GladiatHer® Crush Wednesday: Blythe Brumleve of GuysGirl.com

Standard

When you think about women in sports media, chances are that you think of sideline reporters and maybe even news anchors. Your mind doesn’t automatically jump to entrepreneurs or logistics specialists.  But that’s exactly what Blythe Brumleve, today’s GladiatHer® Crush Wednesday feature is; a straight shooting, successful sports entrepreneur and logistics specialist.  Hailing all the way from Duuuuuuuuuuvvvaaaalllll, Florida, Blythe is forging her way in the sports industry on her own terms and we’re absolutely in love with her for it.  Do yourself a favor and take a look at what she has to say below:

Continue reading

MAJOR KEYS FROM espnW CAMPUS CONVERSATIONS AND HOWARD

Standard

One of the most wonderful times of the year for me is Howard University Homecoming.  It’s a time to see old friends who’ve become family, take trips down memory lane and celebrate the legacy that is The Mecca.  This year was particularly special because I was afforded the opportunity to talk to the women of Howard Athletics about the challenges and triumphs of life after college sports.  Last year, espnW launched a program called Campus Conversations, a panel discussion series geared at helping female student-athletes navigate life during and after college sports.  Having made stops at the University of Connecticut, Duke University and the University of Texas, espnW decided to kick-off this year’s tour at The Real HU.  The panel, moderated by none other than ESPN’s Jemele Hill, was made up of successful women who have an impact in the sports world; many of whom were former Howard student-athletes. Continue reading

GLADIATHER WIVES: DANISHA ROLLE

Standard

We’re closing out the month of September with our GladiatHer® Wives feature! It’s no secret at all how we feel about women and sports; we believe women play vital roles in sports and should be given more opportunities to show their capabilities. Today’s GladiatHer® Wives feature, Danisha Rolle, feels the same way, and for the past eight years she’s been working to make the connection between women and sports even stronger. As a wife, mother and entrepreneur, Danisha is showing the world exactly how vital women are in the sports industry. Have a look at what Danisha has to say:  Continue reading

GLADIATHER GRADS: NICOLE POWELL

Standard

Today we have our second addition to our newest feature, GladiatHer Grads, and she’s a dynamic sports writer who’s taken her passion for dance and people to help carve out a growing career in the sports industry that improves on the lives of others. Meet Nicole Powell!

Continue reading

MCLAUGHLIN AND THE PERILS OF BEING A WOMAN IN SPORTS

Standard

 

In 2015, we saw that if you’re a female sports reporter you might have a hard time getting in certain locker rooms.  Well, 2016 has picked up right where 2015 left off with a stark reminder that it STILL takes some pretty thick skin to make it as a female in the sports world.  The reminder this time comes from way across the pond in Australia.  On Monday, Reporter Mel McLaughlin was tasked with interviewing Jamaican cricket player Chris Gayle.  What started of as a pleasant interaction quickly went way, way left.  I’ll let you see for yourself:

Gayle went from complimenting McLaughlin to propositioning her to calling her “baby” in a matter of seconds.  There was no interview just Gayle unprofessionally objectifying a woman who was trying to do her job.  Gayle’s team, the Melbourne Renegades, fined him $10,000 AUD (about $7168 USD) and condemned his behavior.  When given the opportunity to rectify the situation at a press conference, Gayle (rather than provide a sincere apology) basically told everyone to lighten up because he was just joking.  Gayle’s weak attempt to spit game at an inappropriate time; his tired, disingenuous apology; and his suggestion that everyone else had blown the “interview” out of proportion just shows how clueless he his.

I get that Gayle is a man and that it may sometimes be difficult for men to sympathize with women.  And I get that sometimes men and women have different senses of humor, but his actions aren’t being scrutinized because of the differences between the sexes.  This situation isn’t about men not being able to see a woman’s point of view or women not being able to take a joke.  The uproar is about his failures to be a professional and to control his carnal desires which in turn placed McLaughlin in an uncomfortable position.  No one, not a man, not a woman, wants to work in an environment where they aren’t taken seriously.  Gayle wouldn’t appreciate it if during interviews reporters spent time asking him about his love life and clothes rather than his skills and his team.  You (whoever you are) don’t want to work on a group assignment only to have your colleague completely ignore the task at hand to have discussions about your appearance and dating you instead.  Objectifying people (especially in the professional environment) is disrespectful and demeaning, but that’s what Gayle did to McLaughlin.

Far too often, women in sports have to deal with Gayle’s kind of behavior.  The extra, unwanted conversations about their sex lives, their bodies and their good looks are placed on their plates simply because they’re women.  I don’t think most reporters, athletes and writers are trying to be intentionally sexist or to intentionally harass women, but their motives really aren’t the issue.  The effect of their behavior is the issue.  Whether it’s a reporter asking a professional tennis player to give the audience a twirl or a professional player asking his female counterparts to be half-naked when they go to work; the effect is damaging.  It bruises the egos and undercuts the hard work of the women who are the targets of the objectification.  And it’s harmful to women and society in general because it sends messages that it’s ok to hold women to different standards and it’s ok to overstep a woman’s personal boundaries.

Well it isn’t ok.  Women in sports shouldn’t have to be ready and willing to have their bodies or beauty as the subject of talk if that’s not their desire.  Women should be able to report on sports, play sports, officiate sports and regulate sports with the same dignity as their male colleagues.  And this goes for society as a whole.  Stop with the catcalling, the extra-long hugs, and the brushing up against women who have made no suggestion that they want your attention.  And no, wearing a tight skirt and make-up is NOT asking for your attention.  Let women, in sports, at the bank, on the street, in the car next to you, be women without you making them uncomfortable for it.

What are your thoughts on the interview? Did Gayle take it too far or are we all being too sensitive?  Leave us your comments!  And don’t forget to follow GladiatHers on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Serena, Ronda and Our Fear of Strong Women

Standard

“Oh my goodness, she’s so ripped and I love it! Her biceps
and traps are so sexy”…says hardly anyone, ever.  For centuries a muscular build has been a
sign of beauty for men, not women.  In
western culture, a woman’s beauty and femininity are often based on her
softness and her curves; not on how chiseled her muscles are or how much she
can lift.  Despite all of the strides
that women have made in society, the masses seem hell-bent on maintaining these
archaic images of beauty.  Whether they
make their livings as gym teachers or as soccer moms, women are expected to
maintain soft, slender looking bodies.  But
it’s about time that we stopped fearing strong women and started embracing
beauty strength.        

One of the greatest athletes to walk the face of the earth
is forced to confront these antiquated standards of beauty on a regular basis.  Last month after winning her 6th Wimbledon (and
21st Major) title, Serena Williams’ name trended throughout social
media.  Some of the commentary celebrated
her victory and athletic prowess; but far too many felt the need to comment on Williams’
physique.  As expected, many of the
comments were not favorable.  The media and
individuals alike felt the need to comment on the manliness and powerfulness of
her appearance.  The New York Times, for
instance, felt the need to publish an article focusing on her physique rather
than what an awesome athlete she is.  In
the poorly written article Williams provided comment about her body image and
shared a little about the issues she’s had to overcome as they relate to her
body.  For years, rather than placing her
sole focus on being the best athlete she could be, Williams (like so many other
female athletes) dealt with body issues.
She and others admitted to having an internal battle which required them
to somehow choose between feeling and looking more feminine (read “less
muscular”) and preparing their bodies to be the best athletes possible.  Essentially, they felt they had to choose
between social normalcy and career success.

This internal conversation that female athletes struggle
with should never have to take place.  After
all, male athletes certainly don’t have to have these conversations.  In a culture that praises strong, defined
muscles in men; male athletes don’t have to worry about their physiques
affecting their public images.  Rather,
the bodies they need for high performance and those that grace the front covers
of magazines are one in the same.
Working out for male athletes is simultaneously improving their
athleticism and self-confidence and public perception.  That freedom to build their physiques without
question is one many female athletes simply do not have.  And that lack of freedom can often stand in
the way of getting the most out of their bodies and their careers.  

So why does society champion the less imposing female stature
over that of power?  One word, fear.  Much of society was established on a system
of patriarchy.  Households, businesses
and governments were established on a system that placed men in positions of
power and control, and women in positions of subservience and subordination.  For centuries men have attempted to maintain
this system through propaganda about the strengths, abilities and roles of men
and women.  Images and literature, for
example, promote men as strong, domineering and powerful while promoting women
as docile, weak and unassuming.  The more
women are portrayed as frail and incapable, the more society believes in the
necessity to maintain patriarchy.  By in
large, these images have become acceptable for both men and women, allowing men
to comfortably maintain their power and control in society.  

So herein lies society’s problem with physically strong
women like Williams; they challenge patriarchy and make people fearful of a
shift in societal norms.  Strong women do
not fit into the system that has promoted women as the weaker, needy member of
the species.  Rather they challenge it
and suggest that women are also powerful and capable.  They promote self-reliance and
self-determination, not reliance on men.
Many men see images of strong women as a threat to their power and
dominance.  And many women (who are
uncertain about their own inner strength) are uncomfortable with the ideas of
true equality among the sexes.  I mean
for some it really is scary to think that if women can be both beautiful and
strong; feminine and powerful, is there really any need to have men run the
world?

Rather than conquer their fears and embrace strong women,
many resort to childish antics.  The
fearful choose to ridicule strong women as being manly and abnormal, often
going as far as questioning their sexuality.
For many, degrading women with powerful physiques and fearlessness is a
way to maintain the status quo, calm the fears about change and assure the
masses that they really don’t want strong women having voices in society.  Berating and belittling strong women
discourages others from testing the limits of their own strength. Unfortunately, these tactics are oftentimes
successful; convincing girls and women to give up on or diminish their athletic
prowess in favor of acceptance.  It
really is a pity.    

Lucky for us, patriarchy and fear of strong women has never
been the end of the story.  Women have
been testing the boundaries of their strength and pushing the envelope on
definitions of beauty and femininity for quite some time.  The likes of Babe Zaharias, Mary Lou Retton,
Florence Griffith Joyner, Lisa Leslie, and everyone in between have been
showing us that beauty and strength are not mutually exclusive.  Williams has refused to succumb to the
societal pressures of beauty.  She has
answered the internal and external battle by basking in the glory of her
trophies and her triceps.  Thankfully, Williams
isn’t alone in her present-day quest to redefine beauty.  Just the other day UFC champion Ronda Rousey
took the opportunity to inspire women to embrace their inner and outer strength.  When asked about her body on the vlog series
UFC 190 Embedded Rousey proudly responded:

     Listen, just because my body was
developed for a purpose other than f***ing      millionaires doesn’t mean it’s
masculine.  I think it’s femininely
bada**                  because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose,              because I’m not a do-nothing b***h.  It’s
not very eloquently said, but it’s to          the point and maybe that’s just what I
am.  

Really, how can you not love every word?  We need our megastars like Williams and Rousey
to take such bold stands in redefining and embracing their bodies and their
beauties.  Without their willingness to
go against the status quo we’ll continue to have girls and women have issues
with their bodies.  Girls will continue
to feel the need to choose between striving for worldly beauty and being their
bests.  We need girls to know that there
is absolutely nothing wrong with their protruding calf muscles and structured
quads.  Those things are equally and
simultaneously strong and beautiful.  

**Don’t forget to share your thoughts below and share this article with friends!**

Is It Worth It: Her Choice

Standard

image

Last week, I published the first of part of this two-part series on the utility of women’s sports programs in college.  In part I, I reached the conclusion that, for the institutions, the value in women’s sports, in the form of institutional morale, diversity and scholarship, significantly outweighed the financial costs necessary to fund those programs.  Therefore maintaining those programs was worth it.  As I mentioned, however, the institutions are only half of the equation.  In order for women’s college sports to be a viable endeavor, the athletes themselves must also decide that playing sports in college, as opposed to skipping college in pursuit of professional sports careers, is worth the sacrifice of their time, energies, and money.  In part II, I examine the utility of college sports form the standpoint of the female athlete. 

From the start, I should establish that not all athletes are created equally.  That, of course, is no secret, but I thought it important to state so that it’s fresh in your mind as you read this article.  Not all athletes have the same skill level, personalities or opportunities.  What works for one girl may not work for another; what one girl needs, another may not.  Keep that in mind as you read on. 

Broadly speaking, I think there are 3 factors worth considering when analyzing the utility of playing college sports (there are others, but these are the big kahunas).  In no particular order (because who needs order), they are: 1) the sport the athlete plays; 2) the market; and 3) the talent.  Unlike the institutional analysis, where the outcome for each factor swung in favor of schools supporting women’s sports, these factors may play out differently for each athlete.  Here goes…

The Sport

Let’s be honest, women’s sports have yet to develop to the level that men’s sports have; therefore, the number of viable professional outlets is smaller for women, assuming that the athlete desires to live a comfortable life as a professional athlete.  (If that’s not her goal, then the pickings suddenly become less slim.)  The type of sport an athlete plays can play a major role in determining whether she should pursue that sport in college.  Generally, female athletes who participate in individual sports (i.e. tennis, golf, track and field) tend to earn more than athletes who participate in team sports (i.e. basketball, soccer and softball).  Of the athletes on Forbes’s 2013 World’s Highest Paid Female Athletes, all of them played individual sports.  The athletes, all millionaires, play tennis or golf or they skate or drive race cars.  While I am sure that if the list was broader than the top ten (say the top 50) some athletes who play team sports would be included, it is apparent that athletes who play individual sports have a higher earning potential than those in team sports. 

As I revealed in the article “The Curious Case of NCAA Violations,” female WNBA players’ salaries (which do not take into account any money earned in international leagues) max out at $105,000.  Earlier this year, the newly formed National Women’s Soccer League announced that player’s salaries would range from $6,000 to $30,000—that’s per five-month season, not per game or per month1.  The majority of players in either sport won’t get anywhere near those maximum salaries.  Those salaries, dictated by salary caps and limits that do not exist for women in individual sports, make it very difficult for women to play their sports professionally full-time, if at all.  If most women get a college degree to help them increase/maximize their earning potential, athletes in team sports may need to consider playing their sport in college so that they can train and compete for free while securing a degree that they can use professionally in the event that their respective sports careers do not provide adequate revenue. 

For those athletes who play individual sports; however, college may delay lucrative careers and prevent them from establishing rigorous training programs that will improve their skills and ability to compete.  A glance at the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) shows that not one of the top 10 players went to college before declaring themselves professional tennis players.  For many years it has been commonplace for young tennis players of exceptional talent to forgo traditional elementary, middle and high schools to enroll in special tennis academies that educate the athletes while providing world-class training and the ability to play competitively without the hindrance of traditional school schedules.  Following these experiences, the elite athletes declare themselves professional tennis players without first stepping foot on a college campus.  The high rankings and earnings show that skipping college has paid off for them. 

All of this is not to say that all individual sport athletes should go pro and all team sport athletes will be broke because nothing is guaranteed.  But considering the type of sport an athlete plays is definitely important.  Beyond the actual sport that they play, athletes may also want to consider the market before they decide whether college is the right place for them to pursue sports.  An excellent talent with no market to sell it, does not a profitable career make.

The Market

It’s clear from players’ salaries, television time and endorsement/sponsorship options that not every sport sells the same as others.  An athlete’s potential stake in the marketplace is another point of consideration for females who are making the decision to play professional sports as opposed to playing in sports in college.  If an athlete plays a sport that doesn’t command much attention from the masses, it is highly unlikely that the athlete will be able to earn a comfortable living playing that sport alone.  While athletes in individual sports tend to command higher earnings, in assessing the market, the athlete should recognize that her marketability depends on more than the sport she plays. 

Location, location, location.  It’s important in real estate and in determining whether an athlete will be marketable.  For example, in the United States, where players in the WNBA are not huge moneymakers, athletes should consider their marketability in other countries. If an athlete’s skill level is of an international caliber, she may consider forgoing college and pursuing her career overseas.  In 2012, when the average WNBA salary was about $72,000, players were able to secure seven-month contracts ranging from $40,000 to $600,000.  A select number of athletes were even able to make $1million.  So, if an athlete is willing and able to expand her reach beyond the US market, she has the chance to significantly increase her earnings. 

There’s an old saying that timing is everything.  The old adage is true in relationships and it’s true in business.  A female athlete can have all the talent and skill in the world, but if people aren’t concerned with her sport, she won’t be able to make large amounts of money or gain publicity.  Take gymnastics for example.  Generally speaking, the American public focuses its attention on gymnastics once every four years during the Olympics.  Should a young gymnast do well in the Olympics, it may be in her best financial interest to forgo the option of participating in the sport in college and collect on the potential endorsement deals and sponsorship available immediately before and after the Olympic games.  She’ll only have the public’s attention for a limited time.  Consider Gabby Douglas.  At the age of 17, she became the first woman of color and the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to win gold as the Individual All-Around Champion. She also became the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympic games.  With her dynamic Olympic debut, in poured the money and the fame.  She could have decided to turn those opportunities down go to college; but I think that she realized that the nature of the sport and the fact that she shouldn’t guarantee repeat results or offers in the 2016 Olympics, meant that those opportunities may never come around again.  So she cashed in.

As I mentioned in Media Darlings, an athlete’s marketability also depends on factors like personality and physical appearance.  To put it bluntly, the more attractive those things are to the masses (or the more attractive people can make those things to the masses), the greater the athlete’s potential market.  And with that, we’re on to the last of the big three, and probably the most important one, talent.  Without the talent, the market and the sport really don’t matter. 

The Talent

It’s no secret that not everyone will have the skill to be a professional athlete.  More importantly, not every really good athlete will have the talent to succeed as a professional athlete.  Remember, less than 1% of student-athletes go on to play sports professionally.  So when considering her options the athlete must be honest about her skill level and the odds.  For an athlete with mediocre or just good capabilities (*points to self*), it’s probably wise for them to seriously consider taking the opportunity to play their sport in college, so that they have the ability to pursue a career other than sports should their athletic endeavors fall short of their aspirations.  A free education and a great college experience is worth its weight in gold.   

For those with exceptional talent, the decision may become a little more difficult.  Sure, this group may be really talented and may have a chance at the pros, but it’s not really a sure thing, so they can’t leave college in wind.  There are some stellar athletic programs that can give athletes access to world-class facilities and coaching.  For the athletes who may seem destined for a career in professional sports, but who have not yet had the chance to test her skills in international competition (for instance), college offers the opportunity to further develop and mature her skills, provide her with additional exposure, and prepare her for stiffer competition; all while getting her an education.  This may be the ideal solution for some; great preparation and a sweet back-up plan. 

And then you have the third class of talent; the group for whom college might seem less appealing.  These athletes have tested their talents in international competition and succeeded.  They know that they have what it takes to win and make it as a professional athlete.  They must weigh delaying the professional world or cashing in as soon as possible.  Each option has its pros and cons, but as the talent level increases, and the chance at a successful career in sports increases, the athlete has a better basis for starting her professional career without first attending college. 

The Choice

For the vast majority of female athletes, the utility of college sports is a no-brainer.  Get a free education and graduate with a degree that will prepare them for lives as non-professional athletes while playing the sports they love.  For them, sports are means to an end, a tool.  Because the number of athletes who fall into this category is so great, I would conclude that college sports are in fact still worth it for female athletes.  The symbiotic relationship between female athlete and school is still a very viable, necessary thing.  Without college sports, many female athletes would end their athletic careers in high school and many would not have the opportunity to attend college.  Without college sports, campuses would be devoid of a great bit of school spirit and diversity.  Generally speaking, it really is a profitable situation for both parties.   

But the story does not end there.  For the less than one percent of female athletes whose talent is global, college sports may be more of a hindrance than an aid.  Not only do NCAA regulations prevent them from profiting off of their expirable talents, but college curriculums prevent them for participating in rigorous training and competition that will bring out the best in their abilities.  Once these athletes consider their talent, their market and their sport, college seems more and more like an endeavor for the far off future.  Of course the athletes should and probably do take into account other things like their families and how they prioritize education.  But for the most part, as women’s sports grow, participating in college sports seems less and less worth it for these athletes.  Turning down large sums of money for a degree that can be obtained at any time seems less and less appealing.  And, in my opinion, that is a great thing.  When more women have the option to skip college or leave early, that means we have truly taken the world by storm and carved out a legitimate marketplace for women’s sports.  I’ll be happy for the day that commentators are asking how many years a school is going to get out of a basketball player before she enters the WNBA draft. Something tells me that that day is not so far off. 

Footnotes

1. Salaries for soccer players abroad tend to be significantly higher than those in the NWSL because those teams are often backed by successful male clubs.