Friday, February 7, 2014

Would You Say That to Your Daughter?

Playing days in Sweden (2010-2011).

  This week, a guy I don't know all-that-well, but respect a great deal -- for his work promoting women's athletics, and women's basketball more specifically -- made an important post on his Facebook page. He'd had enough -- of the constant snide remarks disparaging women's hoops and its athletes, and the lack of acknowledgement.

  I 'liked' his post, and commented on it. A few days passed, and I found myself thinking more about what he had said while I was running on the treadmill.

  I felt I needed to add something.

  But before we get to my thoughts, here's the post, in full, from Ben York:
WARNING: I’m getting on my soapbox…I don’t know where else to post this, so here we go.
I’m a women’s basketball guy. Always have been.
Some people like women’s basketball; others don’t.
I get it. And – trust me – I’ve heard every reason why. (I could get on an entirely new soapbox here, but that’s for another day. Maybe.)
The WNBA announced today that Magic Johnson (and other investors) purchased the Los Angeles Sparks to keep them in LA. Obviously, this is huge news for the league and women’s basketball fans in general (at least, it should be). Not only will this generate substantial awareness for the league, the business acumen of the ownership group has every intention of increasing profitability and long term staying power. Having a successful and thriving franchise in a major market like LA makes the WNBA better.
To be frank, though, what pisses me off are the people who continue to enthusiastically and consciously dismiss the WNBA as second-rate or “less than” while subsequently ignoring centuries of stereotypes and dogmas that promote women as inferior.
We aren’t asking you to love the WNBA. We don’t even need a ton of recognition. At this point, whether it is fair or not, a simple mention of scores or highlights (no matter the outlet) makes us giddy.
Acknowledgement, however, is another story.
This was most recently evidenced by the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl. Nearly every major media reported that it was the city’s first major championship since 1979, ignoring the Seattle Storm’s championships in 2004 and 2010.
Maddening, but if I’m honest, nothing new.
Yet, perhaps the most infuriating aspect of the so-called “debate” has been the response by detractors to completely disregard the league. As the brilliant Mechelle Voepel stated recently, the WNBA isn’t pretending (or even trying) to be one of the four major sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL).
Nevertheless, it DOES feature the absolute best women’s basketball players in the world. It DOES set a tremendously empowering example for young women. It still can be improved, but it DOES represent the fundamental equality and opportunity that we ALL deserve. And in spite of the misdirected venom that is routinely spewed, it DOES continue to grow in attendance, ratings and sustainability.
To me, that’s pretty amazing.
Ultimately, I don’t know if things will change. I don’t know if the misogyny (don’t kid yourselves; it absolutely exists) will improve. I hope it does.
I’ll close with this: many players don’t have to play in the WNBA from a financial basis. That is to say, they do it because they care about what the league – in its truest form – stands for.
I respect the hell out of that.
Twenty years from now, I hope an eight-year-old young woman still sees one of her favorite WNBA players on ESPN and sets a tangible goal to make a living playing basketball professionally.
She deserves it.
/gets off soapbox
My nieces, Stella & Sadie, playing earlier this year.
Add R-E-S-P-E-C-T
  I'll see Ben's 'acknowledgement', and add respect.

  If you've ever read a comment section of a women's basketball article online, you know it can be an ugly place. It seems the comment 'who cares' never fails to appear. Many times, however, it goes much further than that.

  Or we've all been in a room, where women's basketball (or any women's sport for that matter) is brought up, and similar sentiment is repeated.

  I've done my best over the years to ignore those comments, but I've always found them disheartening. I've never really understood people who take the time out of their day to specifically diss women's basketball, or female athletes in general.

  And why is it acceptable?

Imagine You're Talking to Your Daughter
  Like Ben, I understand, women's athletics is not for everyone. You're either a fan, or you're not. I've found the only time someone converts to women's basketball fandom, after never having cared for the sport, is after they have a daughter.

  To those who have ever said, 'it doesn't matter, it's *just* women's basketball' (or something equally disrespectful), I have this to say to you: imagine you're talking to your daughter, or your niece, or your sister, or your girlfriend. Would you ever discredit, disrespect, disparage, or take away from what she is doing then?

  Girls playing sports is hugely beneficial --  to her psyche, her confidence, and I think, to our society in general. Strong, confident women; that's a good thing, isn't it?

  And equally important is girls having female role models to look up to. Why would we tear them down?

I looked up to Tamika Catchings in HS, & was thrilled to meet her. ('99)
Stopping the Disrespect
  Growing up, I was lucky enough to train on a daily basis with the best players in the Portland area, both boys and girls. We trained together, we played with each other, we competed against each other, and we worked our tails off together. But we respected each other as well.

  On a regular basis, pros or NCAA stars would come in to train alongside us. Our new training partners probably came in thinking 'who are these high school kids, and why am I training with them?'  Some of them most-definitely thought, 'why am I working out with girls?'

  Their first training sessions with us always went the same: our trainer would have us do the drills/competitions he knew we (the high school kids), and maybe specifically, us girls, would succeed in. And more often than not, the visiting stars would come up short against us in those competitions and drills.

  Immediately, that changed the perspective of our visitors. Those drills alone, gave us the respect we desired.

  In turn, it made our training sessions that much better. And probably made us all -- boys, girls, and visiting stars alike -- better players in the long run.

  We, the girls, found a way to earn respect on the court.

  Off the court, the respect isn't going to magically appear. But I don't know how we've allowed the constant disrespect to continue for so long. And we shouldn't allow it to go on.

  Here's your challenge, the next time your hear someone say 'who cares, it's just women's basketball', call them out on it. Ask them if they'd ever say that to their daughter. Or if they want their daughters to grow up having athletes as role models.

  It matters.

  Because like Ben, I too hope that in 20 years, that eight-year-old young lady sees her favorite player on TV and wants to grow up and be just like her.


Post a Comment