Celebrating Women Athletes: Billie Jean King, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Summer Sanders, Shawn Johnson and Cheyenne Woods Talk About Title IX

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Title IX, I am starting a “Celebrating Women Athletes” category on my blog. In this first post, Billie Jean King (tennis), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (track), Summer Sanders (swimming), Shawn Johnson (gymnastics) and Cheyenne Woods (golf) join others at a Celebration of Women in Sports gala sponsored by Coca-Cola and the NCAA. Title IX goes far beyond sports. In fact, the statute doesn’t mention sports. However, since my blog has a heavy, though not complete, focus on women’s sports my posts will focus on athletics.

Some argue that Title IX has hurt opportunities for men in sports. But as Billie Jean King likes to point out, the fight is for more opportunities for boys and girls. Also, while people can point to teams dissolved because of non-compliance with Title IX, remember how bleak the landscape for girls was before Title IX. Jackie Joyner-Kersee talks about a time before Title IX when she would have only been allowed to be a cheerleader at her school.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Summer Sanders

I would also point out some other numbers:

Some believe that the increase in athletic opportunity for girls in high school has come at the expense of boys athletics. For example, the College Sports Council has stated, “Nationwide, there are currently 1.3 million more boys participating in high school sports than girls. Using a gender quota to enforce Title IX in high school sports would put those young athletes at risk of losing their opportunity to play.”

High school participation rates cast doubt on this claim. The National Federation of High School associations reports that in 2010-11, there were 4,494,406 boys and 3,173,549 girls participating in high school athletics. Thus, Title IX’s application to high schools cannot be said to have provided benefits to girls at the expense of boys, as opportunities for both sexes continue to rise.

“Between 1981 and 1999 university athletic departments cut 171 men’s wrestling teams, 84 men’s tennis teams, 56 men’s gymnastics teams, 27 men’s track teams, and 25 men’s swimming teams.” – [edit: this is a claim by opponents of Title IX]

Yet statistics showing the elimination of men’s teams do not demonstrate, as some suggest, that Title IX has expanded women’s athletic programs at the expense of men’s. While some teams — men’s and women’s — have been eliminated in the Title IX era, both sexes have seen a net increase in the number of athletic periods over a similar time period as the above quote and by studies including more recent data.

Moreover, the more relevant statistic for measuring equity is not the number of teams. Because teams vary widely in size, it is more appropriate to compare the number of total participation opportunities those teams afford. Such comparisons also belie the suggestion that women’s gains come at the expense of men’s, as the total number of college participation opportunities has increased for both sexes in the Title IX era, and men’s opportunities outnumber women’s by a wide margin. In a 2007 study of athletic opportunities at NCAA institutions, Professor John Cheslock reported that over 150,000 female athletic opportunities would need to be added in order to reach participation levels proportional to the female undergraduate population. Men’s athletics also receives the lionshare of athletic department budgets for operating expenses, recruiting, scholarships, and coaches salaries.


I am not a female, but I have always been a fan of women’s sports. I think in large part that has to do with a godmother who took me to the park to play tennis before I was even in first grade and a step-mother with whom I played tennis through0ut my pre-teens and teens. I have been a tennis fan for almost my entire life. If there is one sport where women are celebrated and respected (although it hasn’t always been that way), it’s tennis. I can remember a young Chris Evert being a real sports star. As a child and teen through to adulthood, some of my biggest sports heroes have been female tennis players like Monica Seles, Hana Mandlikova, Kim Clijsters and Chris Evert…among many, many others. So it was natural for me to look at women as athletes…not just the most beautiful creations on this wonderful world (thought I’d squeeze that in…I am still a guy, you know). Expanding my interests to other sports has gone hand and hand with adopting more favorite female athletes from other sports. Of course, on this blog I focus on women’s golf, so I have had the pleasure of watching favorites like Grace Park, Se Ri Pak, Mi Hyun Kim, Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer and too many others to name in one post. Future “Celebrating Women Athletes” posts will be much shorter as I won’t have to talk about history and go straight to the event about which I’m posting. I am going to throw one more video in. This is from CBS Sports, not the Coca-Cola/NCAA event. It features Billie Jean King and Mia Hamm (soccer).

Summer Sanders

Cheyenne Woods

Cheyenne Woods, Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Billie Jean King, Shawn Johnson


One thought on “Celebrating Women Athletes: Billie Jean King, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Summer Sanders, Shawn Johnson and Cheyenne Woods Talk About Title IX

  1. Pingback: Celebrating Women Athletes - LPGA Tour Forum

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