. Under Fitzgerald's final question, which was, essentially, "Where will the team be playing next year?" he wrote (all spelling and punctuation in the original):
The fans are my problem, are you are doing is bugging me and not offering to help.Please pass this on to Fitz [T. Fitz Johnson, Chairman of WPS's Board of Governors] and see how he thinks you should be dealing with me.Right now,you are a royal pain in the ass.....Dan
That same month, according to the filing, Borislow "insisted on changing the team name and demanded new uniforms." In an email to Deadspin, Borislow said the league had "demanded I give the league our name'Freedom' and then I wouldn't have to pay certain things the other teams did not have to pay.Their pattern of extortion never stopped."
The filing suggests that his request for new jerseys conflicted with WPS's sponsorship agreement with Puma, and that the company asked WPS officials to overrule Borislow's request lest they consider it "a breach of his sponsorship agreement." In a panic, WPS arranged a "dinner meeting" between Borislow, T. Fitz Johnson, and the president of Puma. From the filing:
However, the dinner meeting seriously backfired when Mr. Borislow made clear that he had no intention of compromising with Puma and threatened Puma with litigation if they filed to oblige.... In the end, Puma ended up creating all new uniforms for Mr. Borislow, with yet another name, "magicJack," after Mr. Borislow again changed his mind about the naming of the team.
Borislow wrote to Deadspin that he planned on attaching the magicJack logo to the "existing Freedom uniforms," but ended up with "cheap practice uniforms" instead. The filing states that he would not pay for the new uniforms, and that WPS was forced to cover the costs—something they'd end up doing repeatedly for magicJack's various shortcomings. Further, according to WPS, "Puma's negative experience with Mr. Borislow factored in to its decision not to renew its sponsorship of the League during the 2012 season." A Puma spokesperson confirmed that it is no longer a WPS sponsor, but had no comment on the "dinner party" with Borislow.
WPS also had an agreement with TGI Systems, a Chicago-based company that made the advertising boards for the six franchises' fields. When he first took over the team, Borislow received an email from a TGI representative detailing the company's agreement with the League. After looking over the first email, he responded,
Anything that we rent or pay for,we dont want.Please get a hold of Tia,she is responsible for making these things go away.
His next email to TGI was brief:
We wontt be needinng your junk. I don't do business with mobsters.
Borislow later referred to the company in an interview as "organized crime."
For someone who was willfully and contractually connected to a women's professional sports organization, though, Borislow saved an inordinate amount of his rage for WPS's high-ranking female employees. He repeatedly and openly questioned whether or not then-commissioner Anne-Marie Eileraas—who graduated from Yale and the University of Chicago Law School and is a member of the bar in California, New York, and Illinois—was really a licensed lawyer. When Eileraas informed Borislow that he'd violated his suspension as team coach in May, he wrote back:
I was not at field level or on the field and you will be getting sued... I request an appeal which I know is fruitless because you are an idiot.
I wil fire you soon enough. Are you a licensed lawyer or not and when did you take your recent tests. You are nothing more than a fraud and incompetent.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
In comments made to the media throughout the summer, Borislow referred to WPS as "infidels" and a "dictatorship" and called it "a kangaroo court run by a hater." When a magicJack game was canceled in April due to severe weather, Borislow wrote to Eileraas that the opposing team should have been charged with a forfeit. She responded with the league's official cancellation policy. Borislow wrote back:
You are worthless. You just make up shit as you go.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
Two days later, Borislow received WPS's operating agreement from Lisa Hardcastle, an assistant to a member of the WPS counsel, Pamela Fulmer. In response, he wrote,
Do we also just use female attorneys for the league too, like our referees?somebody's going to think we discriminate against men.
On May 12, Melanie Fitzgerald wrote to notify Borislow of the specific "minimum standard violations" his team would be fined for after a game against the Atlanta Beat. He responded, in an email that included Eileraas, T. Fitz Johnson, and Briana Scurry, the former goalkeeper of the women's national team who briefly served as magicJack's general manager:
you will be lucky if the league is still in business by the playoffs
In May, after receiving notice that his appeal on his two-game suspension was denied, Borislow wrote to Eileraas, T. Fitz Johnson, and Fulmer:
I expected nothing less from a bunch of blithering idiots. This will be judged by a higher authority one day
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
In July, magicJack players teamed up with the WPS players union to file a grievance against Borislow. Once he was notified of the grievance, Borislow wrote an uncharacteristically tame email to Eileraas, warning that she
may have in possession privileged and confidential emails sent to you by a supposed union of the players. I demand that you destroy any of these materials.
Eileraas refused. The WPS's filing details a number of emails Borislow had written to his own players, none of which are included in the accompanying exhibits. In one, he threatened a roster player that
it will be you who will not be playing professional soccer ever again in your life
In another, he referred to the Atlanta Beat team as the "low paid ghetto team" and said that the players were "pa[id]...in food stamps." The Atlanta Beat is owned by Johnson, who is black.
Borislow's threat of litigation also become a recurring theme in the league officials' Inboxes. From April to June 2011, the filing explains, Borislow threatened to sue WPS or people associated with WPS "at least 8 separate times." Sometimes, he'd even threaten it twice in a single day. On April 28:
I will further sue the league for all it's shenanigans, incompetence, discrimination...
And on that same day, 13 minutes later:
you are on notice of the teams, the governors, your law firm, the league staff and the league of getting sued.
I will hold the individuals who want to cause damage to me and the league responsible and seek damages if this is not halted in its tracks.
One more attempt to screw me and the league will be in court.
you will be getting sued
...We will be taking a separate action.
..I wil be taking an action in court on this fraudulent inducement...
And on that same day, two and a half hours later:
I will not agree to not sue you if we cant works things out in mediation."
Borislow has not yet successfully sued WPS.
In terminating magicJack, WPS did cause problems for itself. Last year, the league was granted a waiver and included in Division I, the highest level of soccer sanctioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation. U.S. Soccer usually requires leagues to have a minimum of eight teams to qualify for the top tier; WPS had just six in 2011. After terminating magicJack last month, they are down to five teams—in Atlanta, Boston, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Western New York. They've once again applied for a waiver for Division I, and are confident in the "tremendous interest in women's soccer, potential for growth in markets across the country, and expressed interest from viable expansion candidates for the 2013 season." One assumes that Boca Raton is no longer an option.
After we sent him an excerpt from the WPS's filing, Borislow responded "Why would you believe anything they said in the first place." When told that the document referred to him as a "one-man wrecking ball, intent on tarnishing the League's public reputation and poisoning the League's crucial relationships," he responded:
A few of the owners wanted to make peace with me and it would have saved the league.I dont think all the teams can afford to pay the players what they should get and therefore didn't want me in the league,because I would have forced a higher pay scale by what I was willing to pay.
The email was quite civil, even if it was written in bold, red font.
"They dont need my help to destroy the league," he wrote, and then added, "we might pursue those damages from the league for destroying it."
These court documents, along with those filed by Borislow, are also viewable at SportsMyriad.com.