The closing highlights of the Seattle Reign FC match against Orlando Pride on Saturday included a shocking moment that wasn’t shown earlier in the broadcast – a short clip of Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris appearing to chokeslam (or perhaps more accurately, sling blade) Reign FC forward Jodie Taylor to the ground at some point during the game, without any repercussions from the officials.
Unfortunately, we don’t have much context for the incident and the above clip is all that was shown on the broadcast. We can narrow down the time to the second half based on where the two players are relative to the camera, and it must have happened while the broadcast feed was showing a replay or tracking other action on a different camera. Further helping to narrow down the time is that the other highlights in the closing montage were shown in chronological order. This clip was shown just before the Pride goal, implying that it happened prior to the 61st minute.
One possibility for the timing is when Jess Fishlock came off the field injured in the 55th minute. The broadcast view stayed on the Reign sideline for about 20 seconds after play resumed, looking at the interaction between Fishlock, coach Vlatko Andonovski, and the team’s training staff while they determined if she would be able to continue.
Some Harris supporters have taken to Twitter claiming that there’s not enough context in the clip to call it malicious, or to argue that she was simply protecting herself from a worse collision. Even if that is the case, there is ample reason for the officials to have stopped play to issue discipline for recklessness or excessive force. The action might not have been deliberate, but the mere act of putting hands around another player’s neck must constitute reckless play, even if both players apparently “had a good laugh about it” after the match.
I spoke to ash and Jodie after the match, they both had a good laugh about it— T (@TMac_Brown_) April 29, 2018
It is unclear why the officials did not do anything at the time; potentially their attention was already turned toward the ball as it had been kicked upfield. Similarly, if this did indeed occur just after Fishlock limped off the field, the Reign bench and staff were all preoccupied with her, and the fourth official was preparing for a substitution and thus not watching the field of play.
Hopefully the league is able to obtain additional footage, talk with the players involved, and put this play into context. But regardless, it should be reviewed by the NWSL Disciplinary Committee.
Update, April 30, 1:45 PM: Dan Lauletta from Equalizer Soccer reports that the incident has been submitted to the NWSL Disciplinary Committee for review.