I love Girls in the Game. Through my Sara & Two C-Dogs Foundation I support about ten programs, which range from sending kids to Montana to dig for dinosaurs, through scholarships for young women musicians trying for their big break, to literacy for pregnant teens and teen moms. There’s a special energy and team spirit to Girls in the Game that always makes me peppier when I’ve spent a day with them.
Recently I was a guest coach to talk about how the media cover women and girls sports. We started by going through the daily papers from Chicago and New York to see what kind of news the Tribune, the Sun-Times and the New York Times thought women merited.
The answer: just about nothing. The young women were perceptive and careful readers. They found that all three papers had a story about a rookie with the Chicago Sky making the WNBA All-Star team. The Tribune had one sentence on a woman skier—not because of her athletic prowess but because of her sex life.
No one had a word to say about the Chicago Bandits. This is a professional women’s fast-pitch team. Since 2005 they have been National Champions six times and they are on track to finish at the top again this year. The Cubs and White Sox combined have won a total of one championship in those eight years, but they get a lot of full-page stories in both papers. My young women thought the Bandits ought to have received at least a little paragraph to describe their previous night’s victory.
Similarly, the Girls in the Game noted that the Sun-Times led with a full-page picture of Brian Urlacher. We all agreed he was a great player, but it isn’t football season and there are women playing sports right now who could use a little ink.
We talked about what we could do to change this story. I told them that when the Notre Dame Women’s basketball team was ranked #2 in the nation this past winter, I wrote both the Sun-Times and the Tribune sports editors (Chris de Luca (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Tim Bannon (email@example.com), to see why they had not written a single word about the women all season long–while covering the rather mediocre men’s team with front-of-the-section stories. The Sun-Times didn’t think I merited an answer. The Tribune sports editor wrote back, without salutation, “Resources and an abundance of teams and events to cover.” None of which are female.
The United States sent a national football team (U.S. football) to Finland this summer to play in an international women’s football tournament. I only know about the event because I know one of the women in Chicago’s tackle football team, the Chicago Force; Elizabeth Okey was picked for the national team. I couldn’t find coverage anywhere on the Web for the tournament. By the way, Okey and other women have to buy their own uniforms and equipment. If she had her face on the front of the Sun-Times, maybe her team would start making enough money to buy equipment for Okey.
My young women suggested we all write to the newspapers, to express our interest in coverage of women’s sports. Since they get their news from television, they also suggested we write to our local TV stations to demand air time about women athletes. They thought about it harder. “We should go to women’s events at our high schools,” they said. “We should write stories about our women for our school newspapers.”
The Tribune recently ran a story saying how young women of color have not benefited from Title IX. This is a serious problem. It also represents the only major story about women’s sports the Tribune has run in the last 24 months. Until we start reading and seeing news about women’s teams, no one will care, because right now, no one knows women are playing sports.
Except the Girls in the Game. My team. They’re young, they’re energetic, and they’re ready to change the world.