There are women in sports. I feel as though I have to start by making that statement because some people tend to forget. Or they only acknowledge a small percentage of the women in sports rather than them as a whole.
The process of women being taken seriously in sports has been a constant battle for
decades. From the pay wage to respect, it seems there has been little progress made in changing the minds of people in general.
I once asked a male friend why did he not attend Ragin’ Cajun women’s basketball games, he commented back with “Well if more of them looked like Skylar Diggins-Smith maybe I would go.” Skylar Diggins-Smith is a WNBA player who gained a lot of attention during her collegiate career with Notre Dame for being deemed beautiful as she led her team to an appearance in the national championship.
Diggins-Smith is actually in the process of fighting for an improvement in working conditions for mothers in the WNBA and other industries. She faced problems with the Dallas Wings about free agency and the new collective bargaining agreement after she gave birth to her son.
I sat there baffled at how easily it came out of his mouth.
He then corrected his statement after understanding how misogynistic it sounded. It is sad to say that most people don’t want to watch women’s sports because of their skill set or the possible victory of the team, but for their physical appearance. And, it is a funny argument because many men have said that the reason they don’t watch women’s sports because women are too focused on their physical appearance not their “love for the game.”
Now, when we look at one of the greatest athletes of all time, Serena Williams — and yes I said the greatest athlete not “women’s athlete” or “tennis player” — When it is all said and done with her many accolades, she will be lauded as one of the greatest athletes.
Williams has struggled with the constant remarks of looking too “manly” as she has a muscular build that attributes towards her power-hitting in tennis. I feel as though it has not been since recently in her current success and newfound motherhood that men have started to praise her as attractive.
But, the debate over appearance isn’t the only fight Williams has to face. She has been an advocate in tennis to helping make the prize money fair for both men and women. Even though Williams is not the first to start the conversation, she is helping continue it from where tennis legend Billie Jean King left off.
The New York Times writer Maya Salems writes about how King started this push for equal pay by threatening to protest, saying she wanted more women than just the crumbs from the cake.
“In 1973, King threatened to sit out the U.S. Open unless the prize money was made equal. It worked,” Salem wrote. “That year, the men’s and women’s champions were paid equally, and the U.S. Open has paid its winners equally since. Other Grand Slams, though, were slow to follow suit.”
“The U.S. Open. After long-fought battles by champions like Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, and Venus and Serena Williams, tennis has seen the most progress when it comes to pay equity,” Salem wrote. “The first real appeal was made in 1970 by King, after a tournament in Italy for which she was paid just $600 for taking the women’s title. The men’s winner was awarded $3,500. King would later make this statement: ‘Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs, and I want women to have the cake, the icing and the cherry on top, too.’”
The U.S. women’s soccer team, some would say the greatest women’s soccer team in the world right now, took a stand as all 28 members had shirts that read “Equal Play Equal Pay.”
But the shirt means more than just fair pay. They want fair travel accommodations, medical treatment and coaching treatment. Something that New York Times writer Andy Das would refer to as “institutionalized gender discrimination.”
The team would then file a gender discrimination lawsuit to further demand equal treatment. One of the U.S. women’s soccer team leaders, Megan Rapinoe, would comment on how important taking a stand against this injustice is.
“We very much believe it is our responsibility,” Rapinoe said, “not only for our team and for future U.S. players, but for players around the world — and frankly women all around the world — to feel like they have an ally in standing up for themselves, and fighting for what they believe in, and fighting for what they deserve and for what they feel like they have earned.”
In terms of travel conditions, The Indiana Fever of the WNBA had the same struggle, as the team had a game in Seattle one night and were looking to travel to Indianapolis the same night to get rest before their next game.
The problem that occurred is that the WNBA prohibits teams from having private charters, so that means most of all these WNBA teams are flying commercial, not private.
As the Fever waited on their plane, they experienced flight delays, layovers, and had to eventually take a bus to Indianapolis so they would not have to forfeit the game like the Las Vegas Aces had to do earlier in the season because of a similar traveling mishap.
This goes even deeper, as the WNBA does not receive half the pay of what NBA players receive. Now, the NBA is a multi-billion dollar business, and the WNBA is not, but they both are still professional athletes and the differences in pay are considerably different.
The WNBA set an individual salary cap in 2018 of $117,500 and rookies earn a minimum of $50,000. Would you like to guess the minimum starting salary for an NBA player?
It is around $580,000.
Big difference, I know. No. 1 draft pick of the 2018 WNBA draft A’ja Wilson commented on Twitter about Lakers superstar Lebron James signing a $154 million contract over the summer.
“Must be nice. We over here looking for an M but Lord, let me get back in my lane,” she tweeted.
The money is different and the support given is just as poor.
This can also be translated to the recent uproar on Twitter that some of the Louisiana women’s basketball team made when they made their frustration of lack of student support and attendance public.
And you cannot blame them. They work just as hard as the boy's team and want to be shown the same support. It’s not selfish nor is it unfair, they want people to watch them play the game they love.
Some students said that the games were in the middle of the week and that is why attendance was low. But the men’s games are in the middle of the week as well and I’ve never heard a complaint.
Instead of trying to justify the lack of support, maybe they would rather people just be truthful of why they don’t come. Or better yet come so you can see what you have been missing out of the team so far.
Some may say because they don't win games, but they are currently 3-1 and are on a two-game win streak. And a lot of the players are just wanting to create a new culture of women’s basketball for the Ragin’ Cajuns, but they can not succeed in doing that without the support of everyone.
What if it was your sister, daughter, niece or even your mother playing in the game?
Would you go then?
But that is the problem, there shouldn’t have to be a direct attachment of you to one of the women playing for you to want to support.
Hopefully in years to come the treatment of women in sports will improve. And it will no longer be a hassle or a long-winded debate to make treating them equal the norm.
You should want to treat women equal in sports because it’s right.