What John McEnroe & Others are Getting so Very Wrong

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If you haven’t heard by now, on Sunday while lauding Serena Williams as the best female tennis player of all time, legendary American player John McEnroe also said that if she had played on men’s circuit she’d probably only be “like 700 in the world.” This of course prompted an outcry from many who took issue with McEnroe creating rankings out of thin air and many who believe Williams’ talents would place her higher than 700. For her part, Williams remained a regal as ever and politely asked McEnroe to keep her name out of his mouth. Despite the clamor, we didn’t get an apology from McEnroe. Instead, he doubled down on his comments and suggested that rather than speculating about how men and women tennis players match up; players should start engaging in more battles of the sexes.

You might recall that in 1973 Bobby Riggs opined that the women’s tennis game was far inferior to the men’s game and that he, at the time a 55-year-old retiree, was still too much for the top women players of the time. These comments led to the famed Battle of the Sexes which pitted Riggs against Margaret Court, Riggs against Billie Jean King and, later in 1992, Jimmy Connors against Martina Navratilova. The matches were entertaining and proved that women produced quality sportsmanship. But the thing is, they never should have happened.

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Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs

Throughout sports history, women have always been compared to men. The comparisons initially and often had their source in men like Riggs who aimed to degrade the efforts of women. Their style of warfare against women was to compare the speed, size and strength of men and women. Because women would undoubtedly average slower times, display smaller frames and exude less strength; women’s sports would always be inferior to men’s (or so their rationale went). Those arguments continue today. Men use the same excuse not to watch women play basketball because the game they produce isn’t as fast as the men’s and doesn’t involve high-flying dunks and other theatrics. Women’s hockey and baseball (for instance) don’t receive support because they’re supposedly men’s games that women just can’t play as well.

Over time, in an effort to defend ourselves and earn equal pay, women have adopted the comparison model too. We fight long and hard to prove the sports product we produce is just as good as the men’s. In fact, the fight for equal pay in tennis, soccer and hockey are prime examples of women arguing that we should be paid equally to men because we we’re just as good. We win just as much (if not more), we bring in just as much (if not more) revenue and we work just as has hard (if not harder) as the men. In women’s basketball we’re constantly trying to prove that the WNBA provides quality basketball just like the men’s game and trying to convince the world not to be turned off by UConn’s dominance.

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But here’s the thing, there is no comparison. Men and women are different. We are different anatomically, physiologically and socially. We’re different for good reasons like procreation, diversity and good old fashioned excitement. These differences lead us to produce and express ourselves differently. Our differences mean that women are going to play sports and be athletic in ways that are different than men. Men will be able to do things women can’t do and women will be able to do things that men can’t do. And you know what, that is ok. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being different. Different doesn’t mean inferior or superior. It just means different.

Rather than appreciating and celebrating that men and women are not the same kind of athletes, men and women place too much energy into comparing apples to oranges. Men and women in sports have shown us greatness in their own rights. Serena Williams is great regardless of how many points she can win off Novak Djokovic. Britney Griner is a master at her craft even if she never dunks against on Russell Westbrook. And there’s nothing anyone can do to take away the legacy that is the US Women’s soccer team. Women play sports with our own form of power, grace, elegance, strength and strategy. How about we celebrate that instead of comparing us to something we’ll never be, men.

Oh, and in case you forgot…Serena is Queen. 😉

GLADIATHERS & SUPERHEROES

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If you’re into Netflix like I am, there’s a really good chance that you’re captivated by one of its newest series, Luke Cage, or that you’ve already binged watched the entire first season.  Luke Cage, also known as Power Man, is a fictional superhero who appeared in comic books published by Marvel Comics.  If you don’t happen to follow comic books that closely, but watched Netflix’s other superhero series, Jessica Jones, then you’re already familiar with Cage.  If you aren’t familiar with the stories but intend to give them a watch, don’t worry; I won’t spoil the plots.  I’ll just say that both Luke Cage and Jessica Jones provide exciting, interesting stories.  And, probably most importantly, they show a woman and a person of color in roles as superheroes; stories that are, unfortunately, not frequently told.

Basking in the greatness that are Luke Cage and Jessica Jones led me to think about women in sports and the greatness they give us on a regular basis.  Day in and day out, female athletes perform feats that are nothing short of heroic.  They inspire others to be great, they bounce back from injuries, battle with archenemies and do awe-inspiring things with their bodies.  There’s no denying it, GladiatHers® are our real-life superheroes.  So today on GladiatHers.com we’re taking a look at a very short list of some GladiatHers® who live absolutely heroic lives. Continue reading

GENUINE PATRIOTISM

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If you read this blog with any sort of regularity, and by now you definitely should be, you know that I played sports for practically my entire childhood and until I graduated from college. I played tennis through college, ran track until I got to college and played soccer up until I got to high school. Last week, Megan Rapinoe, women from the Indiana Fever and Phoenix Mercury and other women in sports took knees during the National Anthem in protest of racial injustices in the United States. Watching these women and reading the comments sections (note to reader: never read the comments section) under articles about these women took me back to the days where my athletic prowess was on fleek. What dawned on me was that I don’t ever remember having the National Anthem played or flag raised at any of my events. Now maybe my 32-year-old mind is leaving out an occasional occurrence, but I can say with absolute certainty that it was nowhere near routine for the National Anthem to be played or flag to be acknowledged at the tennis matches, track meets or soccer games that I played in from my childhood to early adulthood.  But the way Americans have reacted to a handful of athletes kneeling for the Anthem suggests that reverence for Old Glory before sporting events is a time-honored, almost mandatory tradition.  So how was I robbed of such a large part of American culture for so long?

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GladiatHer Grads: Ashley Moore

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We hear a great deal about professional athletes and high profile college athletes, especially in basketball and football, but we don’t often talk about the average student-athlete. There’s little discussion about the hardships, the triumphs and their lives after college athletics. But former college athletes have a great deal to offer this world and are proving it everyday. They are teachers, coaches, doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs. In fact, one study showed 94% of senior women business executives played sports and 50% of women in C-Suite positions played college sports. These women are indeed movers and shakers on and off the court and field.

So to highlight some of these high achieving women and to provide current student-athletes with encouragement and advice, we’re bringing you a new feature! It’s called GladiatHer Grads and will consist of interviews with former female student-athletes who are currently doing impressive things with their postgraduate, post-athletic lives. Our first GladiatHer Grad is Ashley Moore. Ashley is a former number 1 singles and doubles player at Howard University. She’s combined her talents on the court and the education she received from THE greatest HBCU of all time into a career as a creative, an influencer and an entrepreneur. Keep reading to learn more about this PR superstar in the making.

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Tennis’s Unfair Game: Is Sharapova the New Agassi?

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As many of you know, tennis was rocked by scandal earlier this year after Maria Sharapova tested positive for meldonium. The problem with this is that as of September 16th 2015, it was approved that meldonium be added to the list of banned substances. Here’s a quick recap of what the substance does:

· Increases oxidation of the blood (to allow for greater cardiovascular training)
· Increases exercise capacity and exercise tolerance
· Improves attentiveness and memory capacity

Now these aren’t all the benefits of this banned drug, but I can tell you from my experience training and competing professionally in tennis that any athlete would go above and beyond for the opportunity to increase their capacity to exercise. This means that an athlete will be able to perform for longer periods of time without tiring. Lets not forget it allows you to push your muscles further than would be allowed naturally. To put it in perspective: It allows her to outlast her opponents, recover faster, and play more tournaments. This also means that it aids in injury recovery and prevention. Rightfully, she was suspended upon testing positive for the substance. Which leads us to the problem today.

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Let’s Pray for Our Haters

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There are many things I’d like to be writing about.  I’d like to write about how No. 7 Washington upset No. 2 Maryland last night or how NFL great Randall Cunningham has a daughter who is absolutely murdering the competition in the high jump.  Instead of writing about those wonderful things, however, I’m pondering yet another response to some baseless, misogynistic comments that mischaracterize women and their role in sports.  This time the comments come from respected people in the tennis community.  When asked about the state of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA (“Indian Wells”) as it related to the WTA, recently resigned tournament co-founder and CEO Raymond Moore stated,

“…in my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, (laughter) because they ride the coattails of the men.  They don’t make any of the decisions and they are lucky.  They are very, very lucky.  If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport.  They really have.”

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GladiatHer Law: Sharapova’s a User

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Yesterday, Maria Sharapova announced that during this year’s Australian Open, she tested positive for meldonium, a banned substance that is usually prescribed for chest pains but athletes use for its ability to improve endurance and recovery. Sharapova’s story is that for the ten years that she took meldonium (for treatment of health issues), it was not a banned substance. She claims that she recently, innocently brushed off an email from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that contained an updated list of banned substances. This list of course included meldonium, so she had no clue that meldonium was banned until testing positive for it. I’d like to get into how ridiculously absurd and irresponsible her claims are by introducing a new segment called #GladiatHerLaw.  GladiatHer™ Law will shed light on some legal issues that surround women’s sports. I get to floss some of my UCLA Law School training and you get to gain a better understanding of how the law really affects women in sports. It’s a win-win for us all. So let’s start where all GladiatHer™ Law posts will start, with the law.

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