Women Shaking Up the Sports World
With interest in women’s sports growing every year, public exposure for female athletes could hardly be greater. Both the general public and the sports industry are becoming more supportive of women in sport and the pay equity that they deserve. The audience for women’s sports is greater than ever before and media and sponsorship coverage continues to increase.
In fact, a Nielsen study recently found that 84% of sports fans are interested in women’s sports and agree that they are considered more ‘progressive’, ‘family-oriented’, and ‘inspiring’. The acceptance of women’s sports has created a huge opportunity for female athletes to have a very public voice and bring attention to issues like equity, diversity, and inclusion.
WNBA player, Layshia Clarendon, is using her athletic star power to highlight LGBTQ causes and issues of social justice. When she’s not on the court, Clarendon is often speaking on LGBTQ topics at events like The Atlantic LGBT Summit. She’s also written pieces for NBC News and Esquire about transgendered rights and support for transgendered people. Clarendon certainly isn’t one to shy away from weighing in on ‘hot button’ issues such as:
She publicly supported Jemele Hill in 2017 when she called President Trump a white supremacist on Twitter.
Clarendon took her alma mater to court in 2018, alleging that she was the victim of sexual assault by the University of California-Berkeley’s athletic department employee Mohamed Muqtar. Her claims were substantiated by the university’s internal investigation.
Another female athlete who is using her fame to push forward important social issues is Ada Hegerberg. Hegerberg is one of the world’s greatest soccer players and has refused to play in the 2019 World Cup for her home country of Norway. Hergerberg has been criticizing the Norweigan soccer federation since 2017 for not providing equal pay or conditions to the women’s team and creating a culture of oppression and inequality. Hergerberg says that playing in France was an eyeopener when she saw that equal pay, respect, and inclusion can exist among male and female teams.
Despite being one of the world’s greatest players, she has been repeatedly shown a lack of respect publicly, often asked about her motives. While receiving an award celebrating her accomplishments, she was asked by the presenter to “twerk” on stage. In an interview, a journalist asked her if she identified herself as a soccer player or a feminist. She says that being treated this way has made it “impossible to play football in a world among men and not fight for equality”.
Being treated differently is something that neither of these top athletes accepts and they have made it their mission to change that. While there is still a long way to go, individuals like Clarendon and Hergerberg are moving women’s sport in the right direction.