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Sports Authority

Clinton: We shouldn’t care about what athletes wear

| Thursday, September 13, 2018

Why do people care so much about what our athletes wear?

Arriving to practice in the sweltering heat of late August, all of our cross country team would be drenched in sweat after a few minutes. The boys on the team, as a logical response, took off their shirts to beat the heat. The female athletes, however, wiped their brows and continued to sweat in their t-shirts. Per handbook rules, female athletes at my high school were not allowed to run in sports bras. The boys were allowed to run shirtless, but the girls were forced to have their tops completely covered.

My question: Why do people care about what is worn?

This regulation of athletic wear doesn’t stop with high school students; it reaches into the professional athletics world. In recent headlines, Serena Williams took front and center for the body positive movement. She sported a sleek, black cat suit this year during the French Open. After recently giving birth to her first child, Williams took to Instagram to encourage other new mothers to embrace their “mom-bod.”

Serena’s short-sleeved black shirt attached to black leggings was a step away from the traditional tennis skirt attire. This cat suit was modest, fashionable and most importantly, practical for Williams to wear while she competed. After giving birth to her child, Williams suffered several health complications that led to blood clots in her legs. This ensemble helped promote blood flow to her legs, helping her in her matches.

Recently, however, the French Open officials banned that outfit for next year. The president of the French Tennis Federation, Bernad Guidicelli, responded in an interview with Tennis magazine explaining, “I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far,” in reference to Williams’s outfit. Going forth, there will be a dress code that determines what can and cannot be worn to the French Open. William’s cat suit falls into the “cannot” category.

My question: Why do people care about what is worn?

To combine these two problems, women’s tennis player Alize Cornet was just hit with a code violation at the U.S. Open for having her shirt off for less than 15 seconds during a match. This year’s U.S. Open was scorching hot, and the players were allowed to take a break to go change clothes. When Cornet came back onto the court after changing, she realized she had put her shirt on backwards. In less than 15 seconds, Cornet slipped her arms out of her shirt and turned it around.

For less than 15 seconds her sports bra was exposed. As a result of this exposure, she was slapped with a violation. While she was not given a point penalty, this warning proves that there is a real problem with the relationship between clothing and sport.

My question: Why do people care about what is worn?

In high school, our girls’ team responded to this sexist rule by running shirtless once we were out of view of the coaches. The temperatures were upwards of 100 degrees and the boys’ team got to run shirtless. We were not about to let some silly rule stop us from cooling off.

Serena Williams responded by wearing a tutu to the U.S. Open. If someone was going to tell her that she needed to oblige by the tennis rules and wear a skirt, she was going to make a mockery out of it. She was not about to let some silly rule stop her from wearing pants to a tournament.

Alize Cornet was reprimanded for turning her shirt around. This is the story gracing headlines, not the fact that she is competing in the country’s most elite tennis tournament.

Why has the focus of female athletics shifted from how well they can compete to what they wear?  Teams should be embracing the talent of these athletes instead of harping on them for what they wear in practice or in competition.

Serena Williams is one of the most decorated tennis players of all time. Instead of talking about her tennis success, however, we are talking about her fashion choices. My girls’ cross country team was an incredibly successful program at our school, but we, too, were forced to follow seemingly-pointless rules. Alize Cornet was fixing a silly mistake, and received a penalty for exposing her midriff.

Athletes should be seen for what they are: athletes. They should not have to worry about their fashion choices or who they will offend by what they wear. Our athletes should be focusing on their sport and working towards making themselves better.

My answer: No one should care about what is worn.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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