Women's Sports Advocates: Wedge Issues Aren't What We Need
Friday, March 25, 2022
This weekend, the University of South Dakota's women's basketball team continues its magical run in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament.
It is happening under the umbrella of a new state law targeting trans athletes, a movement some describe as "misguided" in supporting women's programs. With the Coyotes advancing to the Sweet 16, there has been a regional buzz.
Sarah Axelson, vice president of Advocacy for the Women's Sports Foundation, said it should happen more often, rather than laws banning transgender girls and women from playing on teams consistent with their gender identity. Axelson contended it is not a problem, especially when so many others exist.
"We need legislators to start paying attention to overall participation opportunities, access, Title IX compliance, scholarships, facilities, uniforms, coaching, the fight for equal pay," Axelson outlined.
She pointed out advancements could align with the 50th anniversary of Title IX this year. The law prohibits discrimination in education-sponsored activities receiving federal funding.
South Dakota and Iowa recently joined the fray of states passing transgender sports bans. Supporters of the bans said their goal is fairness, arguing trans girls hold competitive advantages over cisgender athletes.
But the Foundation echoed other opponents, countering the laws are a solution in search of a problem. Meanwhile, at the professional level, Axelson stressed emerging leagues for women need more attention so they can grow.
"The WNBA has just reached some really monumental investment deals, right, and they're 25 years in," Axelson asserted. "Some of these other women's leagues are newer, but they're still seeking that sponsorship and seeking investment."
And as people tune in to March Madness, Axelson hopes they are mindful of the gaps in resources women players are afforded compared to men's teams. She referred to a social media post from last year's tournament comparing workout facilities.
"The men had what the picture showed was a state-of-the-art facility. The women had a tower of dumbbells, where I think they didn't exceed, like, 30 pounds, and a stack of yoga mats," Axelson recounted.
The backlash led to a review of NCAA championships in terms of gender equity.
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