Women in Sports: After the World Cup

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Women in Sports: After the World Cup
Oct 14, 2015

By Hannah Yasharoff

How do you follow a summer that was unprecedented in terms of the amount of women who took giant leaps toward equality in sports, both on the field and in the press?

That’s the question five panelists aimed to answer Oct. 13 in the Eaton Theater of Merrill College for the second Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism event of the school year. Moderated by Povich Center Director George Solomon, the panel was composed of USA Today Sports Editor David Meeks, University of Maryland Deputy Athletics Director and Chief Operating Officer Kelly Mehrtens, UMD Women’s Basketball player and Merrill College graduate student Chloe Pavlech, DC United Director of Digital Content and former UMD Women’s Soccer player Lindsay Simpson, and basketball commentator Christy Winters-Scott.

Solomon began the event by remarking on the success of the Women’s World Cup this summer and asking the panel how that success can continue and spread to other women’s sports.

“There’s so much want to watch from men, women, kids, who are inspired by these athletes,” said Winters-Scott. “The question for me still is why we aren’t seeing the level of success of other women’s sports meet the level of success of US Women’s soccer. We need to find a commonality for equal exposure of all women’s sports.”

“If the media makes these sports more of a priority, people will listen,” Simpson added.

Simpson, a former UMD soccer player, also noted that the discussion of men’s versus women’s soccer is a special case in our country due to the recent rise in popularity.

“When the women won [the World Cup] in ’99 they were the most successful soccer team in the country,” Simpson said. “It’s unique because, for years, they were leading the way. Men have been playing catch-up for the past 20 years.”

Solomon also brought up the changing landscape of women in sports journalism, most notably post-game locker room dynamics.

Winters-Scott pointed out that being a woman in a locker room of mostly men entails having to “prove yourself by knowing. You have to do ten times the work, especially when you’re covering mens sports. I don’t think you’re taken seriously as a female when you’re going into the locker room unless you go in there and know your stuff and ask a concise question.”

“Women need to show up and not be intimidated,” Simpson added. “They have the right to be there.”

The panelists also discussed whether or not college athletes should be paid— Pavlech, a current UMD athlete, and Simpson, a former one, both agreed that they should not, though Pavlech later joked that “if they want to pay us, that’s totally fine.”

The success of Serena Williams this summer was also a hot topic. Solomon inquired whether or not the panel thought she was getting enough recognition for her hard work and success.

Mehrtens commented on how Williams faces “a lot of negative gender stereotypes. She’s fought that most of her career and talked about it very openly, facing various stereotypes based on both race and gender.”

Meeks also spoke on the excessive and perhaps sexist coverage of Williams’s “sore losing” after coming close to winning the US Open this summer, where Oprah and Donald Trump, amongst other celebrities, had attended to support Williams. He also brought up the fact that Williams is berated in the media for getting angry after losses, though Michael Jordan used to show similar emotions without being scrutinized.

“If I had lost in front of Oprah, I would have been a little annoyed, too,” Meeks said. “I don’t think that the media coverage would have been the same if it was Michael Jordan or another male athlete.”

Other topics of discussion were the unique relationship between the NBA and WNBA, the success of Katie Ledecky, the increasing emphasis for young children to play sports competitively, and media coverage of the Hope Solo and Brittney Griner scandals.

The next Povich Center event will be the tenth annual Shirley Povich Symposium, held Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. in the Riggs Alumni Center. The panel, moderated by Shirley Povich’s son and television personality Maury Povich, will include EPSN’s Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon and Jeremy Schaap, USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan, Washington Post sports columnist and author Sally Jenkins, and Washington Post Nationals writer Chelsea Janes.

Hannah Yasharoff is a freshman at Merrill College.

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