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Taylor Johnston and Ellen Wagner make important decisions about the Post in the editors' office on the evening of Wednesday, February 5, 2020.

Editorial: Progress needed in women's sports coverage

Title IX was enacted in 1972, prohibiting sex-based discrimination in school sports or any other program that receives federal funding. Over 50 years later, Title IX has generally been upheld, but sexism and racism continue to creep into sports in more deceptive ways than what can be identified within the confines of the amendment. 

Recently, there has been a massive uptick in attention to women’s college sports, with women’s basketball particularly gaining attention. Iowa’s Caitlin Clark broke an all-time scoring record for NCAA basketball, surpassing the late Pete Maravich’s total of 3,667 collegiate points, and the public is hyper-fixated on her. Louisiana State University’s Angel Reese has also garnered a lot of attention for her abilities on the court and declared for the WNBA draft on Wednesday after a loss to Iowa. 

The attention women’s college basketball has gained recently is spectacular in terms of representation for young women and girls who want a career in basketball. However, female athletes are pitted against each other and subjected to commentary and standards that male athletes do not experience in the same way.

In February, Reese made a gesture referencing John Cena’s “you can’t see me” catchphrase to Clark during a game. It spurred a lot of rumors online and overall gained a lot more attention than it needed to. In the time since, it has become clear that there is no issue between the two players, just the typical level of aggression and passion that bubbles up when playing a competitive game at such a high level. Reese even congratulated Clark after she broke the scoring record. 

Consider all the minor acts of aggression that turn into physical fights in men’s college basketball. Now look up “college basketball beef” and find three stories alleging beef between Clark and various other women’s college basketball players before a male college basketball player is mentioned in the context of a conflict within a headline. 

As some media try to throw women against each other, other media work to tear everyone down altogether with sexist and racist statements thinly veiled as relevant sports commentary. 

On Monday, Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times issued an apology for his NCAA women’s basketball tournament matchup preview after he was criticized for referring to the Tigers as “villians” and “dirty debutantes,” even describing the matchup between the Tigers and the UCLA Bruins as one between good and evil. 

LSU’s women’s basketball roster is predominantly made up of Black women, and it does not seem coincidental that the language Bolch used describing a predominantly Black team held such negative connotations. 

Again, it is so important that younger players see representation of other women athletes, but not all representation is good representation. Not only are young girls seeing their idols pitted against each other and criticized for playing competitively, but women athletes are still only getting attention when they do something monumental. 

Clark’s record-setting, for example, did a lot in bringing women’s sports more into the center of the public sports conscience. Compared to the prevalence of men’s sports coverage, though, there is still a massive gap in the level of appreciation women’s sports receive. Women should not need to be record-breaking to receive equitable coverage compared to their male counterparts. 

Women’s college basketball has been major in drawing more interest in women’s sports, but players continue to face challenges that would be unacceptable and never would have come up if they were men. Only when sportswriters begin focusing on the game as opposed to the gender of the players will true progress be seen in the attitudes around women’s sports.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Post's executive editors: Editor-in-Chief Katie Millard, Managing Editor Emma Erion and Equity Director Alesha Davis. Post editorials are independent of the publication's news coverage.

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