Monthly Archives: April 2016

Trouble in Philly: Sam Bradford Wants Out

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

The City of Philadelphia has had a tough go with their professional sports teams in recent years. Most notably, the Eagles have consistently under performed despite having elite talent like LeSean McCoy, Demarco Murray and DeSean Jackson at some point over the past four years. The Phillies have quickly plummeted to the bottom of the MLB and how could we forget the 76ers who have been one of the worst teams in NBA history for the past few seasons. The struggles continued when Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford reportedly requested a trade early Monday morning.

                                                                           Image via http://www.philly.com

The former number one overall draft pick is most likely seeking a trade because of the move his current team made a few days ago. Last Thursday the Philadelphia Eagles agreed to send the no. 8, no. 77, and no. 100 picks in this year’s draft along with a first-round pick in 2017 and 2018 second-round pick to the Cleveland Browns to receive the second overall pick in this year’s draft as well as a 2017 fourth-round pick. After the trade was officially completed, Eagles representatives announced that they planned on taking a QB with the second overall pick. It is interesting that Philly decided to trade away so many picks just so they could draft another signal-caller with the second selection. It is only interesting because this past off-season the team signed Bradford to a two-year deal which included $22 million in guaranteed money while also signing former Kansas City quarterback Chase Daniel to a three-year contract where he is guaranteed $12 million.

It is obvious that the Eagles are trying to solidify what is widely seen as the most important position in football and the trade shows just how desperate they were in doing so. Bradford is upset with the move and he has every right to, why would he tolerate being seen as a stop-gap player?

Earlier in the week, reports were that even after the trade, Sam did not wish to be traded and wanted to prove to the organization that he was “the guy.” But now the complete opposite is being said, the next couple days will prove which report is correct. For now we’re going to pretend that Bradford actually does want to be traded. There are a few teams who are in the market for an experienced quarterback. To name a few, the Denver Broncosand San Francisco 49ers.  With the departure of both Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, Denver is in dire need of a player who can lead the team. In San Francisco’s case, the organization has not shown the most trust in Colin Kaepernick and might be interested in making a deal.

Even with his reported request for a trade, Eagles management is supporting Bradford. Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman was quoted as saying, “to reiterate our support for Sam Bradford and go back to our statements last week — that Sam is our starting quarterback.” This statement shows that the team is trying to downplay the drama surrounding their quarterback situation, and they are saying the right things.

Even if the former Oklahoma Sooner did request a trade, the media has no room to criticize him. Just like any other player, Bradford wants respect. And if the team does actually use the 2nd pick on a QB, which will most likely be Carson Wentz, why is it wrong for them to plan for the future? The organization is attempting to change the approach they have had the past few seasons, instead of trying to win now, they are figuring out how to win in the future and that means they must have a quarterback who can do that. It would not be the worst idea to take Wentz and let him sit for a couple of seasons allowing him to adjust to a pro style NFL offense. But even if Wentz isn’t thrown into the fire his rookie year, he still has a lot of pressure on him. Philadelphia sacrificed a lot to get this pick and they are counting on Wentz or any other QB they get to make it worth it.

The 2016 NFL Draft will be held in Chicago on April 28th and Eagles faithful as well as media will be waiting patiently to see what their team does. If Philly sticks to their plan and takes a QB, it will take a couple seasons to see who got the best of the trade because now the Cleveland Browns are seen as the clear winners and that is a first.

 

 

Tom Brady Suspension Reinstated: Does Goodell Have too Much Power?

The NFL, in their battle against Tom Brady, finally got a victory with the appeals court. The Court reversed the federal judge’s ruling of nullifying Brady’s four-game suspension. As reported on CNN in an article titled “NFL wins ‘Deflategate’ appeal; Tom Brady’s suspension reinstated”, Monday’s court decision came to rule that Goodell “properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness.”

Now the NFL has to decide whether they want to exercise the power to reinstate Brady’s suspension in the league. If the suspension remains is intact, Brady will miss games against the Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans, and Bills. A lot could happen in the next few months, as the NFLPA and Tom Brady will need to decide what action to take next against Goodell and the suspension.

In response the new of the suspension, media and personalities throughout the United States posted on social media to voice their opinions. Bill Simmons, who in the past publically spoke on Goodell’s abuse of power, tweeted “FREE TOM BRADY.” Similarly, Skip Bayless urged Brady to attempt to take the case to the supreme court. Even a presidential nominee, Donald Trump, said “leave Tom Brady alone,” at a rally. The news shook the sports world, and could change the landscape for the upcoming NFL season.

Interestingly enough, the court itself stated that Goodell “properly exercised his broad discretion.” It admits that Goodell has “broad” power when it comes to disciplinary action. The media has only been covering the reports of Brady and story between the two sides, the Patriots and the NFL. In reality, it is extremely noteworthy that the judicial system is willing to admit Goodell has excess power in disciplinary action for the league. It is unfortunate that a league with so much influence and coverage throughout the country has been so greatly challenged by the agendas of the commissioner.

At the end of the day, the NFL must address the issue of Goodell’s power. It greatly affects the league, and the players on the field. Whether it is Tom Brady, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, or Adrian Peterson, the NFLPA and the players themselves need to stand for their rights in the league.

 

Who’s in the Wrong? Curt Schilling or ESPN?

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

Curt Schilling has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. The former Major League Baseball pitcher has served as a baseball analyst for ESPN since 2010, but this past Wednesday was fired from the network because of the “transphobic” comments that he posted on Facebook.

                                                                            Image via awfulannouncing.com

To give a little background, Schilling first entered the public eye in 1988 when he debuted for the Baltimore Orioles as a right-handed pitcher. The former second round pick then went on to play for the Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox over the course of 19 seasons. During his career, Schilling won three World Series titles (including being named co-World Series MVP in 2001) and was a six-time All-Star. Arguably the most memorable part of his MLB tenure came in game 6 of the 2004 ALCS when he was on the Red Sox and pitched while having a torn tendon in his ankle causing blood to become visible through his sock, this game is now known as “the bloody sock game.”

Sadly these are all just memories and now the former MLB star is seen as transphobic by many. As stated earlier, Schilling was let go by ESPN because of a post he shared on Facebook, it was a picture of a man dressed as woman  and read, “Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” He also added a comment that said, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.” This post was obviously a response to the recent uproar caused by North Carolina passing a law which restricted public restroom and locker-room use to individuals based on birth sex. In simpler terms, people are angry that a person who was born a man but has since changed genders to a woman, will still be forced to share a locker-room with men even though they are a woman now.

This actually is not the first time that Schilling has been disciplined by the network for comments he made about popular social issues. In August of 2015, Curt was suspended from ESPN after he posted a meme on twitter that read, “It’s said ONLY 5-10% of Muslims are extremists…In 1940, ONLY 7% of Germans were Nazis, how’d that go?”

With all of this said, is it wrong for ESPN to fire Mr. Schilling because he expresses his personal beliefs? Some will argue that a man is entitled to his own opinion and he should not have to keep it to himself when we live in a country that takes pride in their freedom and where the First Amendment of our Constitution protects our freedom of speech. This is true but technically in the First Amendment it states that only the government cannot restrict freedom of speech from anyone. So actually ESPN did not infringe on his First Amendment rights and legally has the power to fire him if they wish.

Many of the stories that have been written about Curt Schilling and his recent termination state that what he said and more importantly how he said it was wrong but also credit him with starting a public conversation concerning a very popular issue. In an article from The New York Post titled “Curt Schilling got fired for his Common Sense on Bathrooms,” author Linda Chavez is inspired from Schilling to ask an important question. She writes, “Are Americans being intimidated into accepting public behavior that many feel threatens them — namely, allowing biologically male or female individuals to use public bathrooms that are designated for the opposite sex?” While this was a pretty “raw” way of giving his opinion on this certain topic of discussion, it has caused more and more people to start talking about something that may be looked at as a “sensitive” subject.

The statement ESPN issued regarding Schilling’s dismissal reads as follows, “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.” In an article titled “Curt Schilling’s Crassness, Not Politics, Got Him Fired From ESPN” from forbes.com, author Alex Reimer claims that the analyst was only fired because of the way he gave his opinion, not the opinion itself. He writes, “Curt Schilling isn’t being persecuted for his right-wing views. He’s being persecuted for the crass and crude ways he expresses them.” This is very interesting and makes one think that if he had stated his views in a more appropriate way would he have still been let go?

It is unclear whether the public will ever know if the former pitcher was let go because the network thought his views were offending or if it was only because of the way he said it. One thing that is clear is that Schilling will not be a part of ESPN’s staff moving forward. Following his termination, Schilling was quoted as saying, “I’m not transphobic, I’m not homophobic.” So the question I have now is that if a different analyst, who doesn’t have a history of being outspoken, would have said something similar (in a gentler way) would he or she have been fired?

 

 

 

Hard Work Pays Off, Just Ask Jeremy Hazelbaker

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

It is pretty common to hear a feel-good story about a professional athlete, whether it is about them coming from a low-income family or overcoming a devastating injury. But Jeremy Hazelbaker’s story is a unique one, it is about perseverance, dedication, and dealing with adversity.

                                       Image via http://www.ksdk.com

Currently, baseball analysts are spending their time discussing Trevor Story’s historic start, but one player that has maybe been more impressive than Story is the rookie outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, Jeremy Hazelbaker. Similar to Story, Hazelbaker was only given a shot in the big league this year because of something that happened to another player. For Story, he was given the opportunity because Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes is on paid leave from the MLB stemming from a domestic violence case. In Jeremy’s case, he got his shot because of an injury that Cardinals shortstop Ruben Tejada suffered which opened up a spot for him on the 40-man roster. With that said, let it be known that Hazelbaker certainly earned his spot and it was not only because of the injury. In Spring Training, the prospect showed the team that he was capable of playing all three outfield spots, led the club with two homers, and was one of the top base stealers in the entire league.

This is one of those feel-good stories because not only did the Ball State alum earn a spot on the team on the last day of Spring Training, but also because he had been in the minors for the past seven seasons before finally breaking through this year. Originally a fourth round pick of the Boston Red Sox, the outfielder’s path to the majors included playing in 751 minor-league games where he had 3,104 plate appearances. At this time last year Hazelbaker was sitting at home wondering if he would ever get another chance in professional baseball after he was cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The only team to reach out to him after his release was the Cardinals, who signed Hazelbaker to a minor-league contract. He then went from AA to AAA in 2015 sporting an average above .300 at both stops. Hazelbaker was rewarded for his excellent play with a contract that paid him $18,000 a month, more than he had ever been paid before, and an invitation to Big-League camp. He made the most of his chance and as described before, eventually made the Major League club out of Spring Training.

As of Monday, the 28 year-old is batting .394 with three home runs, seven runs batted in, and an OPS of 1.239 through the first two weeks of the 2016 season. Those numbers are eye-popping for any player, let alone one viewed as a career minor-leaguer. The rookie has also earned praise from his teammates through his play. In an article from baseballamerica.com titled After Long Stay In Minors, Hazelbaker Arrives, writer Derrick Goold includes a quote from Randal Grichuk one of Hazelbaker’s fellow outfielders. Grichuk is quoted as calling Jeremy “the greatest hitter ever.” This is definitely a stretch but it is obvious that Hazelbaker has not only earned respect from the coaching staff but also his teammates.

The coverage of the (kind of) young outfielder hasn’t been the same as that of Trevor Story, but I venture to think this player maybe prefers it that way. As he has joined the MLB’s top hitters atop the leader boards, more and more stories are being written about him by the day. Hazelbaker’s story is very appealing to baseball writers because they know that we as fans crave these kind of feel-good tales about players overcoming obstacles to ultimately succeed at the highest level. Similar to myself, Jeremy hails from a very small town. He grew up in Selma, Indiana which has a total population of 858. There is no doubt that this man, who is one of the hottest topics of conversation in baseball, is the talk of the town and is serving as not only an inspiration to all the kids from back home but also to anyone who is at a cross-roads whether in sports or life in general.

It is pretty obvious that the player will eventually slow down in terms of his production but he has certainly impacted many from his dedication and humbleness. In an article from USA Today titled Jeremy Hazelbaker’s big league dream comes true with Cardinals, author Bob Nightengale includes a quote from the player himself where he demonstrates this humbleness. Jeremy is quoted as saying, “this is stuff you think about, even dream about…But at the same time, it’s not something you can prepare for. I can’t thank them enough for giving me this opportunity.” The stories that members of the media have wrote about the player have all been positive ones that emphasize the player’s determination and credit him for finally reaching the big leagues because of his incredible work ethic. It is my hope that Hazelbaker stays consistent throughout the 162-game season and I am confident he will, solely because of the motivation he has gained from his past failures.

 

 

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat: The 2016 Masters

By Josh Roeloffs

On Sunday in the middle of the afternoon, the final round of the Masters was seemingly over. Spieth had a commanding lead, with five birdies on the front nine, up multiple strokes heading into the back nine. If there was an athlete who would not choke on the biggest stage, it was Jordan Spieth. As viewers began to change the channel, Spieth began to slip. Bogies on holes 10 and  11 diminished his dominating lead, the viewers turned back. While Spieth struggled, Danny Willett shined. Spieth, -5, was up one stroke now heading into the 12th hole. He puts two shots into the water and quadruple bogies and is now down four strokes to Willett. Just a few hours later, Spieth is holding the green jacket and placing it on Danny Willett, the new Masters Champion.

Danny Willett is a story in himself. A 28-year-old whose wife gave birth just a week prior is now the defending Master’s champion. Willett is not even a current pro on the PGA tour as he plays in the European Tour. He delayed his PGA tour career to prepare for the upcoming birth of his child, but he and his wife talked it over decided it would be best if he played in the Masters even her delivery date was Sunday the 10th, championship Sunday. Even though the unknown, Danny Willett prepared himself for the Masters; and on the 18th green on Sunday night, it is inevitable that it was all worth it.

The media has covered Spieth’s collapse and Danny Willett’s rise to champion, but one aspect of the final day that was looked over was  in the way Spieth conducted himself though the evening’s events. This was one of the most awkward green jacket ceremonies to date. Not to take away from what Willett accomplished, but Spieth could have put the nail in the coffin on the 10th, 11th, and 12th holes; instead, he tallied two bogies and a quadruple bogie. At the ceremony, Spieth, the defending Masters champion, needed to place the next green jacket on the current champion. “Obviously, I’m happy for Danny and he handled it with extreme class.” Spieth, a 22-year-old, would not have been “in the wrong” for not being classy about it, but instead, Spieth was a professional and it speaks to the greatness that Spieth has in front of him in the years to come.

At the end of the day, the 2016 Masters was one of the greatest to date. The Championship Sunday was unbelievable; Spieth’s collapse, Willett’s excellence, and the ceremony cannot be written or produced. It was golf at its finest and it truly speaks to “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

 

 

 

Trevor Story is Writing His Own Story

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

Major League Baseball kicked off the 2016 season on April 3rd and the first week has been an entertaining one to say the least. There were a couple interesting storylines going into the season such as how Zack Greinke would do in his first start for the Arizona Diamondbacks, if the Chicago Cubs would be able to meet expectations, and whether the San Francisco Giants would be able to win the World Series again with this being an even year. But Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story has stolen the spotlight during week 1.

                                         Image via http://www.m.mlb.com

2 off-seasons the Rockies traded their superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays for SS Jose Reyes among others. Fans were shocked that the team decided to ship their franchise player to Toronto but most understood that they are in the midst of rebuilding for the future. After arriving in Colorado, Reyes finished the 2015 season productively but this past off-season the veteran was brought up on domestic violence charges in Hawaii. Currently the MLB has placed Reyes on paid leave and a timetable for his return is uncertain, but the question now is will he even have a starting spot when he returns? The person that is responsible for creating this question is none other than rookie shortstop Trevor Story.

Story earned a starting spot on the Rockies after he posted impressive numbers this Spring Training. Even after his stellar performance in the spring, no one predicted for him to get off to this kind of start, not the fans, the media, or any baseball analyst.

In the Colorado Rockies first game of 2016 they faced the Arizona Diamondbacks led by their newly acquired ace, Zack Greinke. In 2015 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Greinke posted the ninth best ERA in baseball history with a 1.66, so expectations were high in his first start of 2016. But don’t bother telling Trevor Story he should be intimidated by Greinke. Story became the first player in MLB history to hit two home runs in a big league début on opening day, both coming off  Greinke. With this breakout performance, Story had the Colorado fan base going wild. There was even a picture that circulated around social media of a fan wearing a Tulowitzki jersey that had Story’s name taped over Tulo’s.

                                                                                                    Image via http://www.denverpost.com

Following his opening day performance, expectations were through the roof for the former 1st round draft pick. So as everyone predicted of course, he would hit another home run in his second career game off of talented pitcher Shelby Miller. With this, Story became the third player in baseball history to hit three home runs in the first two games of his career. But he wasn’t done yet, in his fourth career Major League game, Trevor Story homered twice against the San Diego Padres becoming the first rookie in baseball history to begin a career with two multi-homer games in his first four games. Another notable record that Trevor is a part of is becoming the fifth player to homer in their team’s first four games of the season.

As of now, the Rockies shortstop is batting .333 with 7 home runs in 6 games…Wow. The numbers he has put up cannot be described as anything less than astounding. And he’s on pace to get video game like stats.

You should give credit where credit is due, it is not easy to follow in a superstar’s footsteps, just ask New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius when he took over after Derek Jeter retired. The question that was asked after his first game and is still asked now is if Trevor Story is going to be able to keep up his historic run? An article titled Rockies’ Trevor Story Homers in Record 4th Straight Game from cbc.ca.com, includes quotes from Story and teammate Carlos Gonzalez, Story says, “I’ve said it before, I’m not trying to hit home runs, sometimes it kind of happens,” and later Gonzalez adds, “He’s fearless. He’s playing like a Hall of Famer right now.” With his quote, Story appears humble while downplaying his recent success and his teammate known as CarGo praises the young player like most of his other teammates are probably doing.

The media coverage around the rookie phenomenon has been extensive and rightfully so, this kid has become the talk of not only Rockies fans and media but media and fans league-wide. At this point, Story is probably accustomed to being swarmed by mobs full of baseball writers, journalists, and reporters following games. But there have already been some wild comparisons between the former LSU Tiger and some of the MLB’s all-time greats. In an article from The Score com titled How Does Story’s Debut Rank Against MLB’s Greatest? Author George Halim stacks Trevor Story up against Babe Ruth among others. First he writes about Story, “In his first four major-league games, the Rockies rookie is the best hitter in the majors, and the greatest of all time.” Well that is quite the statement if I do say so myself, later Halim talks about Hall of Famer Babe Ruth, “At one point, he was the home run king, and his career is among the greatest ever. But Ruth’s first four major-league games? Not so historic.” So as you can see with this specific example it is ridiculous to even put Trevor Story in the same sentence as Babe Ruth. Story has gotten off to a historic start but there is still no need to compare him to any Hall of Famers because he has still only played seven career games at the Major League level.

There is no telling how long this player will stay hot or continue to mash home runs for his team but even if he doesn’t hit another homer all year he has still broken multiple records and caused a league-wide media frenzy during this first week of baseball. Personally I am rooting for Story to continue his excellent play because it makes baseball so much fun to watch. Only time will tell what player he will eventually become but he has certainly made a name for himself quickly. I also recommend you to pick him up in your fantasy league if you haven’t already, you can bet I have.

 

 

An Unfair Lady

by Tom Konecny

This is another in our series of guest entries submitted by professional journalists. Tom Konecny graduated from BGSU’s Sport Management program in 1992, with a minor in Journalism.  He received his Master’s in Kinesiology from the University of Michigan in 1995. He now works as a marketing/communications/writing consultant and freelancer. 

It’s time to retire a sexist nickname that never should have happened

 

As another season of intercollegiate sports comes to a close, a disconcerting custom marches on, having nothing to do with the quality of play or level of competition on the field – still, it permeates the game, hanging over it like a dark cloud or unseemly scarlet letter:  the use of “lady” with female sports teams’ nicknames.

In actuality, the issue is not unique to college sports but noticeable at all levels, fueled largely by past practices, media and ignorance, and excused in some locales on the basis of tradition.  Many don’t even realize the wrong, and when the topic is broached, out comes the unwitting expression, “but we’ve always done it this way.”

It’s embarrassing as a society, because by now, we should all know better.

Title IX

Some mistakenly point to the landmark 1972 Title IX act as causing the increase of female athletic participation at the expense of males.  Yet while Title IX is best known for its impact on athletics, the original act made no explicit mention of sports.  It ensures that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be … subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Detecting discrimination isn’t always as easy as it seems, as there are two types recognized by the legal system:  disparate treatment and disparate impact, according to Dr. Sungho Cho, BGSU associate professor.  In brief, disparate treatment is related to intentional discrimination, whereas disparate impact is unintentional, though discriminatory actions may still occur toward the protected group.

Dr. Cho notes that Title IX covers only disparate treatment cases, which then begs the question:  is the use of “lady” intentional discrimination?

It could have been at one point in time, but that also may be difficult to establish; many of today’s uses are carryovers from a bygone era.  At the same time, one might also accurately argue that dropping its use could remove schools from being involved in any future litigious situation.  Consider the troubles which befall schools/teams who employ Native American nicknames.  Indeed, it might be a proactive step to not even keep schools in a position where this could become an issue, and thereby stop the practice dead in its tracks.

Though Title IX is over four decades old, it would be pragmatic to take another close look as to why it was created in the first place and refocus our collective principles.

Media Influence

To be sure, the use of “lady” is not the norm at the collegiate level, where most institutions of higher learning have generally proved their scholarly ways through seeking equality in athletic departments.  But while none of the schools in the nearby conferences of choice – the MAC and Big Ten – employ its use formally, it’s often the news media who continue to perpetuate this unfair habit.

The media will always help to shape public perception, and with smart phones, blogs and social media, nearly anyone can become an instrument for and with the media – if not become the media themselves.  Many a self-taught blog writer with no journalistic training can now receive press credentials to access locker rooms and photograph sporting events.  Indeed, they have become the media every bit as the local newspaper, radio and television, and especially so as media transforms, thereby being consumed differently in today’s digital age.  Athletic departments clearly recognize this, which is why they grant such channels access that would have never been achieved in yesteryear.  The problem, however, goes far beyond blogs, and is particularly prevalent during televised sports highlights and in print headlines.

Any PR firm will agree that when utilized correctly, the power of the media can be a most valuable ally. When handled carelessly, it can be dangerous and harmful to one’s image.  But just because today’s various forms of media are all-powerful, doesn’t mean they’re all-perfect.  Change will come when athletic departments notice the term being used inappropriately, and take action to correct it through repeated media announcements, and particularly so to new journalists as they enter the fold.

Reporters can’t simply say and do whatever they want in the name of journalistic sovereignty – their job is to report the news with accuracy.  Calling a sports team by its incorrect name is not factual reporting, and the connotation falsely assumes that societal norms never change, leaving the media consumer influenced temporarily at best, offended at worst – all due to an unfair and unsuitable word choice.

Among High Schools and Youth Sports

The use of “lady” in high school and youth sports has been a more difficult nut to crack.  The term is widespread among teams of a very young age, oddly, despite being nowhere near lady (or adult) status.  At the high school level, most teams and their governing associations are resistant to change, barely even recognizing a problem in the first place.  Even if they do – rather than issue a sweeping mandate to solve the matter at once – they’ve washed their hands of the issue, choosing to leave matters among individual schools and teams, which brings its discussion to near inexistence.

It’s a fainthearted reaction by turning a blind eye to the real problem and creating a missed opportunity in more ways than one.  First, while every athletic handbook speaks of “appropriate behavior,” one could certainly argue that singling out the girls’ team with a moniker (which the boys do not possess) is certainly not appropriate.  Second, were there such a mandate initiated by governing bodies, such as from individual conferences or state associations, it is a stance that would make positive waves in the media, and position such groups as leaders, trailblazers and pioneers by demanding equality for young athletes everywhere – something by which leaders in sports should be known.

Some Universities are Old School

With social media expanding the reach of various academic departments all seeking to individualize their communication and marketing, many universities have created a uniform approach to their messaging, logos and branding.  Athletics is no different.  Brand consistency is critical, as schools move to consistent logos, wordmarks and uniforms to better market their name.

This is why it came as a peculiar move when the University of Tennessee dropped “lady” from all sports in 2014 – all those sports, that is, except women’s basketball.  Ultimately, the university chose to place higher value on tradition and marketing above equality.  This was executed as such in honor of its successful women’s basketball program, thereby considering the program itself to be its own brand.  While there is no doubting the tremendous success and notoriety achieved by legendary coach Pat Summit and her teams, a divide was created.  Rather than becoming a unified athletic department, Tennessee allowed one sports team to operate under a different set of rules.

Today, fewer than 100 schools formally use the “lady” nickname, the majority of which reside in the south.  Some believe that’s more than a coincidence, built on the southern gentlemen-ladies culture and the roles each played in history.

But while those who defend the use of “lady” at their athletic departments may claim the name is merely a way to differentiate between men’s and women’s sports, it is impossible to rationalize the fact that no equivalent nickname exists for men, which makes their sports unfairly appear to be of greater importance.

Wide World of Sports

Though it may not involve literal use of the word “lady,” there are instances of marginalizing women in other leagues through analogous means.

While it’s obvious to most that the NBA came long before the WNBA, the newer women’s league – by way of its name – has a secondary feel, especially since the NBA wasn’t renamed the Men’s NBA when the WNBA came along.  Though the WNBA no doubt wanted to associate, market and take advantage of the well-branded NBA name, a title with comparable gender stature could have been easily considered, such as the Liberty Basketball Association, or American Basketball Association.  Here again, marketing – not equality – was the impetus.

The PGA and LPGA resonate in the same way, giving the latter a lesser status it’s not.  When pro golfer Michelle Wie played on the PGA tour from 2004-2008, it resulted in heavy media coverage.  Most journalists created a perception that she had been “promoted” to the main, real and top league, simply by way of playing in a men’s league.  By comparison, consider NASCAR, where there is no special WNASCAR for female drivers like Danica Patrick.  Perhaps it’s time we give these leagues a second look, taking into account how one word, one letter, can change our viewpoint.

Labels, Stereotypes and Pop Culture

In the early 1980s women were making fantastic strides in various arenas.  Sandra Day O’Connor was named the first woman justice of the Supreme Court.  Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman in space.  Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman nominated by a major political party to run for vice president of the United States.

Yet even then, when women were doing great things which were supposedly outside the norm and breaking barriers, some apparently found that difficult to accept.  In sports, it was almost as if females had to be given labels so society could somehow come to grips that we weren’t really watching, for example, just basketball, but rather basketball being played by “ladies.”

Labels and stereotypes die hard.  Nearly any reference to a stay-at-home dad, whether in media or informal conversation references the movie “Mr. Mom” – a film which appeared over three decades ago.  As such, a label was born, and it will never go away.  Had that movie been given a different title, it may have slipped out of our pop culture consciousness a long time ago.  Others seem to think it is fine to typecast a stay-at-home dad as “Mr. Mom,” but no one would dare call a breadwinning, working mom by the title “Mrs. Dad.”  Both are discriminatory and biased.

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Each gender deserves its due with respect, because a simple term can leave a situation feeling so unnecessary, cruel, unfair and demeaning.  The Academy Awards do not present Oscars and Lady Oscars.  We don’t have doctors and lady doctors.  All male cats aren’t just cats, with the others being called female cats.

Sure, there’s still plenty of absurdity in our world.  Seeing a female city council member categorized as a councilman looks as inane as it is literally inaccurate.  Yet even other subsets of the sports world have been slow to embrace equality.  For example, why must the men’s NCAA basketball logo be branded “Final Four” while the women’s logo states, “Women’s Final Four”? Shouldn’t the former be called “Men’s Final Four,” making all things uniform?

And speaking of uniforms, isn’t that what sports clothing is supposed to do – make things alike, as in unified?  When the University of Tennessee lets one team wear “Volunteers” on a jersey, and another “Lady Volunteers,” does that really send a message of togetherness and harmony among the entire Tennessee athletic department?

It is possible that the athletes, fans and those around Tennessee athletics had become desensitized to a term that was so commonplace and deeply rooted in sports culture at their university.  The winning ways of the successful hoops team no doubt made it famous and celebrated.  The term had grown and became its own separate brand with no one ever stopping to question how awkward it looked in the first place.

It’s a bit like Jif’s “Choosy Moms Choose Jif” saying, or Kix’s “Kid-Tested, Mother-Approved” – both slogans rooted in different eras and different times, when women generally stayed at home, shopped, cooked and largely tended to the family.  Today, times have dramatically changed, yet those old-fashioned slogans live on and we’ve become deadened to them.  They’ve been around for decades, and after all, many people enjoy the products anyway.  So, the slogans go unnoticed, untouched – much like the “lady” nickname issue.

It’s Time for Change

Using a term like “lady,” which connotes (traditional) femininity and being ladylike, could certainly lead females to consider their attractiveness in the field of play.  This is wrong.  Conversely, we never ponder the masculinity of males in sports.  This is how we know the topic is far from trivial.  It’s outdated, old-fashioned, and worst of all, discriminatory.

Some might consider this subject matter as political correctness gone too far.  But this has nothing to do with political correctness.  The term “PC” describes the attitude of being careful not to offend any group of people in society believed to have a disadvantage.  One could accurately argue that women have disadvantages in a variety of ways, but using a “lady” nickname certainly doesn’t create any advantage; it belittles, demeans and unnecessarily separates.

Whether we realize it or not, the term “lady” establishes the male sport as the standard model – the norm – and marginalizes the efforts of females, claiming one to be the main sport, and another simply the secondary sport.  This practice cannot continue.  It is time for change.

Our nation was founded on dignity and equality, and it’s time we strive for it in athletics.