KRISTINE LEAHY IS POKING THE BEAR

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You might not know who LaVar Ball is, but I think you should. LaVar Ball is a fascinating man who is captivating the sports world with his persistent and often over-the-top promotion of this family and entrepreneurial endeavors. His family is comprised of a wife and three incredibly talented young men, all who play basketball. The eldest, Lonzo, just finished his first and only year at UCLA and is expected to be one of the top picks in this year’s NBA draft. The middle son, LiAngelo, is a UCLA basketball team commit and the youngest, LaMelo, is still perfecting his craft at the high school level. LaVar has strategically built a brand, figuratively and literally, around his basketball playing family. He speaks of his sons’ talents in seemingly hyperbolic ways and provides no holds barred commentary. Beyond the talk, he created the Big Baller Brand, an apparel company, owned exclusively by the Ball family. While BBB started with hats, t-shirts and sweats, LaVar has taken the brand to the next level by making a shoe, Lonzo’s signature shoe, the ZO2. The ZO2 and matching slide ($220), which sells for between $495 and $1195, is sold exclusively on BBB’s website and without any licensing, endorsement or sponsorship from the large brands like Nike or Adidas. It’s a pretty bold step to turn down millions upon millions of dollars in potential endorsement money in an effort to grow one’s personal and ancestral wealth. I hope the Ball family collects big, big checks into infinity for taking such a leap of faith.

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GladiatHer® Crush Wednesday: Blythe Brumleve of GuysGirl.com

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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:

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MAJOR KEYS FROM espnW CAMPUS CONVERSATIONS AND HOWARD

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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

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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

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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!

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MCLAUGHLIN AND THE PERILS OF BEING A WOMAN IN SPORTS

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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

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“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.  

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