By Rave’n DaJon Coleman
This July, Jen Welter became a coach for the Arizona Cardinals. She is the first woman in NFL history to become a female coach. The sports world greeted her hiring as a moment of great progress for women in sports. “I want little girls to grow up knowing that when they put their mind to something, when they work hard, that they can do anything regardless,” Welter told the New York Times.
But can they? Sexism in sports is real. There are likely many women qualified to serve as NFL coaches, but we are witnessing history made only in 2015 through Welter, whose position is only a training camp and preseason internship. Beyond the front office, discrimination also exists on the field. The fact remains that female athletes are still paid and respected less by the sports world than male athletes. This is true even though many of the best athletes in the world, from Serena Williams to the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, are women.
Women are also used as eye candy. Most female sports broadcasters are advised to go into the field young, appreciated more for their looks than for their experience. Women in sports are also sidelined as cheerleaders and treated disrespectfully by fans. Female athletes who want to play football are even expected to do so in lingerie.
This is a shame because recently plenty of female athletes have proven that they are just as good as (if not better than) the men. Mo’ne Davis took the world by storm with her incredible pitching in the 2014 Little League World Series. Ronda Rousey showed why many consider her the best fighter in the world by maintaining her undefeated streak in last week’s MMA fight with Bethe Correia. Brittney Griner could go head-to-head with any man in the NBA. Serena Williams just won her 21st Grand Slam title, establishing her as perhaps America’s best living athlete. Our soccer team captivated the world by defeating Japan in the Women’s World Cup. Even still, female soccer players continue to be paid less than men.
Professional leagues should do more to address this. They shouldn’t just hire women for good press, but rather because women have invaluable contributions to make to sports, as athletes, administrators, and observers. Until they are allowed to participate as equals, the sports world will be lacking.