The Los Angeles Sparks are ranked second in the Women’s National Basketball Association. They hold three championship titles and in 2001 were the first WNBA team to go undefeated at home for an entire season. That same year, the New Jersey Nets, a professional men’s basketball team, suffered a horrible record but still reached large audiences every single game.
While the female teams are dominating their league, men’s team are the ones garnering huge crowds of support. Women’s achievements have gone unrecognized by many, including those responsible for their publicity and paychecks. Students at USC need to give proper recognition to their fellow female Trojan athletes and need to back the ones driving this movement. Thankfully, more women, such as Megan Rapinoe and the rest of the US Women’s National Soccer Team, have spoken out about this devastating issue.
This mistreatment of women in the professional athletics world has recently become a popular topic across social media. However, this epidemic is not unheard of; until 1892, women were not always allowed to play sports at all — let alone professionally — whereas men could play any sport without objection. Sexism has been around for a long time, making this battle a difficult one to win. A collection of WNBA players, including Liz Cambage, Kelsey Plum, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner have spoken out about the outrageous pay gap in the league. According to High Post Hoops, none of these star players is paid more than $115,000. Yet, the lowest-paid players in the NBA are paid $838,464 for simply sitting on the bench.
Not only is this pay difference outrageous, but it is blatantly insulting to female athletes. The Sparks, along with other women’s sports teams, have proven themselves as strong contenders. In 2001, both the Sparks and the Lakers clinched their league championships, together leading a sweep in both men’s and women’s professional basketball. They boast a 462-299 record and three championships, but where is their reward? Why don’t they get paid for their effort and hard work? Despite the financial hardship, many players remain optimistic, and for good reason: The Washington Post reported an uptick in WNBA viewership by 244% on Twitter and 31% on ESPN and ABC.
The WNBA has been begging for coverage since it began in 1997. The league has faced economic and social setbacks that have discouraged some women from becoming professional athletes. This is unfair, given the fact that women and men both play at an exemplary level and should be treated the same by all, including sports reporters and athletic audiences. The same goes for USC students because the same lack of coverage exists on campus. Women’s teams continue to excel in tournaments and championships, yet they still struggle to attract an audience.
According to the 2019 attendance records from the NCAA, men’s sports events average 3,590 attendees, while women’s sports events average just 750. Whatever the reason, publicity is essential to rally students to attend more women’s sports. By spreading the word via social media or news outlets, students can encourage larger audiences at women’s sports events and create a new outlook on professional athletics.
But in regard to the representation of women in sports, there have been some advances. The WNBA will have its first feature in NBA 2K, a virtual basketball game in which gamers compete against one another, after over 20 installments of the game. Now, after decades of inequality, gamers are able to play as female athletes in the virtual basketball game.
USC women’s water polo team has won six national championships, yet attendance remains very low. This is about more than just a sport. At this point, it is about camaraderie with Trojan athletes. Supporting our fellow athletes can make a significant change for future female athletes.