Jersey number: No. 8
Hometown: Helsinki, Finland
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Former Club: NYCFC
Although he's spent years playing football in three separate countries, one thing's clear for defensive midfielder Alex Ring: he's always representing Finland.
Austin FC made a huge decision when choosing Ring, a high-profile former NYCFC captain who has graced the pitch for the MLS, Bundesliga (Germany's premier football league), and Finland's national team.
ATXFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna, who first brought Ring to the American leagues back in 2017, paid big money for Ring to go Verde. Ring's contract, which could be up to $1.25 million in general allocation money if certain performance incentives are made, would be the biggest deal of its kind for any non-U.S. men's national team player in MLS history.
Before Austin FC, Ring spent time as the "ringleader" at NYCFC from 2017-20, where he was the team leader in minutes played in both 2019 and 2020. A team captain, Ring made 119 starts in his 120 appearances with the club and contributed 10 goals and 13 assists to the team. His leadership gained him a Coach's pick in the 2018 MLS All-Star game.
Although Ring said he wanted to finish his career at NYCFC, he said he is excited for the "new challenge" that a brand-new team like Austin FC brings.
"I would have loved to finish my career there ... but at the same time, I'm really happy for a new challenge," Ring said. "I spent four wonderful years there and I showed my worth to them, and now I'm going to come here and do the same."
Before NYCFC, Ring spent seven seasons in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, Germany's top two football leagues.
For the 2014-17 season, Ring played in the second-division league for FC Kaiserslautern. He logged a personal-best season in 2014-15, where he made six goals in 24 games, but the team's own instability and some injuries kept Ring from reaching his full potential for all three seasons.
Ring, who spent much of his childhood in Germany, spent three more years in the country with the Bundesliga's five-time champion Borussia Monchengladbach, where he appeared in 21 matches and scored one goal in two seasons played (2011-13).
A native of Helsinki, Finland, Ring began his professional career in the nation's capital. Ring helped Helsinki HJK win the Suomen Cup and the Finnish Veikkausliiga league in (2010-11), scoring six goals and 43 appearances in his first pro season.
Ring has also represented Finland's national team for 43 matches (39 starts) and has played on the international stage in the Baltic Cup, European and World Cup Qualifiers.
For Ring, the biggest difference between the growing MLS and more established European leagues is youth development.
"I think it's getting better and the gap is closing, but I think it's important to invest in the youth development," Ring said. "That's what it's all about. In Europe, they have a youth pipeline and players coming through the ranks all the time, so I think that's the biggest difference between the MLS and Europe."
With Austin FC
Reyna reunited with Ring for good reason—he was named one of the top five defensive midfielders in the MLS earlier this year.
Ring said he sees some similarities between the Austin FC program and programs he's admired in the past, something that has helped him adjust to a new team.
"I think I see the game very similar to how Josh sees it on and off the ball," Ring said.
As a central midfielder, Austin FC Head Coach Josh Wolff said that he's already seen Ring's ability to connect players from around the field.
"Alex Ring does a great job connecting everybody on the field which is exactly what you want from a six," Wolff said.
Ring recognizes the importance of his position and said he finds himself putting "puzzle pieces" together to organize a cohesive team.
"It's an important position that connects the defense and offense," Ring said. "It sounds simple but it's not, its a puzzle, a lot of moving pieces, and I try to make it easy for the players around myself but for myself as well."
With his accolades, Ring's starting spot is nearly guaranteed, but he'll provide more than just a strong middle to the team. At 29, Ring can bring some seniority and leadership to the core of the team, and as a former NYCFC captain, Ring is in the running for the captain spot once again in Austin. He's also shown positional flexibility and has played both in the middle and left-winger positions in the past.
Because his leadership is almost a given, Ring said he doesn't mind if he gets the captain spot or not and that he sees a lot of other players with potential to wear the armband.
"I don't think the armband is something important, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't take responsibility," Ring said. "I think we have a lot of guys who would be fantastic candidates to be the captain. I think with my position on the field that it's natural, and I take responsibility when it's important."
Off the pitch
Ring was born to a German mother and Finnish father and spent several years training for football in German academies as a child.
Although he spent much of both his childhood and adulthood in Germany, Ring said in 2011 "I have not even applied for German citizenship. It has been obvious for me that I represent Finland."
Ring has been in the U.S. since 2017 and earned a U.S. green card in 2018.
Ring is also married and has two children. Although he and his family had to endure the winter storm, Ring said they are enjoying their newest city.
"We've loved it so far. Me and my family have settled in well," Ring said. "Apart from the winter storm, the weather's been pretty nice as well."
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Last fall, Janneke Parrish was pushing hard in her advocacy at Apple. She wanted to see flexibility with remote work, pay equity and for Apple to respond to Texas’ six-week abortion ban with paid time off and coverage for the procedure under the company’s health insurance plan.
Then, in October last year, she was fired.
Parrish, who lives in Round Rock and worked at Apple’s Austin campus as an Apple Maps program manager for about five years, is a leader of an internal movement at the tech giant. It comes at a time when the company is expanding its local presence with a new $1 billion Northwest campus with space for 5,000 employees.
Parrish worked at this Apple campus on West Parmer Lane. (Steven Joyner)
In August, the movement known as #AppleToo launched a website with the goal of organizing employees and sharing stories about alleged workplace harassment and discrimination. Austonia talked to Parrish and another former Apple employee who are part of the movement about their claims in what they observed while working for Apple.
“I’ve been advocating for members of my immediate team within Apple for several years,” Parrish said. “And when I realized that the issues that I was seeing with my own team were true throughout Apple, there was a natural transition toward, ok let’s expand this advocacy and instead be more of an advocate for everybody at Apple to ensure that we the workers at Apple are treated fairly and equitably and get treated as human beings.”
In the lead-up to her firing, Parrish faced an allegation that she had leaked details from a recent all-hands meeting to the Verge. She says she suspects it’s this, along with her advocacy, that influenced Apple’s decision to fire her.
“I didn’t do (the leak). And I know that Apple knows I didn’t do this,” Parrish said since a few employees including herself didn’t have access to that meeting due to a system crash that day. “I was still placed under investigation.”
As a requirement of the investigation, Parrish turned in her work devices. Before doing so, she wiped the files from her computer, saying she didn’t want her personal files on Apple servers. After a few days on paid suspension, she says human resources called and told her she’d been terminated with the reason being that she’d deleted those files.
Parrish is one of the leaders of the AppleToo movement. (Janneke Parrish)
Before Parrish’s firing, Apple was taking action on leaks and workplace organizing. An internal memo from 2018 noted a number of leakers they had caught were arrested. About a month before Parrish was fired, the tech giant had fired a senior engineering program manager for allegedly leaking confidential information. And in a September note, CEO Tim Cook sent a note to all Apple employees saying “people who leak confidential information do not belong” at Apple.
Austonia asked Apple about Parrish’s case and other matters at the company. In an email reply, the company said:
“We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.”
Another piece of Parrish’s advocacy involved career opportunities for workers, particularly those based in Austin.
Even though Apple upped their presence in Austin in recent years, Parrish said Austin-area employees couldn’t enjoy networking opportunities like California workers did as Apple events were held on the West Coast. Texan Apple workers shouldn’t have to relocate to move up, she said.
“For those of us in Austin, I noticed, especially for my department, my career options were extremely limited,” Parrish said. “I was told by a manager that if I really wanted to advance in my career, I would have to move out to California.”
Parrish said Apple employees in Austin do not have the same career opportunities as those in California. (Shutterstock)
Austonia spoke to another member of the organizing group AppleToo. She requested anonymity to not hinder future job prospects in the tech industry. She’ll be identified with the pseudonym Mary.
Mary said she’s worked at Apple since 2008 in Austin, starting off as a contractor in customer support at iTunes and moving around over the years, leaving the tech giant earlier this month.
“It’s too hard to advance and there are no opportunities for development so (I was) just kind of stuck in a dead-end job,” Mary said.
Mary felt that another challenge was being a woman at a tech company. Starting out, she says she was the lowest paid in a training class of mostly men with pay of around $30,000, which rose to about $55,000 by the time she left.
But aside from pay, communication also proved to be a hurdle. To make her persona appear gender-neutral, she changed how her name was displayed on Slack, the interoffice directory and over email to just her first initial.
“The hard part was when I would have to get into a meeting with people then I felt like my voice is giving me away now,” Mary said. “But when I could avoid having meetings, I felt like it did make a difference.”
Mary says there’s been some movement in the right direction. An internal memo in November affirmed employees’ right to discuss pay after it had shut down employee-run pay equity surveys and an employee-run Slack channel. Earlier this month, it announced new efforts in a racial equity and justice initiative.
“We all want to see positive changes from Apple,” Mary said. “We all want them to look at wage disparities. We’d like to see more diversity—more minorities in leadership positions, more females in leadership positions.”
Still, Mary feels there’s more to be done. “I wish Apple was more responsive at making bigger changes,” she said.
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The Texas French Bread Bakery, located on 2900 Rio Grande Street, has been completely destroyed after a fire erupted on Monday night.
The Austin Fire Department responded to the fire just before 11 p.m., where they arrived to see flames coming from the roof of the bakery. Firefighters fought the fire for about an hour before the roof collapsed.
While no one was injured in the fire, firefighters say the historic building was completely totaled.
Texas French Bread just went up in flames pic.twitter.com/agXqKN3c00
— Jordan (@AimIessFriend) January 25, 2022
AFD determined that the fire was accidental and caused by mechanical failure. AFD said the damages amounted to $1.6 million total: $1.1 million in structural damage and $500,000 in damage to the contents of the bakery.
This year, Texas French Bread will celebrate 40 years of business. Before the bakery occupied the building, it was the Rome Inn, a music venue that hosted 1970s artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan.