Why Portland Thorn Tobin Heath Fights for More

The Thorns’ midfield magician (and USA National Team star) talks Portland, pay equity, and personal growth.

By Katelyn Best June 13, 2016 Published in the July 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Tobin Heath (right) takes it up the field.

In your fourth season with the Thorns, how does it feel to play in Portland, which draws the largest crowds in the National Women’s Soccer League?
We just came off a road trip, and the only thought I had was, I just want to get back to Portland. I feel like Providence Park is Portland. It’s all about community and encouraging people in their craft. I mean, if I was a kid coming to a Thorns game, I would want to be a pro women’s soccer player—I wouldn’t necessarily be able to say that in other cities.

After winning a World Cup, two Olympic golds, and a league championship, what’s next for you?
More. I’ve always had these huge goals, and once they’re accomplished, I never sit back. I’m always hungry to achieve more, to see how good I can be personally and how good a team we can be—both the Thorns and the national team. All our practices are so competitive. You beat each other up on the field because you believe there’s more to a team than each individual.

The minimum yearly salary in the NWSL is just $7,200. Is that hard?
It sucks. It’s not OK that we have players in the locker room basically being paid less than minimum wage. We lose a lot of great players because people can’t live like that. In that way, we have a long way to go. The progression has been good, but we’re still so far away from where we want to be.

The national team has been vocal about demanding to be paid as much as the men’s national team players. Does that help the NWSL players?
Some of these issues that have been raised with the national team have opened a lot of eyes. Just like we constantly want to get better on the field, we want to make sure that our organizations are getting better off the field. It’s our responsibility with the national team to continue to push that. It trickles down to the NWSL, because if the standards aren’t good there, then the standards are certainly not good here.

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