Women in Sports: The Good, The Bad, The Sexist
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we’d be remiss not to mention the impact women have had in the world of athletics. It’s been 50 years since Title IX became law, and women are still facing barriers and discrimination in and out of the game. From attacks against female sports reporters to unequal pay causing foreign detention, here is the good, the bad, and the sexist on women in sports.
I’m generally a glass-half-full kind of gal so let’s start off with some good news. After last year’s Fyre festival-esque reveal of just how unequal the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments were, there have been updates. Namely—no pun intended— the women’s NCAA tournament can finally be called March Madness! Another first, after the Supreme Court ruled that student-athletes could profit off their name and likeness, many female athletes have leveled the playing field in terms of earning potential with lucrative endorsements. UConn basketball player Paige Bueckers was the first NCAA athlete—of any gender!—to sign with Gatorade. ESPN has also sold all of its ad slots for the women’s basketball tournament. What was that again about people not watching women’s sports?
Women coaches have had a moment, too. Iconic coaches like Dawn Staley and Kim Mulkey are leading incredible women’s programs and breaking records left and right. Coaches like Katie Sowers and Jennifer King broke barriers and paved the way for the NFL to have the most female coaches in their history last year. Becky Hammon left the San Antonio Spurs to be the head coach of the WNBA Las Vegas Aces, but there were still seven women on NBA coaching staffs this season!
As a former broadcast journalism major, I always have a soft spot for women reporters, and there are so many incredible Black women absolutely dominating the sports reporting world right now. Maria Taylor had to deal with the public airing of her colleague’s racist remarks—and then leveling up to cover the Olympics and rocking her natural hair on air! Malika Andrews got to do a broadcast with her sister. Cari Champion and Jemele Hill got their own show. It’s safe to say Black women are holding it down, per usual!
It is not new that women athletes are underpaid, underappreciated, and undersupported. WNBA star Liz Cambage has been one of the latest players to speak out about how so many WNBA players are forced to play overseas during their off-season to make enough money. Not only is this demeaning, but it can lead to injuries or even worse, dangerous, international detention like we’ve seen unfold with Brittney Griner. The USWNT reached a big settlement this year in their equal pay lawsuit but so many other women athletes are still in the fight for equal pay. Shoot, the New York Liberty was fined for taking a charter plane, something that is commonplace for college men’s teams but apparently not allowed for professional women athletes. Liz Cambage said it best: “It’s hard when you have the best league in the world, but we’re not treated like the best athletes in the world.”
Instead of focusing on ways to improve women’s athletics, it seems that horrible people would rather focus on demonizing trans athletes. Swimmer Lia Thomas has had a powerhouse year but has been unjustly held as the token enemy of TERFs. State legislatures are passing bills left and right to ban trans kids from sports, fear-mongering and manufacturing division within sports teams that simply isn’t there. Professional women athletes have shown their support for trans athletes in various ways yet male athletes have been largely quiet. What are you waiting for?
Even though women sports reporters are not physically playing the game, they are not exempt from baseless, sexist attacks. Mina Kimes shared awful emails she received from viewers, but that didn’t stop former NFL player, Jeff Garcia, from taking aim at her. After insinuating she didn’t “understand” football because she never played it professionally, Kimes was proven correct in the NFC Championship game and had plenty of fans to back her up.
Since the Tokyo Olympics were postponed, it felt like we got back-to-back Olympics with the 2022 Beijing Winter Games in February. Even though women won the most medals on Team USA, women athletes were still subject to dress code “violations” just like they were in Tokyo. Why are we still having this fight? Why do official team uniforms differ by gender? Athletes should be able to wear a uniform that is comfortable and productive to their athletic performance, period. On top of dress code rules, there was some serious sexist b*llsh*t and condescending reporting. It is not asking too much for women athletes to be respected.
Despite fighting all the battles, women athletes continue to run the game on the court, on the field, in their pre-game fits, in their activism, and beyond. Anyone still saying “peOplE DoNt caRe aBOut wOmEn’S spOrtS” is clearly wrong. Let’s celebrate Women’s History Month by supporting women’s athletics. Mark your calendars, build your brackets, and buy tickets to your local teams!