Sydney Satchell Needs Your Help!

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Remember last year when we introduced you to Sydney Satchell, the inspirational former student-athlete who battled back from an amputation to begin a career in sitting volleyball? Well she’s got some amazing updates in her life and needs your help! Rather than me give you the 4-1-1, I figured I’d let Sydney tell you what’s going on…

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TO THE VICTIM

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I’ve been going back and forth about what to say (or if I should say anything at all) about this case and the system that allowed it all to unfold. I mean, we (you and I) JUST talked about sexual assaults and college athletes. And a lot of very smart people have written a great deal about Brock Turner, his father, the judge who presided over his case, his privilege and even the men who caught him. So it almost seems unnecessarily redundant to devote more internet space to this particular rapist. But it dawned on me that in focusing on all of those men, we were actually missing the mark and focusing on the wrong person(s). Yes, what he did was disgusting. Yes, his status as a white, upper-middle class, educated, athletically gifted man set him up to receive a disturbing, embarrassing 6 month sentence for raping an unconscious woman. Yes, our system is highly skewed in favor of people with his privilege. Yes, we are smack dab in the middle of a country that repeatedly fails its rape victims and condones rape and violence against women. But I think it’s time we focus on the other important person in this crime, the victim, and what I have to say to her is fairly simple:

To the unnamed woman whose life Turner forever altered, I’m sorry. I know it’s not my fault, but I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we live in a country where a strange man felt comfortable enough to violate you in the most unimaginable way possible. I’m sorry that this country’s judicial system failed you and cared more about his life, feelings and future than it did yours. I’m so very sorry that your pain is being used for political discussions about racism, privilege and sexism. I’m so very sorry that this happened to you. But while I am sorry, I am also grateful.

Thank you. Thank you for being strong enough to share YOUR hurt, YOUR confusion, YOUR anger in the face of people who tried to minimize those things. YOUR feelings are what this country needs to hear about. We need to hear about how rape forever changes the VICTIM’S life and how no deserves experience what you did. Thank you for not letting him, his family or this country shame you into silence. Thank you for refusing to not blame yourself and for being courageous enough to look your attacker in the face and not back down. Not every woman in your position (and believe me there are far too many) chooses to fight for her humanity in that way. The way each of you fights to reclaim your peace, your dignity, your lives is courageous. But the way you’ve chosen to fight for yours has the potential to encourage another women in your position to fight for hers. Your candor and honesty have helped those who have not been touched personally by the crime of rape feel its impact. Your passionate voice has encouraged others to speak up for victims and against the system that fails them. So thank you and know that there are girls and women, GladiatHers and non-GladiatHers alike, men and boys who thank you too.

BHM WCW: Jacqie McWilliams

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Throughout the month of February, GladiatHers™ will use our WCW Feature to celebrate Black History Month (BHM) by highlighting African-American women who are currently making history in the sports world.  These women are breaking race and gender barriers and are stellar examples of the power that GladiatHers™ possess. We’re calling these ladies our BHM WCWs.  Our first BHM WCW is Jacqie McWilliams.

Jacqie McWilliams is the first woman to be named the Commissioner of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), an NCAA Division II conference predominately comprised of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  As Commissioner, McWilliams works with the CIAA Board of Directors and staff and provides leadership in strategic planning, day-to-day management and financial stability for the CIAA.  In addition to serving as CIAA Commissioner, McWilliams is one of only three women and three African Americans on the NCAA Board of Governors, the decision making body of the NCAA.  Prior to taking on the roles of CIAA Commissioner and NCAA Board member, McWilliams was the NCAA Director of the Men’s and Women’s Division I Basketball Championships and the Director of Championships and Alliances.  Before she stormed the front offices of college athletics, McWilliams was a champion student-athlete herself.  A graduate of Hampton University, she was a member of the 1988 Division II Women’s Basketball Championship team and a member of the 1987 and 1990 CIAA Women’s Volleyball Championship teams.  After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Hampton in 1991, she went on to obtain her Master’s degree in Sports Management and Administration from Temple University.  We salute Ms. Jacqie McWilliams for advancing the cause of African Americans and women in sports.

That Time When Women & Football Players United

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Monday after students and student-athletes at the University
of Missouri raged against the machines of racism and institutional complacency
with nonviolent protests, they got the change they desired; Timothy Wolfe
resigned from his post as President of the University.  His tone deaf resignation helped many
understand exactly why the activists called for his removal and leaves many
anxiously awaiting the future to see if the genuine change the community seeks materializes.
Now I could go on and on about the courage it took for the black football
players to risk their scholarships, transferability and safety in the name of justice
because it really was a courageous, mature thing to do.  I could write ad nauseam about the true power
that athletes (students and professionals) possess to change their world
outside of sports.  And of course I could
write feverishly about the economics of college sports and how the NCAA
marginalizes student-athletes.  But I’m
not going to do any of that because there are a lot of great writers who are already
giving you insight on those topics more.
Instead, I’m going to ask for just a little bit of your time to
introduce you to two women.  

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Meet University of Missouri students Ayanna Poole (bottom) and
Danielle Walker (top).  While Poole and Walker
have not had a great deal of limelight in comparison to others involved in the
struggle for racial justice at the University of Missouri, they have been
highly instrumental in the fight.   They
are, in fact, a large part of the reason that we know who Jonathan
Butler
is and why the Mizzou football players decided to take a stand.  These two women helped form Concerned Student
1950, a group named in remembrance for the first year black students were
admitted to the University.  Concerned
Student 1950 have hosted rallies and promoted the movement on social media.  Poole and Walker have been rallying,
protesting, writing and reciting poetry for change on Mizzou’s campus for the months
and months
that led up to Wolfe’s resignation. No, they aren’t
student-athletes themselves.  It is very
likely that they know little about the taxing life of a student-athlete, but it
is their refusal to accept the status quo that encouraged the Mizzou football
players to take a stand.  It is their
vision and steadfastness that helped make Mizzou a topic of discussion for
something other sports.  For that, they
should be recognized.  

Unfortunately, I don’t have much more information to give
you about these two ladies but their actions, the actions of Mr. Butler and the
actions of the black football players (and the support of their coaches and
teammates) make one thing clear, change happens collectively and broadly.  Poole and Walker’s fight for justice required
the help of someone willing to go on a hunger strike.  Their fight in turn required the help of
athletes who were willing to risk their livelihoods.  What started as a fight for racial justice at
the University of Missouri has begun conversations about the power and the position
of students on college campuses and in other settings.  It has reignited conversations about the
perceived injustices in NCAA athletics and encouraged activists in other
movements to reexamine their strategies.
That’s why working with people who don’t have exactly the same
experiences and strategies is so important; you get a broader, more effective
movement.  Everyone should take
note.  If you want to improve the status
of women, of people in the LGBT community, of the homeless, of immigrants, of
children, of any marginalized group; think collectively and with those whose
walk in life might take them down a path that is different than yours. That’s how you get change.   

The Thigh Gap

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Have you heard of thigh-gap sites? Well, until today I certainly hadn’t.  Apparently they are sites and posts on social media that promote the dangerous weight-loss goal of becoming slim enough so that one’s thighs do not touch. :-O  You can read about them here and here.  While some females genuinely are naturally thin and have wide set thighs, for the vast majority of them, such a look would require dangerous starvation.  I love food and food loves me, so I can’t even imagine taking weight-loss to that extreme, but all of this thigh-gap talk reminds me of a time when I, like many young girls, was susceptible to eat disorders.  Luckily, I didn’t have to contend with the pressures of social media, but the pressure to be a successful athlete definitely took its toll on my pre-teen mind.  While my family and coaches always helped to ensure that I maintained a healthy diet in my quest to win; unfortunately, many female athletes succumb to eating disorders.  Either they do not have the help of coaches and families or coaches and family members find out about the eating disorders only after the issues have caused serious damage.  In an effort, to bring just a little awareness to eating disorders among female athletes, I thought I’d share a few facts and warning signs.

Things to Know

  • Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are the two most common types of eating disorders. Read about them here and here.
  • Many female athletes begin to develop symptoms of eating disorders even before reaching high school.
  • A study of Division 1 NCAA athletes, showed that over 1/3 of female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms placing them at risk for Anorexia Nervosa
  • Certain female athletes are at a higher risk for eating disorders:
    • Those in sports that emphasize appearance, weight requirements or muscularity, i.e. gymnastics, diving, or bodybuilding
    • Those in sports that focus on the individual rather than the entire team, i.e. gymnastics, running, figure skating, and dance.
    • Many female athletes suffer from the Female Athlete Triad, a dangerous condition in which the athlete actually suffers from three and connected illness: 1) disordered eating; 2) Amenorrhea; and 3) Osteoporosis.  Read about the Female Athlete Triad here.
    • Eating disorders can cause severe and permanent damage to the body

Warning Signs

It is so very important that athletes’ families, coaches and friends are aware of the issues surrounding eating disorders and athletes.  Their intervention and support can be life-changing for athletes who need help.  Here’s a good resource for learning to deal with athletes who may be affected by eating disorders.  Below are some general warning signs.  Should you notice any of these symptoms in an athlete that you know, seek the assistance of a physician and/or counselor: 

  • Unusual fatigue
  • Weakness & Light-headedness
  • Broken bones
  • Leg cramps
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Increased concern about body comparison, fat and restrictive dieting
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Loss of menses

While the majority of female athletes compete in a manner in which they maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine, there are a significant number who do not.  For those females, it is important that parents, coaches and friends take an active role in assisting troubled athletes by educating them and reinforcing healthy habits.  For more information on athletes with eating disorders and getting them help, click here, here and here.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF NCAA VIOLATIONS

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I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the latest NCAA scandals.  You know, the Johnny Manziel show, the Oklahoma State saga and the drama in the SEC.  If you’re not, click on those little highlighted words and catch up.  Reading about these and countless other scandals has made me realize that there are really no “new” scandals.  Every year we sort of hear about the same violations over and over…and over again.  Think about it.  At this point, it’s no secret that, against NCAA regulations, Division I football and basketball players receive payments and benefits from agents and other opportunists wanting to make an early investment in future professional athletes.  It’s no secret that teams lower the academic standards for their student-athletes in hopes of keeping them eligible and focused on sports and winning championships; or that, like other college students their age, student-athletes experiment with drugs, sex and alcohol.  None of things may be morally right, but it’s no secret that they happen.  What is a bit curious to me is, why these scandals aren’t replicated in women’s sports.  Of course there are NCAA violations in women’s sports, but they just aren’t as prevalent and serious.  I mean, there are some millionaire female athletes out there.  Women’s coaches want to win just as much as men’s coaches; and surely, female student-athletes want to party just as much as male student-athletes.  So what gives?  Why does it appear that women’s college sports has been, thus far, spared the massive NCAA scandals that so frequently plague the men’s games?

Most questions that involve gender/sex really have no simple, one part answer.  This question is no different.  There are multiple factors that have contributed to the relatively quiet women’s game, so let’s dive in:

The Money

It’s always about the money, isn’t it?  Well, for women’s sports it’s more about the lack of money that explains the limited occurrences of NCAA violations.  Of course, Title IX requires that colleges and university spend an equal amount of money on women’s sports as they do men’s, but it’s not the money spent in college that makes the difference; it’s the money spent in the professional arena.  It’s a fact that men’s sports command more money than do women’s sports and that makes all the difference. 

Consider basketball.  Earlier this year the NBA announced that the Salary Cap for the 2013-2014 season would be $58.679 million.  The WNBA’s Salary Cap sat at a mere $913,000 in 2013.  Individually, in the 2013-2014 season a rookie NBA player could sign a contract for more than $13.5 million.  Contrast that with $105,000 for a WNBA rookie.  The differences are dramatic and very telling of the varying interests in the respective leagues.  But for the NCAA the differences tell more than that. 

The differences in salary possibilities have created vastly different mentalities among student-athletes and potential support staff. Support staff refers to the agents, financial advisors, accountants and other people who help manage the careers of professional athletes.    It’s a no-brainer really.  For the student-athletes, $13,000,000 provides more incentive to play professionally than does $100,000.   And for the support staff, 3% of millions provides more incentive to make a living with male basketball players than does 3% of thousands with female players. 

This incentive to make a living as and with a professional athlete drives the actions of the student-athlete and the potential support staff.  Student-athletes who are focused on scoring a multiple million-dollar contract are less likely to prioritize classwork and more likely to participate in schemes that call for cheating, allow others to do their work, and sit in less than challenging classes for easy “A’s.” Female student-athletes, however, who are likely to get a job as a non-athlete that pays more or just as much as some rookie contracts are more likely to focus their efforts on education and personally excelling in classes that will make them eligible for successful careers as non-athletes.  The motivation for the support staff is similar.  The incentive to recruit and give improper benefits to a potential millionaire NBAer is much stronger than the incentive to recruit a player whose initial contract may not break $50,000 and who will likely have to play overseas to make any substantial money.   Considering these numbers its easy to see why the reports of academic immorality and improper benefits are few and far between for women’s sports when compared to their male counterparts.

The History

It’s no secret that sports have not been as popular for women as they have been for men for as long as they have been for men.  And the lack of history and development has played a key role in NCAA violations.  If you don’t mind, I’ll again use basketball to illustrate my point.  

Not until 1972, with the passage of Title IX, did Congress require colleges to provide for gender equity in sports.  And it wasn’t until ten years later, in 1982, that women had their first Division I-NCAA tournament.  By that time the men had crowned 43 national champions, with my alma mater UCLA grabbing ten of those.  During those 43 years, the men’s game was able to garner a tremendous following that helped grow the participation in and viewership of the sport.  This increased the talent pool and the potential for revenue in the sport.  With the increase in talent and revenue came an increase in the desire for athletes, support staff, and coaches to profit off of the sport, even at the risk of violating NCAA regulations.  During those same 43 years, the women’s game was small and nonexistent on many campuses and battled sexist sentiments that kept many potential players and viewers disinterested.  The lack of interest in the women’s game kept the talent pool small and the revenues meager (to put it lightly) while simultaneously ensuring that athletes, support staff and coaches had less (if any) incentive to violate NCAA regulations.  Post 1982, the same trend continues.  The men’s game has grown exponentially to the women’s game and so has the potential and incentive for NCAA violations. 

The picture of history in NCAA basketball is mirrored in many NCAA sports.  The lack of history in women’s sports in comparison to men’s has created a chasm in interest in playing and watching women’s sports which in turn has created a similar gap in potential revenue and the incentive to violate NCAA regulations in efforts to get a piece of that revenue. 

The Expectations

.5%.  .5% is the number of student-athletes who will go on to play their respective sport professional.  Out of the roughly 400,000 student-athletes, that means that about 2,000 have a chance of going pro.  The numbers get even smaller, of course, when you begin to consider them on a sport-by-sport basis.  In 2012, the NCAA reported that out of the 17,890 men who played NCAA basketball, only 51 were drafted.  Of the 16,134 women who played NCAA basketball, only 31 were drafted.  And of the 69,643 men who played football, only 253 were drafted.  I’m not much of a gambler, but those odds don’t look so good to me. 

One would think that these numbers would encourage athletes to use their time as student-athletes to get an adequate education that will prepare them for the future as a non-athlete.  But it doesn’t quite play out like that, well for the men at least.  The mentality of many male student-athletes, especially in sports like football and basketball at large programs, is one of an expectation of a professional sports career.  Many more than the 51 or 253 fully expect to play professional sports, viewing their time at their respective institution as merely preparation for a career as a professional athlete.  With such expectations, many focus their attentions on the pros, and severely underestimate the need for completing a degree and the need for building a non-sport-related resume.  Instead, they overestimate the need to form “special” and sometimes financial relationships with potential support staff and the need to focus on winning in their respective sports at the expense of excelling in the classroom. These unsupported expectations have encouraged many male athletes to participate in activities that are not conducive to completing their degrees and remaining eligible but are reflective of their expectations that their lives as professional athletes will ensure that they won’t need to graduate or remain on good terms with coaches and professors.

Women, on the other hand, appear to have less of a focus on playing professional sports and more of a focus on completing their degree.   Earlier this year an annual study by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida on the teams in the NCAA basketball tournament revealed the following:

  • Women graduated at a rate of 90% versus 70% for the men. 
  • Women also had only one team in the tournament with an APR below a 925 compared to the men who had three teams. 
  • 94% (60) of women’s teams vs. 53% (36) of men’s teams graduated at least 70%;
  • 98% (63) of women’s teams vs. 65% (45) of men’s teams graduated at least 60%;
  • No women’s teams vs. four men’s teams graduated less than 40 percent.

I don’t think that female athletes are innately smarter than male athletes, but I think the statistics are a reflection of women’s expectations and focuses.  Women are more focused on degree completion and expect that college will lead to a career as a non-athlete.  To stay focused and meet that expectation, women tend to stay clear of potential academic, conduct, and amateurism violations that would hinder meeting their goals.

The source of the varying expectations probably comes from a number of things, including: the prominence and roles of female and male professional athletes; the salary potential of female and male athletes; and advice from family members, friends and coaches.  Whatever the source may be, it seems that expectations dictate responses.  

The End

I started off by suggesting that there were multiple issues affecting the varying levels and degrees of NCAA violations among women and men sports.  But as I reflect on what I wrote, Lil Wayne’s voice just keeps saying, “Gotta get back to the money.” And he’s right.  It all boils down to the money.  The possibility of making millions motivates student-athletes, support staff, and coaches to violate NCAA regulations among men’s sports.  The relative lack of historical depth has limited the revenue potential in women’s sports, which in turn limits the motivation for participants to violate NCAA regulations.  And the allure of making millions causes male athletes to have lofty expectations of grand careers as professional athletes despite what the statistics prove.  Cash rules. 

If women’s sports and the potential revenue from women’s sports continue to grow, which I hope and believe they will, I predict that we will see an increase in the number of NCAA violations in the women’s game.  They, the coaches and support staff will chase the dollar and the dream just like those involved in the men’s game.  The NCAA regulations stand in the way of (or at least significantly prolong) the possibility of living a luxurious life as a professional athlete.  The stronger the possibility that that lifestyle is attainable, the more women (just like men) are more likely to buck the system that conflicts with that lifestyle.  I guess the question is, who will break first, the giant that is the NCAA or the giant that is money.  With all of the current criticism about the NCAA and the unfairness of pay without pay, my money’s on the money.