Monday, October 11, 2021
In an article appropriately titled Enough is Enough, WDRB Louisville captured an emotional moment this week when players around the National's Women's Soccer League stopped play at the sixth minute of the game. The six minute mark denoted how it took six years for allegations of sexual coercion and harassment to be acted upon. The players locked arms at midfield in solidarity.
The Player's Association also published this list of demands and statement:
Tonight, we reclaim our place on the field, because we will not let our joy be taken from us. But this is not business as usual.
Teams will stop play in each of tonight’s games at the 6th minute. Players will join together in solidarity at the center circle for one minute in honor of the 6 years it took for Mana, Sinead, and all those who fought for too long to be heard. We call on fans to stand in silence with us. During that time, we ask you to stand in that pain and discomfort with us, as we consider what we have been asked to sit with for too long. We call on you to consider, in that minute, what is demanded of each of us to reclaim our league and our sport.
Following the game, the media are advised that players will refuse to answer any questions that do not relate to abuse and systemic change in NWSL.
Systemic transformation is not something you say. It is something you do. We, as players, demand the following:
1. Every coach, General Manager, representative on the Board of Governors, and owner voluntarily submit to the Players Association’s independent investigation into abusive conduct. They may notify Executive Director Meghann Burke of their agreement with this demand by the close of business on Wednesday, October 13, 2021.
2. The scope of NWSL’s investigation announced on Sunday evening, October 4, 2021, be expanded to include an investigation of each of the twelve NWSL Clubs represented on the Board of Governors to determine whether any abuse, whether presently known or unknown, has occurred at any point in time.
3. The scope of NWSL’s investigation further be expanded to determine whether any League Office staff, NWSL Club, or person in a position of power within NWSL neglected to investigate concerns of abuse raised by any player or employee at any point in time.
4. NWSL adopt an immediate “Step Back Protocol” whereby any person in a position of power (e.g. owner, representative on the Board of Governors, General Manager, or Management Supervisor) at the time that a Club either hired or separated from employment a coach who was, is, or will be under investigation for abuse be suspended from any governance or oversight role within NWSL pending the conclusion of an independent investigation, effective immediately. For any Club that took swift action to protect players upon the discovery of facts that were not previously known to the Club, the immediate disclosure to the Players Association of the circumstances and the policies or practices implemented to prevent the same from happening again may be grounds to restore that person to their position quickly, with the Players Association’s agreement.
5. NWSL immediately agree to disclose all investigative reports referenced in its statement of October 3, 2021.
6. NWSL immediately agree to disclose to the Players Association any and all findings, conclusions, and reports are obtained pursuant to their statement of October 3, 2021, including but not limited to the reopening of the 2015 Paul Riley investigation.
7. NWSL agrees to cooperate with the Players Association’s own independent investigation by a written email to Executive Director Meghann Burke by the close of business on Wednesday, October 13, 2021.
8. NWSL agrees that representatives of the Players Association have an opportunity to meet with potential Commissioner candidates and have a meaningful opportunity to be heard in the selection of the next Commissioner.
The reckoning has already begun. We will not be silent. We will be relentless in our pursuit of a league that deserves the players in it.
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
After DOJ Investigation San Jose State University Will Pay $1.6 Million to 13 Student Athletes in Sexual Harassment Case
Investigations by the university and the Justice Department identified 23 student-athletes who had been inappropriately touched by an athletic trainer, officials said.
San Jose State University has agreed to pay $1.6 million to 13 female student-athletes who alleged that they had been sexually harassed by a former athletic trainer, federal prosecutors and the university said on Tuesday.
In a letter to California’s state university system, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that the university had failed for more than a decade to respond adequately to reports of sexual harassment against the trainer and violated Title IX, a law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded schools.
The university, the letter stated, did this “despite widespread knowledge and repeated reports of the allegations.” As a result, student-athletes experienced “further sexual harassment,” the department said.
Starting in 2009, the Justice Department said in a statement, student-athletes had reported that the trainer repeatedly subjected them to “unwelcome sexual touching” of their breasts, groins, buttocks and pubic areas during treatment in campus training centers.
The investigations by the university and the Justice Department identified 23 student-athletes who they said had been inappropriately touched by Scott Shaw, the trainer, according to the university. The department offered $125,000 to each of them, the university said, and 13 accepted the offer.
Mr. Shaw, who was the university’s director of sports medicine until he retired last year, and his lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday evening.The Justice Department also found that the university retaliated against two employees in its athletics department, one of whom had repeatedly alerted school officials to the threat posed by Mr. Shaw, and the second had opposed retaliation against the employee who reported the threat. The second employee, the department said, was fired.
Monday, September 20, 2021
U.S. gymnasts testified in Congress last week seeking greater accountability for all of the failures in institutions and oversight that allowed Larry Nassar to abuse so many.
Dr. Amanda Potts and I previously analyzed the Victim Impact Statements (VIS) in the Michigan criminal case to consider these larger issues of accountability. Our article, The Language of Harm: What the Nassar Victim Impact Statements Reveal About Abuse and Accountability came out last year in the Pittsburgh Law Review. Last week's testimony resurrects the relevance of the conclusions of this linguistic analysis.
This Article uses corpus-based discourse analysis to examine this impactful collection of VIS for their larger lessons in law, policy, and society. This analysis reveals several takeaways for further analysis and examination. It reveals the challenges that rape, sexual assault, and abuse survivors face in naming the crime and describing the harms. These challenges are particularly fraught and complex when powerful systems and institutions allow abusers to flourish, resulting in systemic and interconnected betrayals and failures. The VIS call for better platforms for survivors to heal, to speak, and to voice their harms beyond these episodic and rare moments offered by the #MeToo Movement, or, as in the Nassar case, made available due to the specific facts and judicial management of a case. The VIS reveal that, while Nassar has been held accountable, the larger limits of language, law, and accountability ensure that future cases will surface, absent better preventative policies. These VIS broadly call for powerful law and policy reformation that will hold perpetrators and their enablers accountable and meet the full range of victims’ needs outside of the criminal justice system.
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Legal Report Finds Systemic Gender Inequity at NCAA Against Women's Basketball and Recommends Organizational Reforms
A highly anticipated external review has found that the NCAA has treated women's games unfairly, both undervaluing and underfunding them for years.
Led by New York law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, the report recommends reforms to the NCAA's basketball programs. It calls for a combined Final Four tournament and changes to the organization's leadership structure, media contracts, and revenue calculations.
The review was prompted in March, when the NCAA came under fire after a video of the minimal equipment in the women's weight room at the organization's championships was posted by University of Oregon basketball player Sedona Prince. The video, which immediately gained traction on TikTok, showed that the NCAA did not provide the women's Division I basketball teams the lavish amenities that it did for the men's tournaments. The NCAA commissioned the review shortly afterward.
"With respect to women's basketball, the NCAA has not lived up to its stated commitment to 'diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators,' " the report states.
The report describes the undervaluing of women's teams as "perpetuating a mistaken narrative that women's basketball is destined to be a 'money loser' year after year. Nothing could be further from the truth."
It notes increasing television audiences and female players' "huge followings on social media," and says the NCAA could negotiate far higher fees for coverage of the women's games.
Friday, April 2, 2021
March Madness Could Spark a Title IX Reckoning, The Atlantic
The gender inequality in college sports runs far deeper than a few social-media posts can reveal. As Cheryl Cooky, a professor studying sport sociology at Purdue University, told me in a recent phone conversation: “The problem is not the weight room itself, but what kind of groundwork has been laid that produced this moment where the weight-room controversy occurred. Nobody looked at that space and said, ‘Something’s not right here.’ It took someone posting on social media to bring attention to the issue.”
Although the NCAA is a nonprofit that organizes athletic tournaments for college athletes, it acts more like a professional-sports organization. And the deeply entrenched sexism in intercollegiate sports means that male athletes are treated with red-carpet fanfare, and women are treated as second-class citizens. That swag-bag gear, forinstance? The women’s paraphernalia doesn’t say march madness, because the NCAA refuses to use the name of its highly marketable men’s tournament to refer to the parallel women’s tournament, which is held at the same time. If you download the NCAA March Madness Live app, you might be under the impression that the women’s tournament doesn’t exist at all—no women’s schedule, bracket, or game highlights are available. This is the first year in which the entirety of the women’s tournament will be shown on national television, whereas the men’s tournament has been taking over airwaves for decades. And still, Sunday’s women’s championship game will be available only on ESPN, while the men’s championship game will air on CBS, a national broadcast network, making their game more widely available.
Broadcast and advertising deals are private-market decisions. But these issues involve student athletes, who are playing for schools beholden to Title IX—the statute that prohibits gender inequality at any educational institution receiving federal financial assistance (basically every school in the NCAA, via student financial aid). So is it legal that the NCAA calls its women’s tournament by a different (and far less marketable) name? Or that the broadcast deals it strikes for the men’s tournament are so much larger than those for the women’s? According to the Supreme Court’s decision in NCAA v. Smith, it is.
In 1999, the Court ruled that, although the NCAA runs sports tournaments for schools—and collects money from those schools—the league itself does not receive direct funds from the federal government. But Neena Chaudhry, the general counsel and senior adviser for education at the National Women’s Law Center, says a legal argument could be made that the NCAA should be held to Title IX when it comes to these tournaments. Chaudhry, who worked on NCAA v. Smith, has successfully argued at the state level that high schools have essentially given sports leagues controlling authority over their federally funded athletic programs.
. . . .
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
All you have to know about Klausner’s ruling is that it leads with and lingers on the men’s national soccer team and what it doesn’t get. You stare at the page, mouth agape, wondering whether your eyes are seeing right. Why, you wonder, is Klausner going on about men? Where are the women? Where are Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd?
Ahh there they are. On Page 3. Halfway down.
As you read on, you realize that Klausner has not really ruled here. He has just stewed. For 32 pages he mulls with an ill-concealed agenda over the nerve these women had to ask for things. Things the men don’t have. Things that have nothing to do with the case.
If you had to summarize the ruling in a sentence, it would be this: The real victims are men.***
Klausner has gone one better than U.S. Soccer officials, who at least are up front in their sexist argument that the women’s game is inferior and so players aren’t entitled to more. Their counsel literally argued “market realities are such that the women do not deserve equal pay.” Former chief Carlos Cordeiro flatly admitted in 2017 in a public statement, “our female players have not been treated equally.”
Which provokes Klausner’s most offensive contortion of all. Just because U.S. Soccer officials admitted that women players are paid less “does not make it true,” he writes.
See also Wash Post, Judge Rules Against U.S. Women's Soccer Team in Equal Pay Dispute
In a ruling delivered late Friday, Klausner sided with the players’ employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation, which argued the claim of unequal pay based on gender discrimination should be dismissed.Klausner ruled that the players’ additional claims of unequal treatment in terms of travel, medical staff and training equipment can go forward. A trial is scheduled to begin on those questions June 16
Monday, February 3, 2020
Doriane Lambelet Coleman, Michael J. Joyner & Donna Lopiano, "Re-Affirming the Value of the Sports Exception to Title IX’s General Non-Discrimination Rule, Duke J. Gender Law & Policy (forthcoming)
Title IX expresses society’s commitment to sex equality in educational settings. The structure of the statute’s regulatory scheme makes clear that the goal is sex equality, not sex neutrality. Notwithstanding the general preference for sex neutral measures, the sports exception to Title IX’s general nondiscrimination rule has long been one of the statute’s most popular features. The challenge in the beginning of the Title IX era was to get educational institutions to conceive of and equally to support females as athletes. We continue to fight for equal support, but as Title IX concludes its first semi-centennial, we no longer struggle as we did in the beginning with the basic concept of females as athletes, or of female sport as a high value social good.
The challenge as we move into Title IX’s second semi-centennial is to get institutions to address the remaining disparities in their treatment of female athletes and female sport at the same time as we enter a new era in which we are being asked to imagine that “female” includes individuals of both sexes so long as they identify as women and girls. This ask reflects the intellectual choice to conceive of sex as a social construct rather than as a fact of biology tied to reproduction, and also the strategic choice of trans rights advocates to work toward law reform that would disallow any distinctions on the basis of sex. The problem is that female sport is by design and for good reasons a reproductive sex classification. These reasons have nothing to do with transphobia and everything to do with the performance gap that emerges from the onset of male puberty. Whether one is trans or not, if one is in sport and cares about sex equality, this physical phenomenon is undeniably relevant. Changing how we define “female” so that it includes individuals of both sexes, and then disallowing any distinctions among them on the basis of sex, is by definition and in effect a rejection of Title IX’s equality goals. Those who push for these changes are committed to sex neutrality, not sex equality.
The goals of this paper are to provide the legal, factual, and normative background necessary to evaluate the merits of this challenge to the sports exception to Title IX’s general nondiscrimination rule, and then to present the case for re-affirming the exception in a form that is appropriate for this next period of its history. It proceeds in three parts: Part I describes the legal history of Title IX’s sports exception, its goals, and the current state of the legal doctrine. Part II explains its scientific basis and rationale. Part III sets out the best case for and against affirming the commitment to sex equality in education-based sport, and then presents our argument for resolving the collision of interests at issue. The paper concludes that the original Title IX commitment to sex equality continues to do important work and should not to be abandoned, including in the sports space where equality requires not only recognizing but also celebrating physical sex differences. Including trans people within this design is difficult by definition, but policymakers should accept the challenge.
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Melissa Breger, Margery Holman & Michelle Guerrero, Re-Norming Sport for Inclusivity: How the Sport Community Has the Potential to Change a Toxic Culture of Harassment and Abuse"
Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 2019, 13, 274–289.
Traditional sport norms and gender-based biases that are prevalent in the sport environment, both explicit and implicit, have contributed to a culture where sexual harassment and abuse is commonplace. This article examines how sport tolerates the development of this culture, and more importantly, how practices and policies can be utilized to transform sport’s culture to one that is inclusive and safe. Reform is needed in attitudes and norms towards gender bias and sexual violence that primarily, but not exclusively, targets girls and women in sport and is perpetrated by boys and men. The application of various theories from psychology is recommended as one strategy to rid sport of both a culture of misogyny and of those who resist change to achieve this objective.
We are, once again, in the middle of a battle over the legitimacy of the administrative state. An increasingly vocal band of scholars criticizes administrative agencies as unaccountable, elitist, captured, and implementing bad policy. The more populist elements of the Trump Administration’s rhetoric have taken this critique to a broader audience, to great political effect. Though the picture is complex, the Roberts Court has appeared sympathetic to important aspects of the critique. Agencies enforcing civil rights laws — and particularly the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) — have been a principal target of the critics of the administrative state.
With The Transformation of Title IX, R. Shep Melnick steps into this fight — and he takes the side of those who find OCR’s actions illegitimate. Melnick focuses particularly on three especially controversial contexts in which the courts and OCR have applied the statute: intercollegiate athletics, campus sexual harassment and assault, and the treatment of transgender students in elementary and secondary schools. He argues that OCR and the courts have, through a process of “institutional leapfrogging,” steadily adopted more and more intrusive rules governing educational entities. He contends that these rules are highly contestable and neither specifically required by the statutory text nor envisioned by the statute’s drafters. But, he argues, the leapfrogging process — in which the agency pushes forward, then the courts go a bit farther than the agency, then the agency goes even a bit farther, and so on — has enabled these massive innovations in the law to fly under the radar and evade democratic checks or debate.
This piece reviews The Transformation of Title IX. The book offers an important take on some issues of high public salience. It reflects a detailed immersion in the operations of OCR, as well as a strong understanding of the legal-doctrinal issues. But the book’s thesis is fundamentally misguided. OCR has not subverted or evaded democracy. Rather, the agency has served as a catalyst for democratic debate, a forum in which that debate has played out, and an implementer of the will of the people. The Title IX experience rather supports the claim made by some scholars that administrative agencies can be a key locus of democratic deliberation over the scope of basic rights.
Monday, September 30, 2019
Tracing the History of the Equal Pay Dispute Between the US Women's National Soccer Team and the Soccer Federation
The United States Women’s National Soccer Team has dominated the sport since the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991. Despite its success on the field, however, the team has had a contentious relationship over the last three decades with the United States Soccer Federation, the sport’s governing body in the United States. The ongoing discord between the Women’s National Team and the U.S. Soccer Federation culminated in March 2019, when twenty-eight players from the team filed a lawsuit alleging that the Federation had violated the Equal Pay Act by paying them less than it paid members of the Men’s National Team.
This Article traces the history of strife between the Women’s National Team and the U.S. Soccer Federation. The troubled relationship has resulted from the mismatch between the team’s superior results but lower pay compared to the Men’s National Team. This mismatch has its roots in competing legal and societal forces. On the one hand, Title IX caused an explosion in the participation rate for women’s soccer in the United States, which has led to the Women’s National Team’s unprecedented success. On the other hand, with the exception of the World Cup finals every four years, the viewership market for women’s soccer remains much smaller than the market for men’s soccer, which has resulted in lower revenue generation by the Women’s National Team compared to the far less successful Men’s National Team.
After explaining the history and cause of the turmoil between the team and the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Article analyzes the merits of the players’ Equal Pay Act claim. The Article contends that the Federation has the stronger position on the merits of the claim, but further argues that the Federation should renegotiate the Women’s National Team’s collective bargaining agreement in light of the Federation’s mission of “gender equality.” The Article proposes specific principles that might guide that renegotiation and lead to a successful resolution of the long-standing tensions between the Women’s National Team and the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Thursday, July 11, 2019
National Review, US Women's Soccer: Equal Pay Lawsuit Not a Simple Case
The team’s lawsuit alleging pay discrimination against the U.S. Soccer Federation has done much to define its identity. A nearly perfect run through the World Cup has been widely interpreted as vindication of the merits of its case, so much so that fans chanted “equal pay” after the U.S. victory in the final over the Netherlands and booed the head of FIFA, the sponsor of the World Cup, during the trophy ceremony.
It is true that the American women, who sweat and practice as much as their male compatriots (perhaps more, given their superior results), don’t make as much. But the women’s game isn’t as popular or profitable, which fundamentally drives pay.
The total prize money for the women’s 2019 World Cup was $30 million, with the champion taking away about $4 million. The total prize money for the men’s 2018 World Cup was $400 million, with the champions winning $38 million.
The 28 players on the women’s national team sued the federation in March, alleging that they are paid less than their counterparts on the US men’s national team even though they win more games and bring in more money. According to the suit, a top-tier women’s player could earn as little as 38 percent of what a top-tier men’s player makes in a year, a gap of $164,320. That gap closed a bit with a new collective bargaining agreement in 2017, but the players still say they’re paid unfairly.
“These athletes generate more revenue and garner higher TV ratings but get paid less simply because they are women,” said Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the team in their lawsuit, in a statement to Vox. “It is time for the Federation to correct this disparity once and for all.”
The soccer federation agrees that the men’s and women’s teams are not paid the same but has said it’s impossible to compare the teams because their pay structures are so different. The two groups have agreed to mediation in an effort to resolve the suit out of court.
Gender Law Prof Blog, US Women's Soccer Team Sues US Soccer for Gender Discrimination (March 2019)
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Twenty-eight members of the world champion United States women’s soccer team significantly escalated their long-running fight with the country’s soccer federation over pay equity and working conditions, filing a gender discrimination lawsuit on Friday.
The suit, in United States District Court in Los Angeles, comes only three months before the team will begin defense of its Women’s World Cup title at this summer’s tournament in France. In their filing and a statement released by the team, the 28 players described “institutionalized gender discrimination” that they say has existed for years.
The discrimination, the athletes said, affects not only their paychecks but also where they play and how often, how they train, the medical treatment and coaching they receive, and even how they travel to matches.***
The bulk of the suit mirrors many of the issues raised in a wage discrimination complaint filed by five United States players with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016. Frustrated by a lack of progress on that complaint after nearly three years of inaction, the players received permission from the federal agency in February to sue instead. (One of the players on the original complaint, the former goalkeeper Hope Solo, filed her own gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in August.)
The suit offers a new forum but also new hurdles. The players, represented by Jeffrey Kessler, who has been involved in labor fights in nearly every major American sport, will have to prove not only that their team and the men’s squad do the same work, but also overcome questions about the differences in their pay structures and their negotiated collective bargaining agreements. And the C.B.A. has already left them without one bit of leverage: The players cannot strike to press their case at least until it expires at the end of 2021.
But to experts in gender discrimination and Title IX cases, the argument they are making is familiar.
“These are the same kinds of arguments and claims that we still see at every level of education for women and girls, from K through 12 to college,” said Neena Chaudhry, the general counsel of the National Women’s Law Center in Washington. “It’s unfortunately a sad continuation of the way that women and girls in sports are treated in the U.S.”
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Deborah Epstein has spent her professional life fighting for victims of domestic violence. But protecting such victims is also what Epstein says led her to step down from a commission meant to tackle the issue of domestic violence in the National Football League.
The NFL's Players Association Commission on Violence Prevention was formed after several NFL players were accused of violence against their domestic partners, including Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, who knocked his fiancée unconscious in an elevator.
In 2014, Epstein, director of the Georgetown University Law Center's Domestic Violence Clinic, was asked to serve on the commission. She and research psychologist Lisa Goodman were authorized to conduct a national study of players' wives, collecting the women's suggestions for handling domestic violence and supporting its victims.
As she tells NPR, her decision to resign came after troubling "pattern emerged" in her communications with the NFLPA.
"I brought a number of ideas to the commission about ways in which they could deal with the domestic violence problem in the NFL," she says. The report compiled short-term and long-term recommendations.
The NFLPA heard her out, she says, but since filing the report in June 2016, "it has sat on the shelf."
"The Player's Association contacts that I have would welcome those ideas, tell me they were eminently doable, but that they had to get kicked down the road because 'It was the Super Bowl, it was the draft, it was the season,' " she says. "And I would come back and reiterate my suggestions, and eventually I found that communication would just die on the vine."
"I realized very little, if anything, was going to happen."***
Esptein, who signed a confidentiality agreement with the NFLPA, says she can't divulge what recommendations she provided in the report. Ostensibly, the confidentiality protects the anonymity of spouses and partners of NFL players from retribution, allowing them to speak freely.
In a Washington Post op-ed earlier this month, Epstein says, "I simply cannot continue to be part of a body that exists in name only," and what, she believes is "a fig leaf."
Thursday, March 22, 2018
Patrick Shin, Sex and Gender Segregation in Competitive Sports: Internal and External Normative Perspectives, 80 Law & Contemporary Problems 47 (2018)
What are the justifications for mandatory sex segregation in competitive sport, and what are the arguments against it? This article takes up these questions. I argue that justifications of sex segregation in sport should be sensitive to two distinct perspectives that can come into play. The “internal” perspective emphasizes considerations rooted in an ethos of athletic competition. The “external” perspective brings into focus broader social norms such as anti-discrimination principles and equality goals. Both perspectives support the general idea of separate men’s and women’s competitions, at least in elite levels of sports that reward physical strength and power. The perspectives may diverge, however, on specific questions about who should be permitted to compete in each division, and more particularly, on the appropriate treatment of transgender athletes. What is important to see is that objections that arise from the external vantage point of equality and anti-discrimination cannot be fully answered by appeal to internal considerations about the competitive integrity of sport. Institutional decisions to exclude classes of individuals from participating in men’s or women’s competitions must consider not only what would be best for the sport, but what is required by antidiscrimination principles and genuine commitment to respect for gender identity and expression.
Mary Anne Case, Heterosexuality as a Factor in the Long History of Women's Sports, 80 Law & Contemporary Problems 25 (2017)
Too many accounts of the development of women’s sports tend to posit their origin in the late nineteenth or even the twentieth century, as a belated, slowly developing, and sometimes vehemently resisted addendum to the development of sports for men. To begin a history of women’s sports at such a late date has several important distorting effects. Most simply, it ignores both the much longer history of women’s participation in many kinds of sports and the fact that the history of organized men’s sports as presently conventionally understood itself does not date back appreciably farther than the last century and a half. The history of women’s sports is more complicated than a progress narrative. Rather than seeing women being gradually admitted into more and more sports over time, we have to acknowledge that a variety of sports — from wrestling and boxing to polo and baseball — were played by women and were seen as suitable for women over long history. Women’s recent readmission to competition in some of these sports follows an intervening period of exclusion.
More significantly, to begin the history of women’s sports in the nineteenth century is to begin it in a time period in which men and women were seen, as both a descriptive and a normative matter, to be as different as possible from one another, with men strong and active, women delicate and passive. Thus, the modern history of sport is often seen to begin at precisely the time women were seen as least suited to participate in sports.
This article views the history of sports through a heterosexual matrix. It argues that from the dawn of time through the development of the modern Olympic movement, a culture’s openness to women’s participation in sports was tied to whether that participation was seen to have a heterosexual payoff. In ancient Greece and Africa as well as in medieval and early modern Europe, women’s sports often formed part of mating rituals, and a successful female competitor was seen as a desirable mate. In the nineteenth century, however, athletic and other sporting competition often was seen as doubly debilitating to a woman’s chances for heterosexual success: not only would sweating and the development of muscles make her unattractive, but strenuous physical exercise was thought to risk physiologically compromising her reproductive capacity. Rather than seeing physical fitness as conducive to reproductive fitness as had their ancestors, men like Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic movement, saw the two as in tension with each other.
After considering the extent to which these competing views of women’s athleticism in relation to heterosexuality influenced the development of women’s sports, the article will conclude by observing the remnants of a heterosexual matrix in twenty-first century sports, from figure skating and synchronized swimming to gymnastics and crew.
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
The House passed a bill on Monday night that protects amateur athletes from sexual abuse by enforcing mandatory reporting regulations and extending the statute of limitations for child victims.
The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), came up for a vote one week after Larry Nassar was sentenced in what was the largest sexual abuse scandal in sports history. Congress agreed to use the Senate’s version of the bill to speed up its passage; it passed with a vote of 406-3. It just needs President Donald Trump’s signature to be made into law. ***
The bill has a three-pronged approach to protecting athletes and regulating governing bodies of amateur athletics.
First, it requires coaches, trainers and others to report any sexual abuse allegation to the police within a 24-hour period. Several women said they reported Nassar to MSU representatives and others as early as 1997, but Nassar’s abuse was allowed to continue because no one adhered to mandatory reporting regulations.
Secondly, the legislation extends the statute of limitations to up to 10 years after a victim realizes he or she was abused. It’s not uncommon in child sexual abuse cases for survivors to have a delayed realization of the abuse they endured. Many of Nassar’s victims did not realize they had been abused until other women came forward with their stories.
Lastly, the bill limits athletes under the age of 18 from being alone with an adult who isn’t their parent. Nassar often abused young girls while he was alone with them during medical visits, and many survivors said the isolation of elite gymnasts allowed the abuse to continue. ***
Monday, January 22, 2018
Susan Eckes, Title IX at 45: Equal Treatment of Students in High School Athletic Programs, 25 Amer. J. Gender, Social Policy & Law 391 (2017)
It is the 45th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and some high schools continue to struggle with their compliance in athletics by showing a preference for boys’ athletic programs. A 2015 report issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) indicated that there were 3,609 complaints related to athletics in 2013-2014. While much of the litigation in this area has traditionally addressed high school accommodation claims, more recent litigation has begun to also focus on equal treatment claims that might include scheduling or facility disparities involving athletics. For example, in April 2016, ten female softball players sued under Title IX in federal court in Portland, Oregon. In this complaint, the plaintiff’s sought injunctive relief to remedy the inequities that exist between the softball and baseball team facilities. Others have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education (“ED”) regarding similar inequalities. In Canton, Ohio a father filed a complaint with the ED arguing that the girls’ softball team did not have equitable facilities when compared to those of the boys’ team. Specifically, the girls went eight seasons without a home field whereas the boys only went two seasons without a home field. Likewise, in Lexington, South Carolina parents filed a complaint with the ED related to unfairness involving facilities between the boys’ baseball team and girls’ softball team.
In recent years, several courts have addressed these issues regarding the multitude of inequalities between male and female sports. In these lawsuits, female plaintiffs or their parents typically allege violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and/or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when the athletic facilities are inadequate or the athletic team’s schedules are inopportune.10 Because K-12 athletic programs have received increased scrutiny from the courts in recent years, this article explores litigation involving high school athletic programs that focus on disparities with facilities and schools in an effort to highlight the existing legal obligations of school districts.11 It concludes with some suggestions for school officials to create more parallel athletic environments.
Thursday, September 7, 2017
Nancy Leong & Emily Bartlett, Sex Segregation in Sports as a Public Health Issue
This Article adds a critical yet previously unaddressed dimension to the growing debate about the merits of sex segregation in sports by approaching sex segregation in sports as a public health issue. Participation in sports has consequences for women’s health, ranging from physical fitness to disease prevention to self-esteem to mental wellness to eating disorders. Critically, sex segregation in sports both reduces women’s participation in sports and changes the nature of the sports in which women participate, both of which have implications for the myriad health issues we discuss. The Article argues that analysis under the Equal Protection clause of governmentally-imposed sex-segregation must incorporate these consequences. Even where the government has plausible reasons for segregating sports by sex, those reasons may not be sufficient to survive intermediate scrutiny when the health issues are taken into account. The Article does not argue that sports should never be segregated by sex. Rather, it argues that the correct analysis must take into account all the relevant considerations, including those affecting health.
See also a prior post The Case Against Segregated Women's Sports
Monday, August 7, 2017
The N.F.L.’s Domestic Violence Policy: Revealing the Limits of an Internalities Approach to Domestic Violence
From Guest blogger, Jamie Abrams:
The National Football League’s (NFL’s) response to domestic violence provides a good example of the limits of internalities and the expansive and transformative power of externalities to apply a framework introduced in my last blog entry. In August 2014, the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced a new Personal Conduct Policy. The policy was enacted after a high profile case of domestic abuse involving Ray Rice and his then-fiancée. Commissioner Goodell faced harsh criticism for allegations against him ranging from giving Rice an inappropriately light punishment to attempting to cover up the scandal by ignoring the existence of the security camera footage until the media released it. The revised policy stated that assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault involving physical force would be subject to a suspension of six games without pay for the first offense. The suspension would apply regardless of whether the player was formally charged. A second qualifying offense would lead to a lifetime ban from professional football. The NFL sought to ensure a “fair and consistent process for player and employee discipline” that would “set a higher standard.”
The NFL’s response, however, rested entirely on internalities. It depended on the victim coming forward to report the allegations of assault. It added an additional punitive and professional outcome to the existing criminal and civil consequences. In its application, the policy only raised the stakes for the victim in coming forward to report domestic violence against prominent athletes. This approach is inherently limited in its efficacy and insulates the NFL (which is a proxy for the state in this example) from accountability.
When understood in the context of externalities and broader political framings, the NFL could have dramatically reframed its approach in actually using its power as the NFL to change behaviors. The culture of the NFL could have been more closely examined to see the ways in which it acts as a provoker of domestic violence and the ways in which it could better prevent domestic violence. For example, in a highly masculine environment, might the publicity, threatened job loss, and income loss embedded in the NFL policy – particularly when initiated by the victim – actually exacerbate the risk of domestic violence? Might the NFL work to change its culture of masculinity in ways that effectively address the medical, social, and statistical risks of domestic violence that are unique to NFL culture?
Expanding the lens to include externalities offers an insightful contrast to consider what might be missing from an internalities approach. It reveals how the NFL camaraderie and the team atmosphere of the NFL might be leveraged to create positive peer associations and stronger cultural values and beliefs about healthy relationships. It reveals how the NFL might also provide more support for its players who are prior victims of abuse or witnesses of abuse or hold other risk factors. With the power and resources of the NFL expanded to an externalities approach, perhaps stronger lasting change could be achieved.
Guest blogger Professor Jamie Abrams is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law where she teaches Torts, Family Law, Legislation, and Women and the Law. Her research focuses on reproductive and birthing decision-making, gendered citizenship, legal protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence, and legal education pedagogy. Professor Abrams' most recent work includes Debunking the Myth of Universal Male Privilege, in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, and The Feminist Case for Acknowledging Women’s Acts of Violence in the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism
Monday, February 27, 2017
Nancy Leong, Against Women's Sports
This Article challenges the longstanding assumption that sports should be segregated by sex. Imposing sex segregation on sports is problematic for many reasons. It reflects and reinforces a long-disproven binary view of both sex and gender. It communicates that women are physically unable to compete against men, even though research indicates considerable variation among individual athletes and different sports, and further reveals that attributes other than sex are more important determinants of athletic ability. It reinforces unfounded gender stereotypes that harm both women and men. And sex segregation uncritically prioritizes athletic activities involving strengths typically associated with male bodies, without forcing us to ask why we view these strengths as the most important in the first place.
Sex segregation should not be the default in sports. Rather, if the entity that regulates a sport believes the sport should be segregated by sex, that entity should meet a burden equivalent to intermediate scrutiny by articulating why sex segregation is substantially related to an important interest. If the regulatory entity is governmental, then relevant constitutional provisions and federal laws, including the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX, already reflect this obligation. And even when the regulatory entity is private, a test analogous to intermediate scrutiny should be required to justify sex segregation as a matter of policy.
The Article does not claim that we should do away with all sex segregation in sports. Indeed, at times sex segregation is likely the best choice. But we should think carefully and critically about when and why we engage in such segregation. A thoughtful reexamination of the sex segregation norm we have too long taken for granted will improve sports for everyone.