Category Archives: Women Athletes

Media Spreads the Word about Jazz Matthews

By Dr. Nancy E. Spencer

February 19, 2019

The entries that we post on Maxwell Media Watch typically focus on critiques of the media with suggestions for how they could do better. This post will be different since it recognizes the outstanding work of several area media outlets that have shared the story of a former BGSU student and basketball stand-out. Thanks to a story that appeared in the Toledo Blade (Briggs, 2019) and another that was broadcast on WTOL (Paley, 2019), tens of thousands of dollars have been raised in support of a woman who needs a miracle.

If you follow BGSU Women’s Basketball, you may be familiar with Jasmine Matthews (Jazz), who played on the team from 2011-2015. The Toledo Blade writer David Briggs (2019) described her as “the picture of athletic grace, a sweet-shooting guard for the Bowling Green women’s basketball team” (para. 1).

Jazz was a Sport Management major as an undergraduate and decided to continue her education by pursuing a Master’s degree in Sport Administration. I was fortunate to have Jasmine in my classes as both an undergraduate student and as her graduate adviser.

I vividly remember the day that Jazz told me what she decided to do for her Master’s Project. She had been talking to her godfather (Gerald) who was the head coach at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas. Gerald knew that Jazz had been contemplating a career in coaching after she finished her master’s program.

But he had a better idea.

“Officiating.”

At first, Jazz was skeptical about the suggestion. But as Gerald talked to her more, he began to convince her that her training and knowledge of the game, plus her fitness made her a prime candidate to succeed as a basketball official. She could get experience at an entry level, and if she did well, she could eventually advance to Division I women’s basketball.

Once she was convinced, Jasmine pursued the idea with all the vigor of a motivated athlete who suddenly sees the big picture and trains hard to prepare for the biggest game of her life. Better yet, her godfather’s suggestion gave her an idea for what she could do for her Master’s Project.

As Jazz filled me in on what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, she explained how it related to her idea for a final project. She wanted to write about her experiences in becoming an official. We discussed the idea of doing an autoethnography, which would enable her to integrate her personal experiences with literature about her potential career path. She even found an autoethnography by another woman who had played basketball in college – Claire Schaeperkoetter (2016), whose article on “Basketball officiating as a gendered arena” became the template for her to examine and reflect upon her own experiences.

In December 2016, Jasmine completed her project and received her Master’s degree.

A year later, she was diagnosed with MS, “multiple sclerosis… the insidious disease with no cure that attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord” (Briggs, 2019, para. 6). Within three weeks, she had lost everything, and was completely disabled (Paley, 2019).

Jazz has made progress in fighting the disease, but she needs support to take the next step in her journey. Thanks to a doctor who lives near her home, Dr. Richard Burt, she is a candidate for “the use of stem cell transplants to treat” her (Briggs, 2019, para. 15). But the treatment is expensive and her insurance does not cover it. Therefore, Jazz set up a GoFundMe page on Facebook to raise the $125,000 needed for the treatment. Nearly $60,000 in donations have already been contributed by 790 people, as of this writing.

Jasmine’s dream to become a basketball official is still alive. She concluded her interview on WTOL by saying, “Once I get my life back I plan on being a Division I official, referee” (Paley, 2019, para. 14).

Jazz has only begun to write her story, and I cannot wait to read the next chapter!

Briggs, D. (2019, February 12). As a former BG player hopes for a ‘miracle,’ a basketball community rallies. The Toledo Blade. Retrieved from https://www.toledoblade.com/sports/bgsu/2019/02/12/former-bowling-green-falcons-player-jasmine-matthews-battles-multiple-sclerosis/stories/20190212137

Paley, T. (2019, February 12). Community donated thousands to former BGSU basketball player with MS. WTOL.com. Retrieved from http://www.wtol.com/2019/02/12/community-donates-thousands-former-bgsu-basketball-player-with-ms/

Schaeperkoetter, C. (2016). Basketball officiating as a gendered arena: An autoethnography. Sport Management Review, 128-141.

The WNBA’s Low Pay in the Age of Social Media

By Bre Moorer

For the past couple of months, WNBA stars have been more outspoken than usual about the pay gap.  Or maybe they have always shared their thoughts, but did not get as much attention as they are getting now.  It could be because they can just type their thoughts out in 140 characters or less and simply hit a button that shows their message to millions of people.  That has been an option for years, but why are the fed up women of the professional basketball league seemingly being heard now more than ever?  With the help of social media, specifically Twitter, the low salaries in the WNBA are back in the spotlight this summer, but this time it feels different.

To get the discussion started this time around, Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Dallas Wings appeared on ESPN’s Get Up on May 28th to address the issue with Jalen Rose and Michelle Beadle.  Jalen directed his frustration toward the NBA by saying they need to do a better job of “dedicating resources to help promote” the women’s league since the WNBA is a “subsidiary of the NBA.”  While Diggins-Smith did not flat out agree with Jalen’s point about the NBA being responsible for WNBA players not getting paid as much, she did bring up the fact that “it’s all about exposure.”  In the same breath, the fearless leader of the Dallas Wings also mentioned social platforms should be better utilized.  She recommended showing more games on Twitter.  The South Bend legend’s comments inspired her peers to express themselves without regret.

In the wake of LeBron James signing a 4-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers for a whopping $153.3 million, rookie sensation A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces took to Twitter to “congratulate” King James.

While some Twitter users backed Wilson, most users bombarded the 1st overall pick in the 2018 draft with reasons as to why they think she should get back in her lane.  One person said ratings are too low for the women hoopers to get more money, to which Wilson responded it is more than just viewings.  A couple of users tweeted that if she was as good as LeBron, then she would earn more.  The power forward laughed at those tweets for the most part, but she did say to one troll that bench players in the NBA get paid more than starters in the WNBA – eliminating the arguments that the pay gap is about skill set.  Perhaps the most popular argument against the WNBA getting paid more is the NBA bringing in more revenue than the WNBA.  The 2017 NCAA champion had a response for that too.  She said that the NBA gets more of a percentage of the revenue they bring in than the women so it is still unfair regardless of how much revenue is brought in.  Wilson spent a whole weekend defeating Internet trolls in the beginning of July. She ended her run by hoping that the men in her mentions had daughters who want to play basketball so that they can grasp where she is coming from.  She was “glad to stir the pot.”

This past weekend, NBA superstar Damian Lillard watched A’ja Wilson’s Las Vegas Aces and the Connecticut Sun work.  He was obviously impressed by what he saw and backed Wilson’s call for equal pay.  By the end of the game, a video of Lillard revealing his thoughts on the lack of respect WNBA players get was trending on Twitter.

In Lillard’s opinion, the women as individuals should be treated as the pros they are as far as salaries go and their league deserves to be exalted.  Having someone like Damian Lillard, who is a 3-time NBA All-Star, could start a trend of NBA players speaking up in support of WNBA players getting paid more.

After all is said and done, the WNBA is in need of support and exposure in order for its players to get what they deserve in the first place – more money.  As long as the women continue to use their platforms and their male counterparts actively show their love for the WNBA, the future looks bright for equal pay between the NBA and WNBA.

Dear Maya

Dear Maya,

Thank you. Thank you for being an inspiration. It goes deeper than basketball. I could talk all day about your career accolades. The rings, the stats, the awards. I could go on for days about it. But you already know that. As one of my favorite athletes, you have always captivated me with your abilities on the court. You represent something much more than basketball to me.

You’re hope. I think one of the most impactful things I’ve ever experienced was a sport and gender class last year. I learned so much more about the plight of the woman athlete. It was truly eye-opening, but it also made me more conscious than ever about what people say. I see the nasty things people say on message boards and comments. The Internet provides people the space to do so anonymously and without consequence. Yet you press on. It’s bigger than that.

I see the impact of representation. Your Jordan commercial was something to behold. The wave of kids you inspired from using your platform in such a way is uniquely special. Count myself in as well. I see visions of a world being shaped by our current-day athletes that will allow me to tell my children they can do anything. That nothing can hold them back. As athletes, whether you think it’s fair, you all have an enormous reach. I want to thank you for being a great role model.

I wrote an article a while back [See: “Why can’t I buy a WNBA jersey?” on this site]. I was griping about not being able to purchase your jersey that day. I should have been a bit more patient as the next day it was available on the team store. However, I am a man of my word. Today, I’ll be rocking one of my favorite player’s threads seeing her play for the first time in person. Please try not to give out too many buckets today against the Sky. They are still my hometown team.

You’re a walking legend. On and off the court. And for that, I thank you.

Sincerely,

Don Collins