Women are conditioned to accept whats given to them and female athletes are no exception. Its day for a change
During the wildly exciting Women’s Final Four earlier this month, the sports economist David Berri and I were speaking on the phone about the absence of coverage of women’s sports. In the midst of our dialogue, we ventured to ESPN’s website and began scrolling through the homepage to assure what we may find.
We scrolled and we scrolled to the point of exhaustion. Among the dozens upon dozens of headlines about male athletes, we spotted only 3 stories about females.” This is ridiculous: they’ve got a headline tale about the NFL draft, which isn’t even happening for months and nothing about women’s athletics ,” Berri told.
The whys and the hows behind the fact that women’s athletics receive merely 5% of dedicated coverage have been debated ad nauseam. Two main arguments are front of center: one, that athletics media is dominated by humen, therefore their scope of what they find appealing is restriction. And two, that women’s athletics simply don’t generate enough interest to warrant more coverage.
But as Lori Lindsey, a former member of the US women’s national soccer team told me:” Instead of writing about why women don’t receive coverage, they should just utilize that space to covering women’s athletics !”
It’s easy to break the lack of coverage of women’s sports down to arguments that on the surface are black and white. However, we need to look at the history of women’s sports participation, and how far we have come and how our progress in this arena has not been matched with media proper coverage.
Before Title IX passed in 1972– a bill that would inevitably give girls more access to athletics- only one in 27 daughters played sports. Today, the rate has risen to two in five. This increase of participate would lead one to think that increased coverage of women’s sports would follow suit.
But that’s not been the case.
In fact, the coverage of women’s sports has actually declined over the last few years.
So, it’s of my opinion that women should sue athletics media for equal coverage. Why? Because the lack of coverage across the spectrum of local and national media affects women athletes the ability to make a living on the field and to make money off of endorsements. For me, this is an equal pay issue.
I spoke with athletes who overall supported this extreme approach, despite recognizing that it likely would not hold up in court.
Then I spoke with Ed Chapin, who was the lead counseling on behalf of former San Diego State women’s basketball coach-and-four Beth Burns, whose wrongful-termination suit recently yielded the second largest Title IX verdict in US history. In his opinion, he “ve felt it” would do more damage than good to bringing a suit of this nature forward because a defeat could do more damage for women’s athletics.
” There’s no law that states networks are required to provide equal coverage, so it could have the counter effect of hurting their[ women’s athletes] cause ,” he said.
Then what would be more proactive?
Women have been waiting a long time to be treated fairly in society, and in athletics it’s no different. Women in sports have to constantly combat against the notion that nobody wants to watch them.
Despite this, they don’t stop playing. In fact, every time they go out on the court or on the field, they devote it their all knowing full well that their best will likely go unnoticed.
They play because they love it , not because of the glory or potential that they’ll attain millions. Because it is likely, they won’t.
As I’ve thought about it more, part of the solution to women’s athletics receiving more coverage comes down to us not being afraid to demand for more. In a conversation with Cheryl Reeve, the head coach-and-four and general manager of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, we discussed how female athletes are often afraid to ask for more coverage out of fear that they may upset those in athletics media who do offer some.
Women are conditioned to accept what’s to provide them. And in the case of women’s athletics, women athletes have been put in the position to accept coverage here and there out of fear that they won’t receive any coverage should they say something.
Reeve is not afraid to call out the absence of coverage though, and through a series of tweetsshe pointed out the pitfalls of not providing coverage, holding publishings like The Athletic accountable by asking,” Why would a subscriber-based athletics medium that asserts’ full access to all sports’ limit its earnings potential by not covering women’s athletics? The Athletic does just that … and it’s bad business .”
She also told me” that girls need to understand their leveraging in society .”
Take the US women’s soccer and hockey squads. Each group sued for equal pay, and did so know there would be backlash. They weren’t afraid and because of that, they won.
Women, this is our time. Every time we consider an opportunity to call out the absence of coverage of women’s athletics, let’s do it. Let’s continue to put pressure on local and national athletics media to give women’s sports the coverage it deserves. Let’s make it so they can no longer dismiss us.
Let’s make a legal lawsuit for how this is not just us wanting to grace the covers of magazines or be the lead story on SportsCenter. It’s about us wanting to make a living. It’s about knowing that if people were given the chance to see how talented we are that they too might become fans.
” I believe for real change and real motion, I think it’s going to take something bold ,” Reeve said.
From my perspective, how much worse could the coverage get should female athletes sue for better or equal coverage? Will networks and papers dwindle down their coverage from the current 5% even further in retaliation?
We’ve got nothing to lose. So to my friends in women’s sports competing, be bold. Don’t be afraid to bite the hand that feeds you, especially when they’re only giving you then crumb.
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