What is the takeaway? Who deserves X and who deserves Y? Why should I care?
These are questions I try to answer every week. I’ve thought a lot about why I’ve become so fascinated with the crossroads of sports, feminism, and society. I’ve thought about how this is a movement not just for me, but for all of you, too.
As we near the end of the semester, it’s crucial to provide some ways you can interact with our sports news cycle productively. There is always so much to learn, and that’s thrilling, but, it’s worth noting that these outlets don’t always make some of the most interesting and thought-provoking content easily accessible.
At the top of ESPN’s site, the top events displayed are what have arguably been the two leading sports stories for the past week: the NFL draft and the NBA playoffs. The 2018 draft began on a Thursday evening, but based on how sports outlets cover it, you might assume it started an hour ago, rather than four days ago.
Look no further than at peer sports sites such as Bleacher Report and SB Nation, as what they define as salient are both the 2018 draft and the NBA postseason. A headline about a female, an injustice, or new league development is pushed out of the scope of the human eye.
While you were counting LeBron’s point totals or taking what Mel Kiper Jr. says with a grain of salt, here’s what you missed.
The New York Times obtained audio from a meeting held in October including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, current players, and team owners. Kaepernick, kneeling, Trump, and the possibility of having a black American as “a face that could be in the media” were topics raised during the discussion.
Also, why we aren’t asking why Reuben Foster’s girlfriend recanted her domestic violence claims against the 49ers linebacker? Where is the sports media’s discourse about the NFL’s “inconsistent” domestic violence policy?
While Commissioner Goodell welcomed new players on Thursday night, former cheerleaders Bailey Davis and Kristan Ware were obviously on his mind. In the past month, what have we learned about NFL cheerleaders? No sweatpants. Strict social media policies. Groping and sexual harassment.
Now in the NBA, do you know who you are listening to while James Harden gets inside? I’m not talking about Mark Jackson or Jeff Van Gundy, I’m talking about Doris Burke. Google her and read Noam Scheiber’s feature on the first female full-time NBA analyst.
Give ESPN a full scroll and you’ll find a story buried deep in the webpage, the home of the extraneous rather than the significant. There you will find reaction pieces to Commission on College Basketball, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The recommendations are a start but lack specifics and fail to mention how women’s basketball is involved in these new policy recommendations.
While I understand that many sports fans see events such as the NBA playoffs and the NFL draft as opportunities for high entertainment and socialization, what is wrong with taking the time to understand the leagues they love? There’s merit in understanding a system’s flaws and having that knowledge allows fans to be a part of that change rather than indifferent to it.
While I’m clearly critiquing the sports media machine, there are some opportunities for pop culture nerds, future activists, policy makers, and even academics to begin giving some of this discourse a try.
Pop culture nerds, I recommend giving Emmy winner Katie Nolan’s podcast “Sports?” a try.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and partner program “E:60” provide a mix of analysis of top stories along with feature pieces revealing issues plaguing the sports world.
OutSports is a blog dedicated to the sports narratives of the LGBTQ+ community, while David Zirin of The Nation has provided the sports world with political commentary for over 10 years in his columns, books, and podcast, The Edge of Sports.
Tune into the podcast “Burn It All Down.” It’s got a special feminist flavor and features five women, two of which are professors, with the other three being sports reporters and writers. Similar to “Everybody Talks,” they apply an intersectional feminist view to top stories.
For academics and those interested in research, EspnW recently hosted a conference at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Papers were presented on topics such as self-image of female athletes and the careers of female sports journalists.
Now I guess there’s a counterargument. Why should we have to hunt for these opportunities? I’m one to praise EspnW for its extensive coverage of female athletes and women employed in sports, but Britni de la Cretaz of Bitch Media argues that the site could do better. Currently there isn’t enough focus on women’s results and statistics, and de la Cretaz recommends that ESPN could employ more cross-promotion with its partner.
The shift toward complete parity will continue to be an uphill battle. There will always be something to digest, but the opportunities are there. Even if you aren’t interested in sports, they inevitably reflect where our society is.
The draft and the playoffs will most likely always dominate headlines, but we live in a world where niche evolves into the mainstream. The unspeakable becomes a buzzword, a hashtag.
“Everybody Talks” is a radio show on WRUR’s the Sting that highlights women’s involvement in sports and the social issues that surround athletics. You can listen to it every Friday from 1–2 p.m. on thesting.wrur.org.