Women Are Defining Their Own Role in the World of Sports

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Women in sports have historically been viewed less seriously than their male counterparts. Female athletes competing in the same sport as men generally receive less pay. For example, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 and were rewarded with $2 million. In the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. Men’s National Team lost their first knockout game but still brought home $8 million.

The phrase “greatest of all time” has become a popular way to describe athletes. However, when referring to a female athlete, the phrase is qualified and becomes “greatest female athlete of all time.” “Athlete” was never officially defined to be a term exclusive to men, but women have been ostracized nonetheless. Because of this, women have to work harder than men to be recognized in the sport’s world. Simone Biles and Serena Williams are two of this generation’s most recognizable female athletes. Some of this is due to their skill, but much is due to their portrayal in the media. As Biles was making history as the most decorated American Olympic gymnast ever, the media was commenting on her family life. Williams has faced criticism throughout her career for her muscular body.  

“Too muscly and too masculine, and then a week later too racy and too sexy,” said professional tennis player Serena Williams.

Women off the field are subject to similar gender disparities. Female announcers have pushed their way to the top, but it hasn’t been easy. ESPNW contributor Shana Renee Stephenson publicized her struggles in the industry and the barriers she has faced as a woman in the male-dominated industry. She recalled an interview in which a potential employer expressed concerns about her reporting in male locker rooms.

“That was often a question that was raised in the interview process about my comfortability level as a woman reporting for a professional male team and being the only woman or being one of few,” said Stephenson.

While the majority of sports broadcasters are men, the women in these roles are just as qualified and should not be disregarded based on their biology. Beth Mowins recently became the first woman to announce an ESPN Monday Night Football game. She was only the second woman to announce an NFL game play-by-play during the regular season. Despite this, she was quickly criticized when Twitter users mocked her voice.

“‘It has nothing to do with you being a woman,’ they tell me, ‘I just can’t stand the sound of your voice,’” said Mowins.

Mowins was just doing her job. So was Jourdan Rodrigue, reporter for The Charlotte Observer, who was publically called out by Carolina Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton. In a postgame press conference, Rodrigue asked Newton about wide receiver Devin Funchess and routes. It was a legitimate question which Newton proceeded to answer, but not before a laugh and a sexist remark.

It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes. It’s funny,” said Newton.

Immediately following the press conference, Newton did not apologize and Rodrigue tweeted her response.

I don’t think it’s ‘funny’ to be a female and talk about routes. I think it’s my job,” said Rodrigue.

Newton issued an apology 24 hours later through a video on social media. The apology came after Panther’s head coach condemned the action and Dannon Oikos Yogurt began pulling their advertisements featuring Newton as a spokesperson.  

Women have come a long way in sports, but there is still room for progress. Recent events have shown that this is still a prevalent problem requiring a solution. For now, I will continue to support these strong, beautiful, empowering women as they pave the way for future generations.

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