Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the statute signed into law by President Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972 to bring gender equity to athletics and forbid discrimination based on sex in education.
Under the law, men’s and women’s teams at all levels are to be treated equally while schools explore and expand opportunities to play sports. Title IX also has allowed women to break barriers, such as holding leadership roles in athletics.
Title IX was one of the first attempts to level the playing field. But how much progress has been made?
Bally Sports looks at the impact of Title IX — past, present and future.
What has Title IX meant to you?
Allyson Felix, 11-time Olympic medalist: "For me, it was just about seeing the representation and the involvement -- seeing friends be able to take part and seeing the numbers that have risen. It’s been such a game changer for women in sports.”
What does it mean to be a woman in sports?
Annie Agar, Bally Sports NFL reporter: “To me, being a woman in sports is a wonderful and connecting experience. I absolutely love football fans, and love connecting with them. With my job, I have to know what is going on in each fan base and be able to relate to it. This allows me to talk with fans as if I’m one of them. It’s an incredibly gratifying feeling. We should never feel bad for ourselves for feeling left out as women in sports, but instead strive to find a way to integrate ourselves in an organic way so that fans of all genders see us as knowledgeable and want to hear what we have to say. For me, I’ve found humor is my way of doing that, and I’m so grateful for it. Sports is all about unity — you see a fan across the street from you with your team’s logo on, you give them a wave or a nod, and there’s this unspoken friendship no matter who they are. That’s how sports should be.”
Maggie Hendricks, Bally Sports WNBA reporter: “For me, it’s about being myself, and doing it covering what I’ve loved since I was a kid: sports. I’m not much of an athlete, but the fact that I have been able to carve a path for myself in the sports world is due to Title IX and the women who came before me. I love that my job in sports is covering all these other amazing women who have found a home in a world that was unwelcome to them not long ago.”
What are the shortcomings of Title IX? What improvements are needed?
Sage Ohlensehlen, former Iowa swimmer who won Title IX noncompliant lawsuit: “Title IX — it’s an awesome law. But it has some pretty big problems. I think the unfortunate thing about Title IX is that a lot of schools, in order to fix their Title IX compliance issues, they hurt male athletes, which is not correct. You know, when schools figure out that they're not Title IX compliant, they'll just cut a guys team. But that's not Title IX. It’s not meant to hinder men in any way, shape or form. And I think unfortunately, a lot of men look at Title IX as a negative thing because it oftentimes cuts non-revenue sports.”
Megan Rapinoe, U.S. women’s soccer star who fought for equal pay: “I think the holes probably mirror the holes in society. I’m sure there’s a racial blind spot. I’m sure there’s an LGBTQ blind spot. I’m sure there’s an immigrant blind spot, all of that. Title IX is also charged with handling sexual assault and rape on college campuses. We know that that is continuing to be rampant and underreported. And even when it is reported, it’s so difficult to get anything done.”
Maggie Hendricks, Bally Sports: “Title IX should just be the minimum. All college sports should revolve around opportunity, and those opportunities should be handled out with equity and inclusion in mind. That includes opportunities with marketing, travel and anything else where an athlete can make a name for herself.”
Annie Agar, Bally Sports: “The world is still dealing with a lot of discrimination and issues we might never see. I think Title IX was an amazing step forward, but I do think there is a lot more to be done — and not only by laws and regulations. I wish it didn’t take laws for people to see the need to treat everyone equally. We should be kind, strictly because that is how people deserve to be treated. Kindness is not weakness, and the quicker we treat everyone the way God intended us to, the better this world will be.”