Athletes in Arms: Women are due more respect in sports than shown by Agüero’s actions

columnist graphic for Liam Schroeder fall 2020

After he was ruled offside in a match against Arsenal on Saturday, a frustrated Manchester City striker Sergio Agüero put his arm around the referee while complaining about the call. The referee, Sian Massey-Ellis, is one of the growing number of women refereeing professional sports. 

Regardless of Agüero’s intentions, his actions were inappropriate. Women are not only becoming referees across professional sports, but they are rising to prominent positions as coaches and executives in a traditionally male-dominated field. As they do so, women in all positions deserve far more respect than what was demonstrated by Agüero.

Just recently, the world watched as the Los Angeles Lakers brought home an NBA championship led by Finals MVP LeBron James. Although the spotlight seemed to be on James for being such a forceful leader on the court, another leader was also making history. That night, Jeanie Buss became the first woman owner of an NBA franchise to win a Finals championship. 

Without Buss’s leadership, there may have never been a Lakers team worthy of playoff contention this season. Working through struggles in front office positions in recent years, Buss’s determination prevailed as she stuck to her guns to keep Rob Pelinka, the team’s general manager, on staff). This move would eventually lead to his important acquisition of superstars James and Anthony Davis. 

Successful leadership from women can be seen from the president of an organization to the assistant coach positions. Becky Hammon has demonstrated her knowledge of the basketball game as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs since 2014. 

In “An Open Letter to Female Coaches” by Pau Gasol in The Player’s’ Tribune, he firmly writes, “I’m telling you: Becky Hammon can coach. I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. I’m not saying she can coach enough to get by. I’m not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. I’m saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”

Gasol, a potential future NBA Hall of Famer, said he has been coached by some of the greatest minds in basketball from Phil Jackson to Gregg Popovich, yet Hammon exhibits an IQ for the game worthy of being in the same conversation. If a legend like Gasol can say without a doubt that Hammon can guide a successful team, I am not just hopeful, but confident we will see more great minds of women like her come to prominence in the league. 

Hammon and Buss are just two outstanding women achieving success in men’s professional sports. These two have the ability to increase excitement surrounding not just women in the NBA and NFL but women’s sports themselves. 

As a younger generation looks to put even more energy into women’s sports, I am in awe of the talent from my own age group. Young NBA and WNBA stars Tyler Herro and Sabrina Ionescu are equally amazing. 

In her senior season at the University of Oregon, Ionescu became the first player in NCAA history to tally 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds in a collegiate career. 

Seeing the power that women have had within sports, women as referees deserve much more respect than Sergio Agüero exhibited this past Saturday. From president to coach to player, excellence among women in all areas of all sports is evident. I believe as younger generations of women build legacies similar to their role models before them, leaders such as Jeanie Buss, Becky Hammon and Sabrina Ionescu will soon be everywhere in men’s and women’s sports. 

Women role models do not have to have the accolades like those mentioned above. They can be found even in those younger than yourself, like my sister Greta. As I continue to find success at USC in volleyball, I will always be first to express my pride in my sister’s game in high school basketball and rugby. Beyond the natural competitiveness between siblings, I find a competitiveness and dominance in her game that I can learn a lot from. 

Looking forward, I am excited to learn from not only my sister’s game but any women athletes who have a competitive edge that I can build into my own.

Liam Schroeder is a junior writing about sports and social justice. He is also a middle blocker on the USC men’s volleyball team. His column, “Athletes in Arms,” runs every Thursday.