by Neena Chaudhry
With the Supreme Court’s recent decision not to hear its case, the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) has finally lost the last round of a fight that has been going on for too long. On one side of the ring: a group of parents and students fighting for gender equity in Michigan sports programs. On the other side: an association that has for decades scheduled six girls’ sports and no boys’ sports in nontraditional seasons.
Seasons matter. If a sport is not played during the traditional season, athletes lose out on opportunities to be recruited for college scholarships, to participate in club programs that help skill development, and to be considered for All-American or other honors. These are exactly the types of harms that the federal district and appellate courts repeatedly found in this case, which was filed in 1998.
But MHSAA refuses to accept defeat.
Despite finally agreeing to implement a court-approved plan to change seasons this academic year if it lost its latest appeal, MHSAA continues to plead its case publicly and to complain about the hardships involved in changing seasons. In so doing, it is encouraging those who would direct their anger against the victims of discrimination–the girls who should have been treated more fairly all along.
It is past time for MHSAA to practice the sportsmanship it preaches. While changing the seasons beginning this academic year will not remedy the denial of civil rights that generations of girls in Michigan have faced, it will ensure that future generations of girls know that they are valued just as much as boys. Justice has been delayed, but will not be denied.