Mad Thoughts

Mad Thoughts: Flipping the Script in Sports Media

Joel Solomon//Wikimedia

MadThoughtsLogoMy passion for sports began at a young age. Growing up in Nebraska — home of the best fanbase in college football — I learned that cheering on the Cornhuskers is mandatory and a lifestyle. My family dedicated its Saturdays in the fall to tailgating outside Memorial Stadium.

But my decision to pursue a career in sports broadcasting was not based on fandom alone. After watching and playing sports for several years, I realized how unequal the sports industry is for men and women. There is this a stereotype in society that women belong cheering on the sidelines, while men belong on the court. Now as sports editor, I hope to give female athletes the attention they deserve.

Title IX was designed to fix gender inequality in education programs by reducing sex-based discrimination. The law creates an equal platform for female college athletes by giving them the same opportunities as male athletes. This forced athletic departments to have proportional female-to-male ratios and offer equal opportunities to play. Title IX made a big step to allowing more women to participate in sports; unfortunately, the rule did not change the way the media covered them.

The University of Southern California began a study in 1989 that examined the amount of coverage for female and male athletes on respective national outlets. This study has been repeated every five years, and it found that 2014 was an all-time low for female sports coverage. Sportscenter, ESPN’s flagship sports show, aired a whopping 376 stories that covered men’s sports, but only broadcasted a measly 13 stories that featured women’s sports. ESPN, you need to check yourself.

Even when females do get the media attention they deserve, they still get the short end of the stick. A prime example is this year’s U.S. women’s national soccer team that defeated Japan to take home its third FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy. Fox Sports did a great job covering the most watched Women’s World Cup in history.

However, FIFA discriminated against female athletes by giving them a significantly smaller money award for playing compared to male athletes who participated in the World Cup the year prior.

The women’s team took home a $2 million prize for winning, but that “bonus” is nothing compared to the $8 million awarded to the U.S. men’s national team, which lost in the round of 16 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. And don’t get me started on the $35 million given to Germany’s men’s team for winning the whole tournament.

The salaries between male and female athletes vary greatly. The current highest paid male athlete is boxer Floyd Mayweather, who has an estimated yearly salary of $285 million, excluding his $15 million worth of endorsements, as reported by Forbes. The highest paid female athlete is Maria Sharapova, reported by Forbes. The world-renowned tennis player is estimated to receive a $6.7 million yearly salary, excluding her endorsements with Nike and Head, worth a combined $23 million.

Although the gender inequality stems further than just media coverage and financial earnings, the media is a powerful tool that can change the way women are perceived in sports. It is my hope that my work as the sports editor of  The Phoenix can begin to give female athletes the recognition they not only need, but also deserve.

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