Author Archives: The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project

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.

“DAD. WALK IT BACK.”

By Dr. Nancy E. Spencer, Associate Professor, BGSU Sport Management Program

During a press conference at the NCAA Final Four, UConn Coach Geno Auriemma was asked about the declining number of women coaches.[1] He responded by saying, “not as many women want to coach” (Jones, 2017, para. 3). Research confirms that his response is a common refrain. In a study by Acosta and Carpenter (1994), men and women athletic administrators were asked to provide reasons for the decline of women in coaching and administration of intercollegiate athletics. The responses revealed pronounced gender differences. Women perceived that there were systemic issues (e.g., a successful ‘old-boys’ network; lack of support for women; and unconscious discrimination), while men pointed to problems with individual women (i.e., failure of women to apply; lack of qualified women coaches and administrators; and time constraints due to family responsibilities) (Acosta & Carpenter, 1994). In a more recent NCAA study by Rachel Stark, the following reasons were given: increasing demands of coaching; constraints on working mothers; homophobia; lack of mentors and/or networking opportunities; and gender bias (Longman, 2017).

Two Final Four women coaches also gave their thoughts about why there are fewer women coaches. Stanford Coach Tara Van Derveer said that “women aren’t recycled in the way that men are” (Jenkins, 2017, para. 12). A unique example occurred with former Vanderbilt Coach, Melanie Balcomb, who was fired in 2016. Three months after not being hired elsewhere, South Carolina’s NCAA winning Coach Dawn Staley, hired Balcomb to serve as an “analytics consultant” (Jenkins, 2017, para. 15).

When Geno’s comments were discussed on “Around-the-Horn,” Prof. Kevin Blackistone confirmed research findings. Blackistone pointed out that before Title IX was enacted in 1972, more than 90% of coaches and administrators of women’s teams were women, while the average percentage of all women collegiate coaches is now around 43%. (see: Acosta & Carpenter, 2014). According to Nicole LaVoi, Co-Director of the Tucker Center, her biggest concern is that young women are missing “the opportunity to have a female coaching role model” (Longman, 2017, para. 25).

While many coaches, journalists and broadcasters have responded to Coach Auriemma’s statements, perhaps the best response was the one his daughter wrote on Twitter: “DAD, WALK IT BACK.” She added: “I’m pretty sure what dad was trying to say, in a limited, male perspective, is that a lot of avenues are open to women now that weren’t” (Jenkins, 2017, para. 8). Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Coach Auriemma or his daughter, the door has been opened to an important dialogue that journalists and broadcasters have made more visible.

[1] According to NCAA statistics, the percentage of women coaches of Division I women’s basketball teams has declined from 63% in 2007-2008 to 56% in 2015-2016

The Greatest Story in Sports History?

By Dr. Nancy E. Spencer

Tennis commentator John McEnroe called it the greatest story in sports history. Not just in women’s sports, or women’s tennis, but in all of sports’ history! And he wasn’t alone in proclaiming it. On Thursday, January 26, all four ESPN panelists on ‘Around the Horn’ agreed. They were referring to the story of 36-year old Venus Williams and 35-year old Serena Williams, the famous “Sister Act” who were to meet in their 27th head-to-head match in the Women’s Singles final at the 2017 Australian Open. It was part of an historical weekend of tennis that also featured two thirtysomething players in the Men’s final: 35-year old Roger Federer vs. 30-year old Rafa Nadal. By most standards, tennis players in their mid-30s are thought of as over-the-hill. In this case, it was ‘must-see TV’ and tennis was the better for it. Not only were they four of the best players of all time, but they have dominated tennis for over a decade, “winning a combined total of 60 majors in their careers” (Bialik, 2017, para. 1).

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The Results? In the weekend matches, Serena edged out older sister Venus, 6-4, 6-4, while Roger needed five sets to prevail over Rafa, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. Winning another major title brought Serena’s total number to 23 majors, surpassing Steffi Graf (22), and trailing only Margaret Court, the Australian, who holds 24 titles. Besides adding to her numbers, Serena reclaimed the World No. 1 ranking this week, after what was (for her) a disappointing 2016 season. Now that she is healthy Serena could conceivably tie and maybe even surpass Margaret Court in 2017.

The 2017 Australian Open men’s and women’s finals were nostalgic for fans. My biggest regret was that I didn’t attend this year’s tournament in Australia. Ten years ago, I was at the Australian Open for both finals. Guess who won? The same two: Serena won the Women’s singles over Maria Sharapova, 6-1, 6-2, while Roger defeated Fernando Gonzalez, 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4 to win the Men’s singles.

The Williams sisters’ rivalry as well as the pairing of Roger and Rafa demonstrate the longevity of their careers. Venus and Serena have faced each other 27 times, while Roger and Rafa have played 35 times. Neither can truly be considered the ‘greatest tennis rivalry’ in terms of the number of times they have played. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova hold that distinction, having met 80 times between 1973 and 1989.

May-Jun 1986:  Martina Navratilova (left) of the USA chats with Chris Evert also of the USA as they hold their respective trophies after the Womens Singles final during the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris.  Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport

So, why do multiple sports writers believe the Williams’ sisters’ story may be “the greatest sports story” ever? (Simons, 2017)?

For those who have followed the Williams’ sisters throughout their careers, it is evident that all the elements of a great story are there: a compelling orientation, a crisis, escalation, discovery, and change (Klems, 2014). Below I elaborate on how the Williams sisters’ story demonstrates each of those elements – and how the media reported on them.

The beginning of a good story needs to “grab the reader’s attention,” and orient us to “the setting, mood and tone of the story” (Klems, 2014, para. 15). In 1991, Sports Illustrated writer Sonia Steptoe (1991) introduced 10-year old Venus as “the most hotly pursued preteen in U.S. tennis history” (para. 5). We learned that Venus hailed from Compton, CA (as in “Straight-out-of-Compton” fame) where she lived in “a small mint-green house… spray-painted with black graffiti.” There she dreamed “of wearing a white dress and playing tennis on the grass courts at Wimbledon” (para. 2). Americans were looking for the next great superstar to fill the void left by Chris Evert’s retirement. Venus’ coach, Rick Macci likened her athleticism to ‘His Airness,’ Michael Jordan. The anticipation of this “Cinderella of the Ghetto,” as her father referred to her, established her promise as the future of tennis. Her father, Richard, also suggested that younger sister Serena would be even better than Venus!

venus-and-serena-1991

The second ingredient of a good story is a “crisis that tips your character’s world upside down,” and she cannot immediately resolve the crisis (para. 19). While Venus faced a series of mini-crises in her early career, none rose to the level of unresolvable until 2001, when she and Serena were slated to meet in the semi-finals at Indian Wells, a tournament that was a family favorite due to its proximity to Compton. It was where Serena had won her first professional match. By 2001, Venus and Serena had each won a grand slam tournament – Serena won the 1999 U.S. Open, while Venus captured the 2000 Wimbledon title. When they arrived at Indian Wells, there was great anticipation among fans to see their match that was to be aired live on ESPN. Dominant reports conveyed that moments before their scheduled match was to begin, Venus defaulted, leading some to believe that their father Richard had orchestrated the default, although that suspicion has never been substantiated. Given the disappointment of fans, the announcement was met with harsh booing from the crowd (Smith, 2001). Two days later, when Serena appeared for the final against Kim Clijsters, fans again greeted her with loud boos. And when Venus and Richard entered the court, the booing increased and some fans were heard shouting racial epithets. Richard Williams reported that one fan told him he was ‘lucky it wasn’t 1975,’ or he would ‘skin him alive’ (Smith, 2001, p. 3C).

In an interview with Doug Smith, of USA Today, Richard “accused the media of biased coverage of his family and said ESPN announcers (Pam Shriver and Mary Joe Fernandez) were derelict for failing to criticize the behavior of Indian Wells’ fans when Serena defeated Cljisters” (p. 3C). During the match, Shriver and Fernandez had described the environment as ‘unlike anything they had ever seen.’ Although Serena somehow prevailed to win in three sets, fans continued to boo her throughout the trophy presentation, even as then-19-year old Serena told the crowd that she loved them. In the aftermath of that traumatic experience, Richard vowed never to return to Indian Wells (Smith, 2001).

In 2009, Serena revealed in her autobiography that Venus had informed tournament officials that she was injured earlier in the day of their scheduled semifinal, adding that she would not be able to play the match. However, given the delay (by tournament officials) in announcing her withdrawal until just before the match, Venus (and her father) were vilified by the crowd. Unfortunately, Serena bore the brunt of it. In retrospect, Serena could not understand why a tournament official did not make an announcement or seek to quiet the crowd by telling them that Venus was truly injured. She described it as one of the ‘darkest moments of her career.’

The third element of a good story involves an escalation of the crisis, which occurred in the Williams’ saga when the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) introduced the “Road Map” in 2008 (Evans, 2008). That plan was implemented to reduce the number of player withdrawals and to encourage players to make greater commitments to tournaments. The aim of the guidelines was to make the tour more ‘fan friendly’ by ensuring that top-ranked players would appear in major tournaments. Another feature of the new plan was the designation of five tournaments as ‘premier mandatory’ events, which meant the prize money would be greater than all except the grand slams, and players would be required to enter, barring injury. When Indian Wells was designated as ‘premier mandatory,’ some speculated that it was done in part to encourage the return of the Williams sisters to Indian Wells. Despite the WTA’s efforts to encourage their return, Venus and Serena remained steadfast in their refusal to play at Indian Wells, and their boycott continued. Many in the media expressed the view that the Williams sisters should return to Indian Wells, as indicated here: “There comes a time when bygones should be bygones. Venus and Serena have made their point… it is time for the sisters to return to the California desert with their heads held high and lingering slights, nasty as they were, forgotten” (Evans, 2008, para. 12).

The fourth ingredient of a good story entails discovery, which occurs as “the climax of the story,” when the protagonist(s) “make(s) a discovery that changes (her) life” (para. 41). In February 2015, Serena announced that she would end her 14-year boycott and return to Indian Wells. She attributed her change of heart to Nelson Mandela’s impact upon her life. His example, coupled with lessons she had learned from her mother, enabled her to realize the power of forgiveness. In contrast to the scene of the 2001 tourney, Serena was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation. Although nervous in her first match, she won it and advanced to the semifinals before having to default due to injury. This time she appeared on court before the match to explain to fans what happened, and the fans had a more positive response. According to Thomas (2015), “You could hear a few scattered boos, unbelievably and too predictably, but mostly there was applause” (para. 20).

Finally, a good story reflects change in the protagonist when she is “transformed into someone more mature, insightful or at peace” (para. 48). Serena’s change of heart was noted by USTA President Katrina Adams who said, “Serena’s decision to return is another sign of her maturity in understanding that although many people show signs of ignorance, not all are (ignorant),” Adams added that, “The past is history, but the present is a gift. She has millions of fans in California that would love to see her play in person, and what a treat they will be in for” (Clarey, 2015, para. 16). While most of the media attention focused on Serena’s change of heart and growth in maturity, there was little if any mention that perhaps Indian Wells needed to apologize publicly for the inappropriate behavior that occurred at Indian Wells in 2001, if for no other reason than to assure Venus and Serena that such a response would never happen again. After Serena’s positive experience upon returning in 2015, her older sister Venus decided to return in 2016. She too experienced the love and appreciation of fans upon her return to the court.

The story of how the Williams’ sisters overcame the crisis at Indian Wells is only one chapter of the compelling story of their 20-year careers in professional women’s tennis. That is probably why so many sports writers and broadcasters consider theirs to be the ‘Greatest Sports’ Story!’ The best thing is that it is still unfolding before us.

References

Bialik, C. (2017, January 27). Tennis is growing old with Federer, Nadal and the Williams sisters. FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved from https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/tennis-is-growing-old-with-federer-nadal-and-the-williams-sisters/

Clarey, C. (2015). After a 14-year boycott, Serena Williams plans to play at Indian Wells. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/05/sports/tennis/serena-williams-will-play-indian-wells-ending-boycott.html?_r=0

Clarey, C. (2017, January 26). A final match for Venus and Serena Williams, but maybe not the last one. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/26/sports/tennis/williams-venus-serena-australian-open.html?_r=0

Evans, R. (2008, September 6). Williams threat to U.S. Roadmap. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2008/sep/07/tennis.usopentennis

Simons, B. (2017, January 26). Venus and Serena – ‘The greatest sports story.’ Inside Tennis. Retrieved from http://www.insidetennis.com/2017/01/ao-venus-and-serena/

Smith, D. (2001, March 26). Williams decries fans as racist. USA Today, p.3C.

Steptoe, S. (1991, June 10). Child’s play. Sports Illustrated Vault. Retrieved from http://www.si.com/vault/1991/06/10/124343/childs-play-tenniss-newest-pixie-is-named-venus-at-age-10-she-dreams-of-flying-to-jupiter-others-have-earthier-hopes-for-her

Thomas, L. (2015, March 23). A place in the sun: The return and withdrawal of Serena Williams at Indian Wells. Grantland. Retrieved from http://grantland.com/the-triangle/serena-williams-indian-wells-2015/

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.

Compare This

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.

More Controversy at Indian Wells

By Dr. Nancy E. Spencer

Venus and Serena Williams’ return to Indian Wells was supposed to close the book on a controversy that occurred in 2001. They faced a racist incident that was a painful memory for them and a blemish on the tournament. In 2016, Serena hoped to write a new chapter by advancing to the Women’s Singles final where she faced Victoria Azarenka. Their matches had always been close and promised to provide a storybook ending to this new chapter. While the final score did not end in Serena’s favor (Vika won 6-4, 6-4), a new controversy emerged as a result of sexist comments made by Ray Moore, the tournament’s director and CEO. Before the Men’s Singles final, Moore was asked how the men’s (ATP) and women’s tours (WTA) compared. He replied by calling  “the WTA a bunch of lucky coattail-ridin’ dummies who have the men to thank for their continued existence” (Redford, 2016, para. 1). But he didn’t stop there, adding, “If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have” (Redford, para. 2).

In the press conference following her match, Serena was asked to comment on Moore’s statements. She began by saying, “I think Venus, myself, a number of players have been — if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister, I couldn’t even bring up that number. So I don’t think that is a very accurate statement” (Dator, 2016, para. 4).

Asked further if she was surprised that sexist statements are still brought up, Serena replied: “Yeah, I’m still surprised, especially with me and Venus and all the other women on the tour that’s done well. Last year the women’s final at the US Open sold out well before the men. I’m sorry, did Roger play in that final or Rafa or any man play in that final that was sold out before the men’s final? I think not ” (Dator, 2016, para. 5).

Serena also referred to the history of progress that began with Billie Jean King whose “Battle of the Sexes” victory over Bobby Riggs has been credited with advancing the cause of all women in sport. In fact, Billie Jean also played an integral role in securing equal prize money for women at the U.S. Open in 1973 (D’Cunha, 2016). As Serena pointed out, “in order to make a comment you have to have history and you have to have facts and you have to know things. You have to know of everything. I mean, you look at someone like Billie Jean King who opened so many doors for not only women’s players but women athletes in general” (Dator, 2016, para. 6).

King herself played during the same era as Ray Moore when professional tennis was in its infancy. During that era, the ratio between men’s and women’s earnings was often as disparate as 11:1 (BJ King, personal communication, February 24, 1999). Billie Jean responded to Moore’s comments on Twitter saying she was: “Disappointed in comments. He is wrong on so many levels. Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success.”

Chris Kermode, CEO of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the governing body of men’s professional tennis agreed with King in describing “Ray Moore’s comments towards women’s tennis” as “disappointing” (Rycroft, 2016, para. 5). Adding that the comments were “made in poor taste,” Kermode stated that, “The ATP fully supports equality across society, while at the same time acknowledging that we operate in the sports [and] entertainment business” (Rycroft, 2016, para. 5).

Unfortunately, Kermode’s comments are unlikely to carry as much weight as earlier statements made by the Men’s Singles winner and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who said after winning his match yesterday: “I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more, because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches. I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more” (D’Cunha, 2016, para. 15). There is an underlying problem with comments by both Moore and Djokovic, as D’Cunha (2016) pointed out, in that they “are indicative of the general disregard for women’s tennis by their male counterparts” (para. 18).

If there is any consolation it is the outpouring of support for women’s tennis that was expressed on Twitter and in other articles. Hopefully, women’s tennis (and all women’s sports) will continue the legacy begun by Billie Jean King, Gladys Heldman, the “Original Nine” and current WTA players. They’re not riding anybody’s coat tails!!

Note: According to reports on Twitter as of March 21, Raymond Moore has resigned as Tournament Director and CEO at Indian Wells. Perhaps, on this 10th anniversary of Twitter, it is fitting that the social media site played a key role in disseminating news of this controversy so quickly.

References

Dator, J. (2016, March 20). Serena Williams sends powerful message to Indian Wells CEO over sexist comments. SB Nation. Retrieved from http://www.sbnation.com/2016/3/20/11273222/serena-williams-press-conference-sexist-comments-indian-wells-ceo

D’Cunha, Z. (2016, March 21). Raymond Moore, Novak Djokovic, and the blatant disregard for women’s tennis by the men in sport. Firstpost.com. Retrieved from http://www.firstpost.com/sports/raymond-moore-novak-djokovics-comments-not-only-sexist-but-also-show-disregard-for-womens-tennis-2688386.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Redford, P. (2016, March 20). Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore has some bad and dumb thoughts on Women’s Tennis. Deadspin. Retrieved from http://deadspin.com/indian-wells-ceo-raymond-moore-has-some-bad-and-dumb-th-1766048378

Rycroft, R. (2016, March 21). ATP’s Chris Kermode responds to Raymond Moore’s controversial comments on WTA. Sportsgecko.com. Retrieved from http://sportsgecko.com/atps-chris-kermode-responds-to-raymond-moores-controversial-comments-on-wta/

 

23 NFL PLAYERS TO PARTICIPATE IN NFL BOOT CAMP: SPORTS JOURNALISM & COMMUNICATIONS MAY 12-15

Four-day program at Bowling Green State University Prepares Players for Transition into Post-NFL Career Twenty-three NFL players will take part in the NFL Sports Journalism & Communications Boot Camp, May 12-15 at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. This is the second year that the boot camp has been offered as one of several programs developed by NFL Player Engagement to prepare current and former players for post-NFL careers.

The four-day program will focus on improving each player’s writing skills for newspapers, radio, and the expanding digital media industry. Industry professionals and Bowling Green faculty will lead players through panel discussions, breakout sessions and writing labs covering everything from press conference prep to ethics in sports journalism.

Participants will attend a Toledo Mud Hens baseball game and put their skills to work by interviewing Mud Hens executives in a press conference setting and writing a follow-up column. Players also will write for their individual blogs, which can be followed at NFLPE.sportsblog.com.

Panelists and facilitators for the boot camp include NFL Legend-turned-journalist BUCKY BROOKS of NFL.com, PETER KING of Sports Illustrated, and NFL Legend and CBS commentator SOLOMON WILCOTS. Industry experts from ESPN, Sirius XM, and Westwood One also will participate in various sessions.

The boot camp is hosted by the BGSU School of Media and Communications and the Sport Management program and was developed with NFL Player Engagement, under the auspices of the Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project.

“The feedback from players who participated last year was extremely positive, and we’re thrilled to be hosting the boot camp a second year. We have talented BGSU faculty who will share their expertise in digital media, journalism ethics and writing commentaries for both print and radio,” said DR. TERRY RENTNER, Professor, Department of Journalism & Public Relations.

“Our career development resources aim to prepare players for life after football,” said KIMBERLY FIELDS, Vice President of NFL Player Engagement. “The Sports Journalism & Communications Boot Camp assists players in honing the skills and building the relationships necessary to carry their sports knowledge into a new career.”

Following are the NFL players participating in the NFL Sports Journalism & Communications Boot Camp:

  • RAHEEM BROCK Former (IND, SEA)
  • TONY COVINGTON Former (TB, SEA)
  • CAREY DAVIS Former (IND, ATL, TB, PIT)
  • RASHIED DAVIS Former (CHI, DET)
  • ARTURO FREEMAN Former (MIA, NE)
  • BARRETT GREEN Former (DET, NYG)
  • BOOMER GRIGSBY Former (KC, MIA)
  • DEREK HAGAN Former (MIA, NYG, BUF, OAK)
  • DARCY JOHNSON Former (NYG, STL)
  • COREY MAYS Former (NE, CIN, KC)
  • RANDY MC MICHAEL Former (MIA, STL, SD)
  • LANGSTON MOORE Former (CIN, ARI, DET)
  • MORAN NORRIS Former (NO, HOU, SF, DET)
  • PEERLESS PRICE Former (BUF, ATL, DAL)
  • MARCUS RAY Former (OAK)
  • JAY RICHARDSON Former (OAK, SEA, NO)
  • DUNTA ROBINSON Free Agent (HOU, ATL, KC)
  • SAGE ROSENFELS Former (WAS, MIA, HOU, MIN, NYG)
  • STEVE SANDERS Former (CLE)
  • DONTE’ STALLWORTH Former (NO, PHI, NE, CLE, BAL, WAS)
  • DUANE STARKS Former (BAL, ARI, NE, OAK)
  • MAX STARKS Former (PIT, STL)
  • TANK WILLIAMS Former (TEN, MIN, NE)

About NFL Player Engagement

NFL Player Engagement assists players in reaching their highest potential on and off-the-field with guidance, support, and resources provided before, during, and after their NFL experiences. NFL Player Engagement works with three core audiences: Prep, Life, and Next. NFL Life (current players) and NFL Next (Formers) reach more than 2,000 NFL players and spouses each year through a variety of programs and services focused on career development, financial and continuing education, as well as personal, psychological, and physical wellness. NFL Prep provides high-school and college student-athletes of all sports with tools to help them succeed in life, focused on awareness, prevention, and education. More information can be found at http://www.nflplayerengagement.com.

About Bowling Green State University School of Media and Communications

The School of Media and Communication is home to approximately 700 students in the Departments of Communication, Journalism and Public Relations and Telecommunications, plus over 50 masters and doctoral students. BGSU is home to the preeminent sport management program in North America. The Sport Management Program and Departments of Communication, Journalism and Public Relations and Telecommunications have partnered in the Richard A. Maxwell Media Project since 2010.

With the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select…

By Anthony Cornwell, Jr.

The media has made this upcoming draft and the #1 pick of the draft to be the most hyped and most interesting pick in NFL history. With so many athletes having number one overall talent, the question on everyone’s mind is, “Who will be the #1 pick?”

The names that are definitely being tossed out as candidates are Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater (and arguably a couple others).

Tedy Bruschi, ESPN NFL analyst and former New England Patriot, believes that Clowney should be the first pick. “Turn in the card now to the commissioner,” he said. “Just turn it in, because he should be Houston’s.”

Standing 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 275 pounds, while running a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, it is safe to say that Jadeveon Clowney is a freak of nature. But not every analyst feels the same way that Bruschi does.

Skip Bayless, ESPN analyst, already believes that Manziel is better than some quarterbacks that already have starting jobs in the NFL. Bayless said that Manziel would be the best pick for Houston, but also making a suggestion that the Dallas Cowboys should consider trading away Tony Romo to land the incoming rookie.

As crazy as it sounds, what else could go wrong for Dallas? They have not been to the playoffs in seven years and have not won a playoff game in more than 15 years.

As good as Clowney and Manziel sounds, there are still others that disagree with these choices.
Emory Hunt, CEO/Founder & Analyst at Football Gameplan, believes that Bridgewater should be the number one pick. On Hunt’s Twitter account he mentions the similarity between Bridgewater and Colts’ Quarterback Andrew Luck.

“The funny part is that watching Bridgewater is the same as watching Luck,” Hunt tweeted. “Luck ran more, Bridgewater didn’t..that’s the only difference.“

Andrew Luck was the number one overall pick two years ago and has not yet disappointed.
Bortles, who has the characteristics of what Bill O’Brien looks for, already has the size of an NFL quarterback.

Chris Burke, journalist at Sports Illustrated says, “There is ample doubt that Bortles will be ready for a starting gig out the gate — remember, the key word with him is ‘potential’.”

As good as all the choices are, any of these four could be the pick. The media has hyped it up and there will definitely be plenty of viewers on May 3.

The Friendship of Adreian and Lacey

BY KATE ROTH

The first time I heard the touching story of Adreian Payne, star basketball player for Michigan State University, and his friendship with Lacey Holsworth, a young girl battling cancer, it was on the Big Ten Network’s show called The Journey.

All I could think of while watching the show was what a great person Adreian Payne must be and how nice it is to see an athlete in the media doing something nice and kind. This is much better than the usual headlines we see about athletes being arrested or making negative comments.

The story of Adreian and young Lacey started spreading through the media quickly and soon everyone in the country seemed to know this incredible story.

The media stayed on this story from start to finish. They followed the friendship in the offseason, regular season, NCAA tournament, and all the way up to Lacey’s unfortunate passing on April 8.

Although this was not the most joyful story to read or hear about because of Lacey’s unfortunate circumstance, it was still nice to see the media give attention to an athlete who is actually trying to do some good in the world.

Too often I turn on Sportscenter or log onto a sports blog and see stories that feature athletes making terrible, selfish decisions. That is why I commend BTN, ESPN, and all of the other sport media outlets that covered this story. They did an amazing job of showing how special some athletes really are.

I hope that other athletes have learned from Adreian and Lacey. I would love to see the media eliminate all of the negative stories and focus on more inspirational stories like this.

R.I.P. Lacey Holsworth