Competitive Sports Industry Begins to Offer More Opportunities to Women

SportsCenter Studio. Photo credit: Rob Poetsch courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

While sports journalism and the sports industry as a whole have been historically male-dominated, more and more women are becoming broadcasters and reporters, and female athletes are making more money.

Gender discrimination in sports journalism

The fight for equal pay and better treatment in the sports industry has been a topic of discussion since laws were created to eliminate gender discrimination within the last 100 years. Despite these efforts, sports journalism’s overall gender diversity is still dominated by men.

The U.S. National Football League (NFL) and its television networks are an example of the male-dominated industry. Evergreen columnist Daniel Paramo quoted Richard Deitsch from an August 2017 Sports Illustrated article writing:

Between all of the NFL rightsholders — CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC and the NFL Network — there are around 20 spots for play-by-play broadcasters every year. … Given a woman has never ascended to even one of the lower-level teams on the networks with multiple broadcast teams (such as CBS and Fox), the implicit message to women who want to enter sports broadcasting is that this job is not for you.

Richard Deitsch quoted in Evergreen article.

Although this article was written in 2017 and we are beginning to see more female play-by-play broadcasters around the world, it is still symbolic of gender discrimination engrained into the sports industry’s history. No doubt, stereotypes such as women not providing the same broadcast quality content as a man are simply not true and only continue to hinder women moving up in sports journalism.

Women in sports journalism

There have been many women who have shaped the landscape for up-and-coming female broadcasters, but Doris Burke is one of the most significant. Burke was the youngest of eight children in an Irish Catholic family. She got her start by replacing a male announcer who failed to attend the Providence versus Pittsburgh Big East Game of the Week. In a National Basketball Association (NBA) article written by Brain Witt, she said:

Doris Burke interviews Kyrie Irving
Doris Burke reporting. Photo credit: Bryan Horowitz via Flickr.

I knew both teams. With zero preparation and 45 minutes notice, I pulled that game off and the next thing you knew, I started to get a bit of men’s work. Honestly, it’s been 25 to 28 years of just slow, methodical, taking step-by-step progress. I’ve been very lucky.

Doris Burke in an NBA article.

Will Sherratt, a former sports anchor and reporter for Spectrum News, KXYL radio station and now managing partner of a video content creation business, explains the significance Doris Burke has had on sports journalism:

I think Doris Burke is the best analyst they [ESPN] have. She knows her stuff better than anybody and you can tell she’s put in the time and has coupled her understanding of the game with her devotion to watching film. She’s truly the best they have.

Will Sherratt

Figures such as Burke have helped increase female acceptance into sports reporter and broadcaster roles. No doubt, there is still much more progress needed to eliminate the idea of a male-dominated sports journalism industry, but Burke and other women are beginning to prove females can be as good, if not better sports journalists.

Fighting For equality in the sports industry

The fight for equality extends to more than just women in sports journalism. Women athletes such as Billie Jean King, the U.S. women’s national soccer team and the U.S. women’s national hockey team have fought for equality by voicing their gender discrimination experiences.

In one of the most famous tennis matches in history, tennis legend Billie Jean King competed against Bobby Riggs (U.S. men’s professional tennis champion) and handily beat him.

Women playing tennis
Photo by Michelle Moody on Unsplash

This moment in sports history helped King in her crusade for gender equality. King has since received a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work promoting the rights of women and the LGTBQIA+ community.

The U.S. women’s national soccer team has also been increasing their public battle for equality by filing a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in March 2019. The lawsuit’s goal was to demonstrate the differences in pay and overall treatment between the men’s national team and the women’s national team.

Last February, U.S. Soccer and USWNT members reached a $24 million settlement. Additionally, U.S. Soccer agreed to pay the women the same amount it pays the men.

Photo by Chris Leipelt on Unsplash

The U.S. women’s hockey team has also shown their push for equality by boycotting USA Hockey during the 2017 IIHF World Championships. An ESPN article states that their boycott resulted in USA Hockey increasing their team’s annual compensation by $70,000 per player.

These visionary women are only a few of the many who have fought for gender equality within the last 70 years.

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