Professional sports in the world today are widely over analyzed. with daily highlights and talk shows regarding the latest news of a big-time player or story. These stories more often than not are about men. Women are often an afterthought when you turn on the sports channel. Every one of us has turned on the sports channel one time or another. How many times when you turned on ESPN was there a women’s game being played? In professional sports women don’t receive the attention they deserve.
In fact, a 25-year study by the University of Sothern California revealed that women’s sports receives substantially less coverage than men. Stating that, “In 2014… SportCenter devoted a scant 2 percent of airtime to women’s sports ( USC” They further elaborated that when women’s sports are covered, 81.6 percent of coverage is on basketball. An analysis of women in professional sports reveals problems of sexism that women face in all levels of sports; from cheerleaders, to women media personnel, and athletes.
Many people grow up playing some type of sport or being a cheerleader or dancer for their local school. Back then everything was voluntary and completely free. Researching cheerleaders in sports today show that there isn’t much difference between how professional cheerleaders are treated by their employers today and doing their job for free. Upon researching I’ve learned that there have been various lawsuits and claims of sexist and unfair treatment.
For instance, in 2017 the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA were sued by a former dancer for the team claiming that her and her fellow dancers were paid less than minimum wage. On average the dancers would bring home 65 dollars per game (si.com). According to Forbes, the Bucks are worth over one billion dollars. For a team worth than much money, paying 65 dollars per game to dancers shows that they view the women they employ more as objects than they do people and employees.
When I began my research, I thought this would be an isolated incident but there having been many other cases from professional sports team who have been sued due to their sexist and unfair treatment. Another incident that shows how cheerleaders are perceived in professional sports was during the 2013 NFL season when cheerleaders were forced to attend a charity golf outing for the Buffalo Bills called the Jills Annual Golf Tournament. One former dancer who attended the party and later sued the Bills referred to the party in these terms:
“The Jills Annual Golf Tournament–Select Jills were required to wear a bikini, and then go into a dunk tank, where they were dunked in water by the golf tournament participants. Jills cheerleaders are also “auctioned off” like prizes at this event and had to ride around with the winning bidder in his golf cart for the duration of the tournament.
While serving as a “bought person” they were subjected to additional demeaning treatment, including degrading sexual comments and inappropriate touching. Oftentimes, the Jills were forced to sit on participants’ laps because there was not enough seats in the golf carts. The golf tournament also featured a “Flip for Tips” component, wherein participants paid gratuities to watch select Jills do backflips and acrobatics for the gratification of the crowd. (BustedCoverage)”
Sexism still exists and especially in a male dominated world of sports it occurs far more than I thought. After this research of the sexist treatment of cheerleaders I thought that there was no way women in other occupations were treated in a sexist manner but upon further research sexism is everywhere in sports.
The second profession in sports where women face sexism is in the media. According to News Media Alliance, women only had 11.4 percent of sport story bylines last year- and the was up 10 percent from the previous year despite over 51 percent of all women being sports fans (NMA). So why aren’t many women given the chance to publish and talk sports with their male counterparts?
From reporters, to talk show hosts, and media companies I have found instances in which sexism is frequent and solely based being a woman in a man dominated role. The three instances in which I want to discuss are talk show host Kristine Leahy, reporter Jourdan Rodrigue, and the media networks role in sexism.
The first media member that I researched who I discovered was treated with a blatant sexist manner was Fox Sports talk show host Kristine Leahy when she was berated by guest Lavar Ball during an interview. During this interview the two were discussing whether Lavar’s shoe company would be making more money by offering their products to women.
Lavar replied by saying, “stay in your own lane” which was basically inferring to be quiet and you don’t know what you are talking about. Leahy found this very disrespectful and confronted Lavar about it in which he said, “I never disrespect women. But I’ll tell you what, if you act like that, guess what? Something’s coming to you, and it’s okay(USAtoday.” This certain instance is definitely more telling in video but with how Lavar treats Kristine Leahy is a disturbing occurring behavior towards women in the media.
My second example of sexism towards women of the media in sports is how athletes perceive women reporting on a sport that is solely played my men. This event occurs in 2017 when Charlotte Observer beat reporter Jourdan Rodrigue asks Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton a question regarding his teammates route running. What transpired is a common problem that all women face in the workplace. When Cam Newton was asked about his teammates physicality running routes, he replied with, “’It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes like — it’s funny.”
In a league dominated with men women are constantly faced with sexist remarks and regardless of if what’s being said it is quickly turned away because it is coming from a woman.. A 2015 Women’s Media Center study found that just 10% of sports journalists were women the previous year — a 7% decline from the year before that(womens media center).
The third example comes from a different form of the media but with the same results. This time we are going to analyze the media companies themselves. Companies such as ESPN, FOX, and CBS control most of the rights of viewership so why aren’t women’s sports broadcasted as often as men’s?
During my research I noticed there has been a climb in women’s sports participation but yet there has been a decline in coverage. According to a Southern California study I referenced earlier, “less than one percent of network television coverage included women’s athletics in 2014 and ESPN’s SportsCenter featured women a mere 2 percent of the time. In contrast, men’s sports coverage of the NFL, MLB, and NBA increased from 68 percent in 2009 to nearly 75 percent (womens media center).
Many media personnel have the opinion that women shouldn’t be around a football field, like the comments from Andy Rooney from 60 minutes in 2002. Rooney, made the statement, “The only thing that really bugs me about television’s coverage is those damn women they have down on the sidelines who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.” Sexism in sports has caused less women to join the journalist field(queensjournal). With women’s sports on the rise why aren’t they televised?
The FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 than any other soccer game shown on English-language television in this country in recorded history. The entire event garnered a record 750 million viewers (WMC) This itself presents a seemingly clear indication that women’s sports should receive equal televised coverage as men’s sports. These examples show that sexism in sports is clearly alive and it happens right under everyones eye.
Lastly, I am going to analyze women athletes themselves and instances of sexism that they to this day still experience. During my research I found that the pay gap between women and men is extremely large. In fact, The American Association of University Women recently published a study showing women are paid 78 percent of what men are paid on average (inequality). A glaring example of the is the United States Women’s National team, who are 5-time World Cup champions and had the highest rated soccer game in history during the 2015 finals.
Despites this resume the Women’s team received 2 million dollars for winning the competition versus the 9 million that the men’s team took home for losing in the round of sixteen. That is a glaring difference in winnings for two teams who took home completely different results. Had the men’s team won the 2015 World Cup they would have taken home 35 million dollars (inequality).
The pay gap is a glaring factor when it comes to sexism in sports. Some women athletes have to pick up second jobs just to live, while the average NBA salary is 30 million dollars (Forbes). While I understand a lot of money comes from revenue streams such as ratings and advertisement there is no way that in 2018 the male athletes should be making 78 percent more than female athletes.
Another way that women athletes face sexism in professional sports is the way that male commentators perceive them versus the praise they deserve for their accomplishments. I am going to provide two examples of ways that men perceive women in the workplace.
The first occurrence was when 3-time Olympian Corey Cogdell-Unrein won her second bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympic. After winning her medal the Chicago Tribune reference her claiming the bronze as, “Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics (telegraph.uk)” Here is an example of where a woman work tirelessly to win an Olympic medal but yet when she does she is referred to as “someone’s husband.”
The second occurrence I found during my research was very recently when 23-year-old Norwegian soccer player, Ada Hegerberg, had just become the first woman to win the Ballon d’Or, one of soccer’s top individual honors. Upon receiving the honor, the host of the presentation followed with, an onstage question about ‘whether she knew how to twerk’ (nytimes). She quickly dismissed his question and walked off stage. These two examples show that despites a woman’s accomplishments in sports that they are still viewed in a sexist way with their comments and their perception of women athletes.
Women of Sport conducted a survey of 1,152 women and men working in sport was conducted between September 2017 and March 2018 and it was determined that 40 percent of women face some kind of discrimination in the workplace(independent). Every four out of ten women in the professional sports industry who face some sort of discrimination in the workplace is eye opening and it should definitely be on the forefront of the sports industry to improve on.
In conclusion I have analyzed women in professional sports and how they have and still face problems of sexism in the workplace. Regardless of their place in the workplace whether you’re a cheerleader, a reporter, or an athlete. Women face constant harassment from their peers based on their perceived knowledge of their sports or think that they are where they are today because they are good looking or they are the wife of somebody famous. This is an ongoing and important matter in professional sports that needs to be fixed.
Women should not have to be looked down upon based on their sex and should not have to face a wage gap or sexist treatment from their peers. I have presented three levels of women in professional sports where all three face constant sexist behavior. This is a reality that needs to change, women deserve equality and don’t deserve to feel discriminated or less valued by their peers based on their sex. This is a problem that we as a society can fix and help the women of the future.