Apart from Hollywood, there’s no other field in the U.S that generates media frenzy like Sports. And in several instances, the media spotlight was trained on women’s issues in the sporting field like never before. And the issues were those important to women in any other field – discrimination, gender diversity, equal pay and violence.
2016 was a landmark year for women in sports on and off the field with lots of controversies and lawsuits related to gender equality, domestic violence, and sexual assault. All these garnered the kind of attention the country only reserves for its male-dominated sports arena. The U.S. Women’s Tennis Association, the national soccer team and the NCAA incited national debate over equal opportunity and pay for female sportspersons as well as violence against women.
Cracks in the Glass Ceiling
Women achieved more progress in the male bastion of NFL in 2016 than they did in the previous half century. Landmark initiatives led to the women breaking into the NFL coaching ranks for the first time, as also the hiring of the first female NFL official.
Soccer in the U.S
Though low on the popularity charts, you will be surprised with the following fact. The US women’s soccer team outperformed the men’s team in the most recent World Cups and produced nearly $20 million more in revenue. What shouldn’t come as a surprise is that the women’s team earned significantly less money — roughly a quarter less.
Unwilling to take this sportingly, leading players of the women’s national soccer team filed a federal wage discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) back in March. The short-changed athletes have been outspoken of their poor playing conditions as well as unequal standards of travel, accommodation, and food. A decision is awaited.
The Elephant in the Room
Often swept under the carpet, the issue of domestic violence raised its ugly head again. NFL has in the past displayed callous indifference the toward domestic violence victims, especially in the two years past. In 2016 the New York Giants firing kicker Josh Brown following a domestic violence incident turned out to be a key turning point.
In a repeat of 2014, the player initially received unqualified support from his team following the incident. But only to be released following the release of further damaging information. The NFL is now finding itself under increased scrutiny of the enforcement of its domestic violence policy.
The complainants continue to wage their fight in the court of public opinion. Appealing to fans and the media, against a system that’s discriminated against them. Such heightened public attention on the nation’s most prominent sporting bodies will hopefully translate into more concrete reforms in 2017.