Women’s sports have always been treated as a poor relation on television. Except for the occasional brief moments of bra-baring soccer players or Olympic records, women’s sports are largely ignored in the media.
Case in point: this summer’s $2.25 million CP Women’s Open in Regina. Despite, the fanfare, it failed to get live network coverage and was relegated to a few “highlights” in sports anchor packages. However, TSN’s broadcast schedule did include the U.S. Men’s Amateur, the U.S. Mid Amateur, the Ryder Cup, The Hero World Challenge, the PNC Father/Son Challenge, the QBE Shootout and even something called the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
But not a single women’s tournament.
Finding women’s sports on television is like playing Where’s Waldo. How many people even realize there’s a women’s basketball tournament going on during March Madness?
According to data, women’s sports receives only five percent of dedicated coverage. It’s argued that this disproportionate number is due to two factors. First, men dominate the management of sports media. Second, women’s sports don’t generate enough interest.
During World War II, it was the men who created women’s baseball teams to improve national morale while the boys went off to war. They dressed up the girls in short skirts and make-up and made them flirt with the spectators. It took a while, but the media started following them. Then the war ended, the reporters left, and eventually, the teams were deemed unnecessary.
Of course, that was during the 1940’s and 50’s. Surely, times have changed.
Let’s see … In 1973, Billie Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs and his chauvinist cohorts and the world took notice. Women’s tennis started getting respect. Today, 44 percent of all college student-athletes are female. So … problem solved.
However, the great John McEnroe recently claimed that Serena Williams wouldn’t make it into the top 700 of male players.
A few weeks ago, French tennis player Alize Cornet received a code violation after she “adjusted” her shirt courtside. Meanwhile, the men strip down regularly while still on the court.
In May, Serena’s catsuit – designed to help her blood circulation after the birth of her first child – was criticized (and later, banned) during the French Open for being too “form-fitting.” Apparently, short skirts and naked legs are fine but covering them with spandex is unacceptable.
And then just this past weekend during the U.S. Open final, the same Serena was further charged $17,000 in fines for, among other things, arguing with the umpire. Evidently, she had the audacity to call him a “thief.”
Can we go back to Mr. McEnroe for a moment? Remember his on-court tirades? Or Jimmy Connors’ foul mouth? Andre Agassi’s? According to Andy Roddick, "I've regrettably said worse and I've never gotten a game penalty."
And this is one of the few women’s sports actually getting media coverage.
So 70 years later, women’s sports are still being ignored by the media and undermined by its own officials.
Yes, we’ve come a long way, baby.