It’s time for women’s sports to receive the respect they deserve
Mia Berry | Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Earlier this week, my colleague Courtney Becker pointed out a minor slip from our fellow Observer sports writers in forgetting to mention the WNBA — or any other women’s sport for that matter — in their summer recaps. I applaud Courtney, but the fact that she had to remind them and a lot of sports fans of the most prominent and longstanding women’s league in the world, the WNBA, reveals a deeper issue with society and how we as fans treat women’s sports.
Why do we consciously and unconsciously forget about women’s sports? Why do people deem female athletes as inferior to male athletes? Why do we tend to judge female athletes based on their appearances and not their athletic skills?
It’s hard to generalize and place blame on all sports fans because of the way society has trained us to view female athletes. In a male-dominated sports world many fans are “taught” to overlook female sports because the majority of sports fans are male and they don’t directly connect with the sport. But what about women? What about young girls who need to see female athletes competing at a high level? What do we tell them? While society has undergone numerous changes over the years accepting and supporting women in the workplace, the same changes haven’t translated to the sports world.
All of the three previously mentioned questions are problems female athletes deal with on a daily basis while still managing to perform at the highest level. Female athletes fight everyday for equal wages and national coverage, which are two privileges male athletes are given without a second thought.
Imagine giving your all on a daily basis on the court or on the field only to be ignored by national sports media. When they are covered it’s disingenuous in the form of prioritizing scandals as opposed to accomplishments. Imagine being an NFL fan or an NBA fan and not seeing the games covered on TV or in your local newspaper. Imagine LeBron James or Stephen Curry having to get a second job in the offseason to support themselves because they didn’t make enough money during the season. This is a reality for female athletes across all professional leagues. While most athletes wouldn’t compete under these conditions, female athletes do so because they have a genuine love for the sport.
Changes need to made. This year alone has also spotlighted the growing inequalities in wages, treatment and national coverage.
This season, the Las Vegas Aces became the first team in the WNBA to refuse to play a game, which was later deemed a forfeit by the league. They were heavily scrutinized for their decision not to play, but many people ignored the fact that the Aces had spent over 26 hours traveling. Many fans had the audacity to say that if it were an NBA team they would’ve played. However, this unfortunate situation wouldn’t have happened because NBA teams fly private — a luxury most female athletes don’t have.
Problems like this arise and persist because people feel the need to devalue women’s sports instead of supporting them. Female athletes battle day in and day out and are worthy of the same prestige and respect given to male athletes with equal or lesser accomplishments than them. There is value in every sport regardless of gender. Basketball is still basketball if the two teams playing are men or women, and you can’t call yourself a sports fan of any kind if you determine the value of the game based on whether the players are men or women.
Female athletes have advocated for themselves for years, but now is the time to take a stand and give women’s sports the attention they deserve. Active support is the first step to changing a long-standing sports culture. There are professional women’s teams in soccer, basketball, hockey, lacrosse and tackle football, all of which are waiting to welcome a new fan base. Just take a moment and watch a game; you will be thoroughly surprised by what you see.
Last year alone, female sports accomplished a lot. If the year 2017 should be remembered for anything in sports, it isn’t just the Houston Astros winning the World Series or the Washington Capitals winning the Stanley Cup. Rather, 2017 should be remembered for the strength female athletes displayed and their accomplishments in an industry that doesn’t always recognize their greatness. Over the course of the past year, Serena Williams won the Australian Open while pregnant, the United States women’s hockey team won its first Olympic gold medal since 1998, the U.S. women’s national soccer team wages increased and over 100 female athletes sought justice in the courts against their abuser, Larry Nassar.
Moving forward, we as fans, sports journalists and citizens need to demand better. We need to show support to numerous female athletes that have proven themselves time and time again and are deserving of your respect. It’s never too late to join the bandwagon.