1) Great Dave Zirin interview with Ken Burns. Burns has made a new documentary about Jackie Robinson, a two-part, four hour film to air on PBS beginning on April 11. The interview is really meaty, focusing on Jackie’s very complicated politics. Worthwhile.
2) Excellent Daily Tar Heel editorial about the UNC basketball team, college sports and the pros and cons of the enterprise. The DTH has been terrific the past couple of years, unapologetic in calling out the university for its shortcomings in facing the scandal. I don’t necessarily agree with everything the DTH writes in this latest effort, but it’s very much worthwhile.
3) a little late on this, but last week five women who play for the US Women’s National Soccer team (USWNT) filed a wage discrimination suit against US soccer. They charged that they were making far less than the men on the national team, out of proportion to their appropriate value.
Kavitha Davidson of Bloomberg has a good discussion of some of the bogus arguments critics have hurled at the women. Notably, the women are expected to earn a $5 million profit in the 2016-17 cycle, whereas the men are slated to generate a loss. More broadly, Davidson notes, one of the things that has hamstrung the visibility of women’s soccer is a lack of commitment by media to hype it. It would be hard to argue that this is because the demand-makers have properly adduced an inherent lack of interest in the sport, given the tremendous excitement (and ratings) the women generated during their run to the 2015 World Cup title.
4) speaking of inequity in women’s athletics: Andrew Zimbalist wrote two weeks ago about the NCAA’s disregard for Title IX. According to Zimbalist, because the NCAA is not a state actor, it is not subject to Title IX compliance (though schools that receive federal funding – essentially all of them – are). As a result, the NCAA has stopped taking Title IX compliance seriously. For example, in tallying the number of male and female athletes, the NCAA allows schools to count men who practice with the women’s team as female (I confess I don’t understand why a school itself would not be subject to Title IX scrutiny for such a practice. I’ll try to get an answer to that question).
The NCAA also treats the men and women very differently when it comes to revenue from March Madness. For each game a men’s team wins, their conference earns an additional $1.5 million dollars over six years. For each game a women’s team wins – bupkis.
As Zimbalist notes, women’s teams *do* earn revenue for the NCAA and affiliated corporate sponsors and broadcasters, even if they don’t earn what the men do. In other words, the discrepancy is not justified by the underlying economic realities.
5) Though it’s a year old, my piece last year on the UConn women, who just rolled to another undefeated season and a fourth straight national championship, still holds – they’re being exploited:
The women provide a nice refuge for commentators who want to escape all the nagging, annoying off-the-field stuff that has compromised the unsullied enjoyment of rooting for collegiate athletics. They play hard, they don’t remonstrate, they listen to their coach, they graduate.
That’s a nice, tidy story, a counter-cautionary tale to the aggravating and enervating reality of big time men’s athletics. But if the women are making their school real money, they should be earning real salaries. They’re women, not “girls,” adults who should be paid for their efforts.