ESPN celebrates ‘Danica 500’ and ignores Rousey


This past weekend was a historic weekend for women’s sports as NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and UFC fighter Ronda Rousey both took center stage. It was a weekend in which sports media latched on to the historic female storyline.

ESPN began its NASCAR coverage in a “Sunday Conversation” interview with Patrick within 24 hours of her Daytona 500 pole win. Patrick continued to dominate ESPN coverage throughout the week. It felt like ESPN was covering the “Danica 500” rather than the Daytona 500.

Meanwhile, ESPN seemed to ignore fighter Ronda Rousey. Rousey and Liz Carmouche became the first female fighters to compete in UFC history. For years, women’s MMA has been reduced to sideshows on local and regional promotions. But Rousey had the “it” factor to allow women’s MMA to be taken seriously. However, because ESPN does not have TV rights for the UFC (Fox has a 7-year deal with UFC), ESPN felt little need to cover Rousey’s fight.

Rousey and Patrick are both mainstream stars, but if ESPN had it their way, Rousey would have never even existed. ESPN offered only 30 seconds of Rousey’s fight coverage. That’s right, 30 seconds.

ESPN’s coverage selection draws on an even bigger issue in sport. Does ESPN really care about the rise of women’s sports, or is it just a marketing ploy to benefit their outlets? ESPN covered Patrick’s race, but not Rousey’s fight because it was on another network. Sports fans should hope for competition from other networks to end ESPN’s monopoly on sports.

There are rumors of a Fox Sports 1, but those rumors say the network won’t be launched until August. Until then, Americans are stuck with ESPN and its interpretation of which athletes should make history.

On a weekend where women’s sports should be celebrated, instead we must focus on the agenda of mainstream media. Both of these ladies have earned the spotlight this weekend, however only one of the athletes got the fair treatment she deserved.

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About The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project

The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project is a hub for teaching, research, and service related to sport media. The Project benefits students and faculty at Bowling Green State University, and offers outreach and media consulting to area and regional groups that work with student-athletes. Through collaborative efforts of the Sport Management program and the School of Media and Communication, BGSU students have the opportunity to learn such skills as sports writing, reporting, broadcasting, announcing, public relations, media relations, communication management and production. Faculty and other scholars have access to resources about the commercial and sociological aspects of sport.

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