Category Archives: sport media

Shameful & Inaccurate Media Coverage of MN Lynx

I feel compelled to write yet ANOTHER blog about how the sport media shamefully covers women’s sports in general and the Minnesota Lynx specifically. Currently, the Lynx are the reigning WNBA Champions and until yesterday (June 24, 2016) were undefeated, notching a record-breaking 13-0 start, the best start in the history of the 20 year old WBNA league.

Shot from Lynx 2016 home opener. Full arena!
Shot from Lynx 2016 home opener. Full arena!

For the last 10 years, and more specifically the last 5 years, I and many others–including Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve, have educated, implored, asked, cajoled and tried to shame the sport media into respectfully and fairly covering the Lynx.

Why cover the Lynx? I’ll give you 5 reasons.

 

1. Because they are amazing athletes that deserve the coverage of their males counterparts.

2. The Media constantly states they cover teams that win. People like to read about winners!…yet despite being the MOST winning team in Minnesota (maybe except for the Gopher Women’s Hockey Team who get nearly NO coverage as 2016 and 7 time NCAA D-I National Champions) the Lynx get less coverage than the Twins, who currently are having a miserable season and started their season 0-9 or the MN Vikings and MN Wild who are currently NOT in season. The Lynx are the most winning pro team in Minnesota. They have been in the WNBA finals 4 of the last 5 years, and have won it 3 times (2013, ’15, ’16).

Despite this amazing and dominant franchise, The Media continue to ignore and marginalize the Lynx accomplishments (see the New York Times piece “Cleveland Finally Won a Title. What’s the Most Cursed Sports City Now?”) which ranks Minneapolis as the 5th most cursed city without a pro championship, which erases and dismisses the accomplishments of the Lynx (see screen shot below).

NYT dismisses Lynx Championships
NYT dismisses Lynx Championships

3. The Media states they cover teams people are interested in, but take no responsibility in CREATING that interest. People ARE interested in the Lynx, despite the fact The Media doesn’t give them fair or equal coverage. If you have attended a Lynx game, you can’t deny the energy or interest in the Lynx that is palpable in the Target Center where the Lynx play their home games.

If you haven’t been or tuned into a game on ESPN, you are missing out. If you are The Media trying to write a positive story about the Lynx, don’t title it “Despite winning streak, Lynx fan base remains small.”

Shame on MPR, you should know better! If I don’t know or follow the Lynx, this title does not make me want to tune in or attend. It does not increase my interest in the team. And the truth is, the arena is full! (see picture below from the June 24, 2016 Lynx v. Sparks game).

Small fan base? Limited interest? What team are you reporting on MPR?
Small fan base? Limited interest? What team are you reporting on MPR?

4. The Lynx are positive role models for girls, but also for boys…as good people AND as great athletes. They are good people, care about each other, play unselfishly, are engaged in the community, always give full effort, are gritty & tough competitors, have good sportsmanship, and are the epitome of what champions look and act like.

5. The amount of coverage the Lynx get is disproportionate to their talent and reflects a false reality of participation trends in the US. Female athletes make up 43% of all sport participants, but get < 4% of all sport media coverage (if you want more info, watch “Media Coverage & Female Athletes”  an Emmy-winning documentary on this topic).

If you agree, share, tweet, and/or post this. Your voice matters. Join the #HERESPROOF campaign to prove the the media that people ARE interested in women’s sport.

Shot from Lynx 2013 playoff game. Full arena!
Shot from Lynx 2013 playoff game. Full arena!

 

SI Sportsperson of the Year Cover Image of Serena Williams: Opportunity Missed

Guest Contributors:
Elizabeth Daniels, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Mary Jo Kane, Ph.D., Director, Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, U of Minnesota
Cheryl Cooky, Ph.D., Associate Professor of American Studies, Purdue University
Nicole M LaVoi, Ph.D., Co-Director, Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, U of Minnesota

 

Sports Illustrated (SI) recently named Serena Williams its Sportsperson of the Year. As scholars who have spent our academic careers examining media coverage of women’s sports, we are thrilled to see a highly accomplished female athlete awarded this most prestigious title. Considering her on-the-court accomplishments in 2015 Williams is clearly worthy, having won three major tennis titles, amassing an overall 53-3 record, and extending her No. 1 ranking for a third consecutive year. Williams has now joined an elite club of past SI winners: Only 8 other women and one women’s team are in this elite group compared to 68 male athletes or men’s teams. It should be noted that Williams is only the second women of color to be awarded this distinction (track & field star Judi Brown King was the first in 1987). This honor is especially poignant on the heels of Williams’ return to the WTA’s Indian Wells Tournament this past spring after a 13-year boycott of the tournament where she endured racist comments from the audience in 2001 about which tournament organizers did nothing. SI noted her commitment to drawing attention to issues of race in sport was part of why Williams was selected. Serena Williams has proven herself to be a champion time and time again despite discriminatory and harmful distractions leveled at her by sport audiences and media. For example, she was subjected to critiques of her muscularity this summer in an article in The New York Times on body image in sport, which some argued was a thinly veiled commentary regarding black women’s bodies and how they do not fit white, middle-class norms of beauty.

Serena Williams SI Sportsperson of the Year 2015
Serena Williams SI Sportsperson of the Year 2015

In spite of Williams’ unprecedented accomplishments as arguably the greatest female tennis player in U.S. history, she was featured on the cover in a sexually provocative pose. Perhaps anticipating criticism for such a choice—SI is, after all, a sports not a fashion magazine—they immediately emphasized the point via tweet that this portrayal was Williams’ idea. The choice to feature Williams dressed in an all-black lace bodysuit and patent leather power pumps perched on a throne as Queen of the Court has been supported by some who see this portrayal as empowering. We suggest that there were other choices available to SI and to Williams herself, ones that are not only empowering, but powerful. Unfortunately, such an editorial choice is not new at SI. Anna Kournikova (5 June 2000), Jennie Finch (11 July 2005), and Lindsey Vonn (8 February 2010) have all been portrayed in similarly sexualized ways. Serena Williams herself has appeared in SI’s Swimsuit Issue in 2003. Perhaps not surprisingly, SI has a poor track record when it comes to depicting highly accomplished female athletes outside of the Swimsuit Issue. A recent study of SI covers from 2000-2011 found that women were on only 35 out of 716 covers, and just 11 of those 35 covers showed female athletes in poses comparable to male athletes (2). Clearly, it is a rarity to see a female athlete portrayed as an athletic champion on the cover of this incredibly influential U.S. sports magazine. Regrettably, female athletes are similarly ignored in broadcast media (3). As a result, we fail to see female athletes on any regular basis portrayed as accomplished athletes in mainstream sport media and we have all written previously about how this paucity of coverage negatively impacts interest in women’s sports (4).

Sexualized images of female athletes, in contrast, are not hard to find–simply google ‘female athletes.’ Numerous scholars have also documented that the sexualization of female athletes is a common practice (5). Unfortunately, this is part of a broader pattern wherein girls and women are sexualized in media and popular culture. Three major reports from the UK (6), U.S. (7), and Australia (8) have all documented the prevalence of this practice and its negative consequences on girls and women. When women are sexualized in the media, female viewers may think of their own bodies as objects and reduce their personal value to their physical attractiveness instead of to their talents, personality, and contributions to the world. Our own research has shown that this is precisely how adolescent girls and college women respond to sexualized images of female athletes (9). In addition, sexualized images of female athletes do not generate interest in women’s sports (10). Research also indicates that media images which portray female athletes in powerful action photos generate not only interest in, but respect for, women’s sports. Additionally, after viewing such images teen girls and college-age women are more likely to think about their bodies in terms of their physical skills and capabilities. Portraying sportswomen as gifted and accomplished athletes has the untapped potential to make girls and women feel good about their bodies—which is a significant challenge in today’s media environment inundated with unrealistic and idealized images that create body dissatisfaction.TENNIS-WTA-QATAR

In an ideal—not to mention realistic—world, images which display female athletes (and their bodies) for what they actually do rather than how sexually empowered they may appear would be easy to come by. If this were the case, girls and young women could have magazine covers of their female sports heroes in their bedrooms as a reminder of what women are capable of and as an equally important reminder that our society values them for what their own bodies can achieve on the court, rather than for how sexually attractive they are. Unfortunately, as Sports Illustrated reminds us, female athletes who dominate their sport are currently only celebrated if they look good doing so.

 


 

(1) http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/11/sports/tennis/tenniss-top-women-balance-body-image-with-quest-for-success.html

(2) http://irs.sagepub.com/content/48/2/196.abstract

(3) http://com.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/06/05/2167479515588761.abstract

(4) http://espn.go.com/espnw/news-commentary/article/13215042/even-wake-record-setting-women-world-cup-myths-surround-women-sports

(5) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11199-015-0493-x

(6) http://www.ncdsv.org/images/Sexualisation-of-young-people-review_2-2010.pdf

(7) http://www.apa.org/pi/wpo/sexualization.html

(8) http://www.tai.org.au/node/1286

(9) http://jar.sagepub.com/content/24/4/399.refs

(10) http://journals.humankinetics.com/jsm-back-issues/jsm-volume-25-issue-3-may/expanding-the-boundaries-of-sport-media-research-using-critical-theory

Dispelling Myths About Women’s Sport: Post Women’s World Cup 2015

Even if Dave Zirin doesn’t want to keep defending women’s sport in the wake of the Women’s World Cup that smashed ratings (although I know he will!), we at the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport decided to write a piece that will help change the narrative and dispel false narratives about women’s sport.red card_iStock_000003976608XSmall

Read our exclusive on espnW titled Even in the Wake of a Record-Setting Women’s World Cup, Myths Still Surround Women’s Sports where we refute the four most common myths about women’s sport.

The statistics surrounding the 2015 Women’s World Cup (WWC) make it abundantly clear that people are interested in women’s sport.  In sum, the WWC final:

  • was seen by 25.4 million viewers on Fox—a record for any soccer game, men’s or women’s.
  • generated record numbers of viewers on the Fox Sports Go streaming app.
  • drew 2 million more viewers than Game 7 of the compelling 2014 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants in October which attracted 23.5 million on English-language television.
  • eclipsed the recent NBA Finals Game 6 featuring Golden State’s title-winning victory over Cleveland last month on ABC with 23.25 million viewers.
  • buried Chicago’s Stanley Cup-winning victory in Game 6 over Tampa Bay last month on NBC with 8 million viewers.

Despite these statistics, many myths about interest in women’s sport continue to prevail. Help prove that interest in women’s sport does exist and join the #HERESPROOF social media campaign! Click here to see the infographic we put together on 2015 WWC viewership.

HERESPROOF infographic_3_2015

March Madness! Visible Women Head Coaches

Here is a different twist on March Madness 2015.

It is pure Madness! (in a good way) that:

  1. the ESPN coverage of the NCAA D-I women’s basketball tournament is well produced so that we can actually SEE these amazing female athletes and their coaches
  2. a majority of the head coaches of women’s basketball are women. In the Women in College Coaching Research Series, 62.8% of head coaches of women’s basketball in the 86 “big time” NCAA D-I schools (many of which are in the tournament) are women.

Based on the 2014-15 data in the Women in College Coaching Research Series, I took the remaining 2015 Sweet 16 teams and filled out the bracket based on the percent of women’s teams at that institution which had a female head coach (see Figure 1). With that data, Maryland and Florida State would be Co-National NCAA D-I Champions (coached by Brenda Frese and Sue Semrau respectively), due to the fact 54.5% of all their women’s teams at both institutions are coached by a woman head coach. Madness!

2015 WBB sweet 16 bracket
Figure 1. 2015 Women’s NCAA D-I Winner by Percent of Women Head Coaches of Women’s Teams by Institution

 

Madness! Of note, 13 of the Sweet 16 women’s teams (81.3%) have a female head coach–that is an over-representation of women head coaches for the best teams in the nation, than are found in women’s D-I basketball in general, given the stat I stated before (62.8%). The Sweet 16 stat is a really interesting stat in that 29 of 64 teams (45.3%) in the full bracket are coached by a female head coach. Based on the data, it appears the female head coaches are proportionately outperforming their male coaching colleagues and are represented in a larger percentage in the Sweet 16, than the initial pool of women coaches in the bracket. More Madness!

And there are many other competent women head coaches represented in earlier rounds, such as Princeton coach Courtney Banghart, whose undefeated 31-0 team lost to Maryland in a hard fought game which was written about by USA Today columnist Christine Brennan.

To break the tie and declare a national champion, we (thanks Marnie Kinnaird!) looked at the gender composition of the coaching staffs for the Sweet 16 women’s basketball teams (see Figure 2 below).

We weighted the score by position, if a woman occupied the position a school earned the following points: Head Coach = 3pts, Associate (Head) Coach = 2pts, Assistant Coach = 1pt. Males in any position earned zero points. We counted only 4 coaching positions for each institution (except for UNC who had 5).

Based on the data in Figure 2, Notre Dame and Arizona State tied for the “win” with 8pts each (due to the fact both programs have 2 Associate Coaches, which are weighted more heavily than an Assistant Coach, therefore giving them the lead), and Stanford and Iowa tied for second place with 7pts each. Notwithstanding Notre Dame, Arizona State, Stanford and Iowa share an interesting stat–the coaching staff is comprised of all women.

Meaning 4 of the Sweet 16 teams (25%) are coached by all women–prime examples of women mentoring women. Madness! 

2015 Gender Composition of Coaching Staff for Women's Sweet 16 Women's Basketball  Teams
Figure 2. 2015 Gender Composition of Coaching Staff for Women’s Sweet 16 Women’s Basketball Teams

 

This data did not break the Co-National Champs tie…both Maryland & Florida State had 5pts! (mini madness!)

Seeing powerful, successful female role models, athletes and coaches, on TV matters!

It provides proof that women can be successful at the highest levels in the coaching profession. It provides visibility to young girls and women who aspire to play college athletics and who may aspire to continue following their love and passion in sport by coaching. It provides evidence and gives boys and young men a picture that women can be, and are, leaders. So thanks to ESPN and espnW for providing excellent coverage, content and production value, so that these amazing women athletes and their coaches can be seen for the role models they are. So here’s to more Madness!

p.s.-If you have an idea on how to break the tie between Maryland and Florida State, tweet me @DrSportPsych

 

What I Love & Dislike about Coverage of Mo’ne Davis

Mo'ne Davis
Mo’ne Davis

I LOVE and DISLIKE that 13-year old Philadelphia-based pitcher Mo’ne Davis is creating a stir in the 2014 Little League World Series (LLWS).

LOVE: It is creating awareness that girls can and do play baseball, and can pitch and play successfully against boys. Davis is throwing like a girl–athletic, competent, knowledgeable, competitive.

DISLIKE: Lots of girls outperform boys every day in a variety of sports and it shouldn’t be a big deal and certainly not create a national media event…it should be common knowledge. At 11-13 years-old (the age of LLWS players), developmentally girls are usually ahead of or similar to most boys in height, weight, strength, speed and power. Thus it makes sense Mo’ne and other girls can “hang with the boys” or outperform them. As colleague, Olympian, and Women’s Sport Foundation advocacy director Nancy Hogshead Makar posted: “Way to go Mo’ne Davis! At the same time, there’s too much awe and disbelief that a girl can be a truly outstanding athlete – Especially pre-puberty, where there are very few physical differences. If you’re “AMAZED” – you need to see a lot more female athletes.”

LOVE: The public gets to SEE Davis pitch/bat/field, and SEE her on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Being seen on two of the biggest sports media conglomerates–ESPN and SI--matters. Being seen communicates what is relevant, important and valued. Davis provides visible proof of a performance continuum in sport and communicates positive messages to young girls about athleticism that transcend gender.

LOVE: Mo’ne Davis has become a role model for both girls and boys alike.

DISLIKE: I don’t think children in any sport should be on ESPN at all. Period. It is exploitation pure and simple. It teaches and sends children the wrong message about what sport should be about. If you’ve watched any of the LLWS, it doesn’t take long for the kids to find the camera trained on them and catch them looking into the camera…instead of focusing on the game at hand. It creates scrutiny and pressure on youth athletes, a pressure that not many youth are equipped to cope with yet. How would you like your failures to be broadcast on national TV when you were 12 yrs old? In addition, it is rumored that Davis signed gear is being sold for big money…none of which will benefit HER (else her future college athletic eligibility be nullified).

LOVE:  I think it is really cool that Davis appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and is also the first Little Leaguer to appear on the cover. Groundbreaking! I like that she is portrayed in action, in her uniform and on the field…markers that communicate athleticism and competence. I love that the coverage of her has increased interest in (record TV ratings, long lines for tickets, merchandise sales, stories written about) and respect for young female athletes.

DISLIKE: ESPN rarely covers girls’ and women’s sport (See this study) and Sports Illustrated rarely puts females on the cover (Go to SI covers and count for yourself! or read one of numerous studies about it) and when they do females are sexualized rather than portrayed as serious athletes, but now that showing Davis will increase ratings and sales she is hyped and promoted. Seems like more exploitation. (Note: it would be really distasteful to sexualize a 13 year old on the SI cover!)

The popularity and hype around Mo’ne Davis is complicated. Images of her are both empowering and transformative, but can also be read as exploitative and regressive. This is what makes sport such an interesting context to examine. What do think?

 

 

Access free educational materials for espnW Nine for IX films

I recently had the opportunity to work in collaboration with espnW to develop discussion guides for the Emmy-nominated Nine for IX film series.

Nine for IX premiered June 18, 2013, as part of ESPN’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Inspired by the 40th anniversary of Title IX, ESPN Films and espnW produced nine documentary films about women in sports, told through the lens of female filmmakers. Nine for IX Films are a collection of remarkable stories that offer teachable moments and powerful lessons in the history of sports. .

The Nine for IX Knowledge Center is a free resource available to institutions, organizations, administrators, professors, coaches, and students who want to lead thoughtful and engaging discussions around key themes in the films. The Knowledge Center provides discussion guides for each film, film posters, and a sign-up form to receive the Nine for IX DVD set, all free of charge. The Knowledge Center is a tool that goes beyond the entertainment value of the films and leverages the rich educational content of the embedded lessons and messages within the films.

The discussion guides generate thought-provoking discussion topics around key themes and issues present in the films such as gender equality, intersectionality, identity politics, sport and politics, social class, racism, and sexism, along with issues related to sport psychology, sports media coverage, sports marketing, and sports as a vehicle for developing role models. Each unique guide contains Key Concepts, Discussion Questions, Additional Readings and Additional Activities.

I wrote a specific guide for coaches for The 99ers, a film about the 1999 Women’s World Cup Championship team, that coaches can use as a team building activity and to discuss what it takes to develop performance excellence and a positive team culture.
To access the free materials, including obtaining a free DVD box set of the Nine for IX film series, discussion guides, and posters visit the espnW Nine for IX Knowledge Center.

3 “Must Reads” on Hot Topics in Sport

Gratuitous "hot dog" picture.
Gratuitous “hot dog” picture.

Here are 3 pieces everyone should read/watch/listen to, which reflect 3 areas of research I frequently write about and are currently HOT TOPICSsport parents,  women in sport coaching, and media portrayals of female athletes.

9217_458093160902533_113102254_n1. The Problem for Sports Parents: Overspending, a Wall Street Journal piece that outlines the more parents spend on a child’s “sport career”, the more pressure the child may feel. You can also listen to a radio show on this topic out of Boston. While you’re at it, read a Boston Globe article titled “How parents are ruining youth sports: Adults should remember what athletics are really about”

2.  Basketball’s Double Standard, by espnW writer Kate Fagan is about the barriers and 57673_nak_tns_tennis_tennis02_041413fdiscrimination that women coaches face in college basketball, and how women coaching men’s teams seems laughable to most ADs. You can see just how bad the numbers are pertaining to the percentage of women head coaches of women’s teams at “big time” institutions by clicking here.

April 2014 Golf Digest cover photo
April 2014 Golf Digest cover photo

3. Watch Dr. Caroline Heldman’s TED talk titled “The Sexy Lie” which is helps dispel the “sex sells” myth. In my research at the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, we are amassing evidence to help dispel and challenge the myth that “sex sells women’s sport.” You can watch our documentary on this topic “Media Coverage & Female Athletes” free online.

Basketball & Brackets Matter: The Case for a Perfect Women’s Bracket Challenge

The 2014 March Madness NCAA D-I basketball brackets for the men and women are now set. Teams are anxiously awaiting play. I love March Madness, but I am awaiting something different….word from Warren Buffett. I have tweeted Mr. Buffett (@WarrenBuffett) and Quicken (@quickenloans) to inquire if they were going to also offer a “perfect women’s bracket” contest, as they are offering a $$BILLION dollars$$ for a perfect men’s bracket. No reply.bb moneyball

It isn’t that I want two chances of winning a BILLION dollars (No one is going to win, the odds are 1 in 9 quintillion), it is the message being communicated by offering only a men’s bracket and who benefits from this “perfect bracket” challenge that is the problem.

Women’s sport and female athletes are continuously striving against minimal media coverage to be taken seriously and lauded for their athleticism (to go more in depth on this topic, watch a new documentary on “Media Coverage and Female Athletes”). By offering only a perfect men’s bracket challenge, Buffett & Co. are reinforcing the idea that men’s sport and male athletes are more talented, important, valued, and worthy.

Offering a perfect women’s bracket could of been a win-win and is a missed opportunity:

1. Quicken could have potentially garnered more new home loan clients (which is their goal!), and Buffett could of possibly made more profit (no one is sure exactly what his deal is with Quicken, but it isn’t $0!).

2. It would communicate in equal ways that women’s sport is and female athletes are worthy, valued, exciting and deserving.

3.It might have also inadvertently or directly increased interest in women’s basketball—especially in a demographic that is typically deemed “uninterested” (18-35 year old males).

Why does interest matter? “Lack of interest” by males, who are coveted by sport marketers and sport editors, is used as proof and proxy that “everyone” is uninterested in women’s sport–a statement that is completely false (not all young men are uninterested in women’s sport, and outside that demographic women’s sport fans abound!). Lack of interest is often used as a reason for not promoting or covering women’s sport. Many people are very interested in women’s sport, and particularly women’s college basketball as evidenced by increasing attendance, steady ESPN viewership, and expansion of women’s game coverage. Creating hype around the women’s bracket by offering $1B is a perfect way to bring in new fans, generate interest, and communicate the value inherent in women’s sport, some of which would likely be sustained because “they” (i.e., new fans) would watch, monitor brackets, and see that women’s teams are also exciting and talented!

People love March Madness and love to fill out brackets. College basketball and brackets matter. Placing more value (literally) on the men’s bracket, communicates what and who is valued and worthy, as well as who and what is not.

Help “Prove” Interest in Women’s Sport!

heresproof seal

[disclaimer] I’m writing this blog as my role as Associate Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota …and because the topic of media portrayals of female athletes and the lack of media coverage for women’s sport is a special interest and line of research of mine.

One myth I often hear is: “no one is interested in women’s sport.” I know that is not true, I can see firsthand that a lot of people are interested! So I started taking pictures of “interest” when I attended women’s sporting events like the Minnesota Lynx or Gopher Women’s Hockey and Volleyball.

heresproof_logo_horizontal

To help create a true narrative about women’s sport, we at the Tucker Center are launching the #HERESPROOF Project. The purpose is to collect worldwide evidence of interest in women’s sport that will help dispel this untrue and damaging myth. Join us and use #HERESPROOF on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or any of your favorite social media!

threeways
This project is in advance of our documentary premiere, Media Coverage and Female Athletes—a collaborative project with tpt MN that airs December 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm CST.