Back in 1972, when my husband and I married, Title IX was enacted. It stated that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” It opened up opportunities for girls and young women to participate in sports at a level they had previously been denied. As a result of these educational opportunities, we now have professional women’s basketball teams and soccer teams, among other professional women’s sports.
Last night I was watching the CBS world news and saw a story about women’s professional soccer teams in our country and how many of them are dissolving because of lack of interest on the part of fans. The news report showed women playing soccer to nearly empty stadiums. It’s not much better for women’s professional basketball. Title IX was enacted nearly forty years ago, and yet the opportunities it created for women in sports have not translated into viable careers for women. For example, a rookie in the WNBA makes about $36,000 her first year. Mind you, this is with a college degree. Compare that to salaries for men in their rookie year in the NBA. A top pick would be making over four million dollars, a low pick only about a measly million. Some of these rookies are coming to the NBA straight from high school. I think they probably could survive on those numbers without getting a second job.
Now, you might think that I’m looking for someone to blame in all this, but the fault, dear women (to borrow from Shakespeare; thank you, Will) is not in our stars but in ourselves. Yes, not many men watch women’s sports, but neither do women. How many of us will sit on the couch next to our husbands to be near them while they watch football (Okay, guilty! But I get my back rubbed…), yet we won’t watch a WNBA game or a WPGA tournament? Furthermore, why is it that men like us to sit with them to watch these men’s sporting events but they won’t sit with us to watch women’s sports?
My husband and I are devoted college hoops fans. We’re University of Connecticut alums. Need I say more? A couple of years ago, we drove up to Washington, D.C. to watch the UConn women play Georgetown. A year ago we watched them in the first round of the NCAA playoffs in Norfolk. However, when March Madness is over, do we ever turn on the WNBA and watch these amazing women in action? No we don’t, and many of them are ex-UConn players. Women will never be able to have the same career opportunities in sports if they don’t get the fan support.
This Sunday the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team will compete in the world finals. How many of us will watch that event and then never turn on another women’s game for the rest of the year? I’m making a change and declaring it right here and now. I will begin tuning in to women’s games. For every men’s game I watch, I will watch a women’s game. My husband will sit next to me. Yes, he will (I haven’t told him yet). And I will allow him to give me a back rub while we’re watching.