Female athletes need their time in the spotlight

Female athletes need their time in the spotlight

By Blaise Mesa

Female athletes are included in halls of fame and are instrumental to sports history, yet their athletic ability is sometimes questioned and their talents are often hidden.

In an April 5 practice session, Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Lebron James was asked about having a female head coach in the NBA. The question was in regard to rumors that Becky Hammon—assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, who helped the Spurs’ summer league win the 2015 championship and has brought the Spurs to the playoffs every year of her tenure—was considered for a head coaching job for Colorado State University’s D1 men’s basketball team, according to a March 7 Sports Illustrated article.

The question may seem harmless, but the fact that it even had to be asked shows how little representation there is for women in sports. Female basketball players have been inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and leagues such as the WNBA and NCAA are full of women capable of coaching and leading professional teams through the trials and tribulations of a professional season.

But it is easy to miss these achievements because women’s sports are often underrepresented by major media outlets. 

ESPN relegates most of its women’s sports to a secondary channel—ESPNW—highlighting men’s sports on its main channel. In addition, when ESPNW reporters cover women’s sports, their work is largely posted on a separate ESPNW Facebook page, which has about 17.6 million fewer followers than the regular ESPN Facebook page.

Women’s sports being overshadowed is not something new. The only verified NCAA March Madness page on Facebook posted highlights and updates exclusively about the 2018 men’s tournament, even though the women’s tournament featured back-to-back buzzer-beating shots in one semi-final game and the championship.

Women’s professional sports take a back seat to Little Leaguers as well. The Little League World Series—a worldwide tournament of youth baseball players— was given 24 spots on ESPN or ESPN 2, according to the Little League World Series’ website. The WNBA only got 17 time slots on the same channels during the entire 2017 WNBA season.

Local media outlets such as NBC Sports Chicago, 670 The Score, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, which regularly cover men’s sports, do not even have a tab on their websites for the WNBA or the Chicago Sky, the city’s professional women’s basketball team. Yet all but 670 The Score have tabs for high school sports.

If these outlets prioritize Little Leaguers and high schoolers over professional athletes, women’s place in sports will continue to be questioned.

If more women were given coaching jobs and more media outlets covered their sports, female athletes would be valued as they deserve to be. It may be easy to scoff at the idea of the Chicago Sky on ESPN, but everyone seems OK with middle schoolers on during the Little League World Series instead of the WNBA playoff chase. The next time you find yourself watching 11-year-olds play, ask yourself if you would rather watch professional athletes instead.