Justice in sports focuses on gender, not race. So the gaps continue.

In 1998, Tracy Green and her Florida teammates posed for the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship trophy after beating Duke in five of six games. Green, who received a full scholarship to Florida, smiled proudly, kindly.

“I knew I was a Title IX beneficiary because of history,” Green, 43, said in an interview, acknowledging the opportunities federal law has created for women and girls in sports since it went into effect in 1972.

But Green also knew that she — a black woman on a team full of white women — represented a small number of athletes.

“It hasn’t changed that much,” said Green, now a women’s tennis coach at Harvard. She added: “You will not find more than one black man in the tennis teams.

Despite all the progress made through Title IX, many who study gender equality in sport argue that it is not good for women of all races. White women, they point out, are the main benefactors of the law because formulating a statute on gender equality – not to mention the intersection of gender with race and income – ignores significant issues facing many black athletes, coaches and administrators.

“It’s kind of good news, bad news when you think of Title IX,” said Ketra Armstrong, a professor of sports management and director of diversity, justice and inclusion in Michigan. She added: “We are talking about gender equality, but if you look at the numbers, we see that white women break down the barriers that rise to these leadership roles to a much greater extent than black women, and that’s because we are more comfortable I want to talk about gender. ”

Some sports experts believe that Title IX cannot solve racial differences in athletics.

“Title IX is strictly a gender filter. It’s hard to ask Title IX to bridge the gap in race, household income, or any other category, “said Tom Farry, director of the Aspen Institute, which conducts research on youth and school sports in the United States. He added: “The question is whether we need additional policies to address these shortcomings, and I would say yes.

Others, such as Armstrong, argue that issues of race and gender are related and that Title IX talks on gender are incomplete without including race, because “it is often the nature of their race that determines them.” She said she felt that people saw her Blackness first, not her gender, when she entered a room.

“It has improved the opportunities for black girls and women and it should not be reduced,” she said. “But let’s not be fooled that we arrived because we didn’t. There are still unfulfilled promises from Title IX.

According to the NCAA’s demographic database, white women make up the largest percentage of female athletes in all three divisions – 68 percent for the 2020-21 school year. Black women make up 11 percent and most are concentrated in two sports: basketball, where 30 percent of women are athletes, and indoor and outdoor athletics (20 percent). Black women were almost represented in most other sports – 5 percent or less in softball, tennis, football, golf and swimming.

“It’s harder to break into these sports because of these stereotypes about what sports black girls play,” said Amira Rose Davis, an assistant at Penn State who focuses on black women in the sport.

The division in athletics at the college is in line with similar trends in youth sports.

A March study by the National Center for Women’s Law found a large divide in sports opportunities between high schools, which were highly white, with students at least 90 percent white, or highly non-white, at least 90 percent non-white. The study found that heavily white schools had twice as many sports opportunities as those with many non-whites. And for girls in high-white schools, there were far fewer team seats than for girls in very white schools, the study said.

The study says some of the gaps are “a strong indicator of non-compliance with Title IX” and that sports such as volleyball and football, with fewer non-white athletes, are more likely to lead to opportunities to play in college.

In college sports, athletics and basketball are more accessible and conventional for black girls.

Carolyn Peck, who coached college and professional women’s basketball from 1993 to 2018, recalled watching C. Vivian Stringer as a women’s basketball coach in the late 1980s. Stringer, a black woman, showed Peck what was possible.

“All eyes were on her from the Black Community because she was almost the only one to coach this national scene,” she said.

Peck, who is from a predominantly white community in Jefferson City, Tennessee, had access to a number of sports when she was younger – including basketball and swimming. She chose basketball in part because she had talent and was one of the tallest children in her school, but also because it was the only sport she was associated with.

Peck played at Vanderbilt on a full scholarship and won his first coaching job as an assistant to Pat Summit, the influential Tennessee basketball coach who won eight NCAA championships. As Purdue’s head coach in 1998, Peck became the first African-American to win a national title.

“If it weren’t for Title IX, I might not only have the opportunity to play sports,” Peck said, “but also go to a college with a free education so I can pursue the coaching profession.”

Access and price remain huge barriers to entry for colored girls. The boom in participation rates for high school girls – 3.4 million in 2019 from 1.85 million in 1978-79 – has significantly helped girls living in school districts who had the resources to offer more sports teams and opportunities. But colored girls, even those in the middle class or wealthier families, often grow up in school neighborhoods with fewer opportunities.

Maysha Kelly, 44, a sports director at Drexel and one of the few black women to hold a top sports position at a university, said the only sports on offer at her Philadelphia elementary and high schools were basketball and athletics.

“Access to sports and the sports that are offered were not offered in areas that are more diverse than race,” Kelly said. She added: “If I wanted to do other sports, it would require financial resources, physical access, so that I could be brought to an organization in which I could participate.”

Kelly said she was lucky to be familiar with swimming in Philadelphia’s parks, but that the lack of access to certain sports for many young girls contributed to the “disproportionate way in which competition manifests itself in certain sports.”

“It’s either not diverse because of the socio-economy, or it’s not diverse because of where the programming is,” Kelly added.

Kelly added that she didn’t think much about Title IX before she started working in sports (she was once the coordinator of Title IX at Bucknell).

This is normal. In a national survey of 1,000 colored people conducted by the intelligence company Morning Consult on behalf of The New York Times, more than half of respondents said they were not familiar with the law at all. Of the 133 women of color who answered that they played or played sports in high school, high school or college, 41 said they thought they had benefited from Title IX.

Armstrong, who played basketball at Itawamba Community College in Mississippi and then at the University of Southwest Louisiana, said she believed there were more opportunities for black women today, in an era of increased empowerment and representation. Black women have dominant figures to admire in many sports, including Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka in tennis, as well as Simone Bailes, the most ornate gymnast in the world.

“When I was growing up, you didn’t see that,” she said. “And we often say you can’t be what you can’t see.”

Most of the work still needs to be done at the coaching and administrative level, Armstrong said. In 2021, fewer than 400 black women coached women’s sports teams at the college, compared to about 3,700 white women and more than 5,000 white men (and very few women coached men’s teams).

The differences were even greater at the administrative level, and the trends persist even in the sports with the most black athletes.

“The fight for the head coach of a women’s basketball team for black women has been tough,” said Davis, who added that the lack of black women at the administrative level has a lot to do with racist stereotypes that they are not strategic thinkers. “They are often the most qualified because they have played and been assistant coaches for a long time and are often the first to be fired.”

Leave a Comment