Women in sports working hard in different ways

Published 4:41 pm Friday, March 12, 2021

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NC State’s women’s basketball team are now back-to-back conference tournament champs. They snagged the win on Sunday afternoon, March 7 against Louisville, the only team seeded higher than the Wolfpack in the tournament.

I unfortunately missed watching the game (the downside of only having an over-the-air antenna for TV), but I watched the highlights online afterwards. The game came down to the wire. NC State’s Elissa Cunane tied the score 56-56 with a free throw with less than a minute to go. Cunane almost had the basketball in her hands for the chance to win it in the last couple of seconds, but the Louisville players guarded her too closely for a pass.

NC State’s Raina Perez took the shot instead, sinking it through the hoop with 2.1 seconds left in the game. It was the last score of the game and Perez’s first made basket in the whole second half.

“I was honestly looking for the pass,” Perez, a graduate transfer, said in post-game comments. “But then they doubled on Elissa, and I was wide open. I had to take it, and what do you know, it went in.”

The team won last year’s tournament as well, a feat they hadn’t achieved since 1991.

“It’s tough in this league. Winning once was hard. Winning twice was harder,” said Cunane after the game.

Last year, the pandemic put a halt to basketball before the women had a chance to see how far they’d go in the NCAA tournament. This year, with safety precautions in place, they’ll have the opportunity to keep up their winning streak. We shall see!

I’m thrilled to see my favorite college do well in any sport, regardless of gender. But I think it’s especially nice to see the women’s team, who doesn’t get the spotlight as often, succeed. They’ve worked so hard and deserve to celebrate.

I’m always happy to see women succeeding in sports, especially because it’s often thought of as something only men are mostly interested in. That attitude is changing, of course, but it’s not always as quick a shift as we’d like it to be. It would be great if every woman playing in sports or in sports-related fields could work in an environment that helps them thrive.

The US Women’s national soccer team made headlines in 2019 when they sued US Soccer on the grounds of gender discrimination in the areas of payments, travel compensation, and support staff. A judge agreed with those last two claims but dismissed the inequitable pay allegation in 2020, and the team is now waiting on an appeal.

Earlier this week, a California Congresswoman filed a bill that would ensure the team gets fair and equitable wages compared to the men’s national team. Time will tell if the bill gets the support it needs to make a change.

Last summer, the WNBA team in Georgia, the Atlanta Dream, stepped into the spotlight after the team’s majority co-owner, former senator Kelly Loeffler, publicly opposed their social activism efforts. Her negative comments came particularly in regards to racial justice and police brutality issues after the death of Breonna Taylor. Instead of letting the players express their feelings on the matter, the former senator (and now also former team owner as of January 2021) essentially told them to stop talking and stop supporting.

I can’t imagine being told that I’m not allowed to express an opinion about something, especially something as important as the things the Dream players were speaking out on.

I’m glad to see those ladies didn’t stay silent on issues that they cared deeply about.

In looking at fair treatment in sports, it’s also important to see how women working behind the scenes are treated as well.

USA Today reported last week on a recently revealed internal investigation at Louisiana State University from 2013 that centered on the football coach at the time, Les Miles. He was the subject of several disgusting allegations ranging from requiring that female student employees have a certain look “(attractive, blond, fit)” to messaging students inappropriately and driving one student around and allegedly kissing her. (Miles denied the kissing but nothing else.)

As a result of the investigation, in 2013, Miles was barred from having any one-on-one contact with student employees or texting or calling them. And yet, Miles stayed employed at LSU until 2016 when the football team started underperforming. He was later hired by Kansas University to coach football again.

After USA Today’s reporting, Kansas University “mutually parted ways” with Miles earlier this week. Their statement did not acknowledge the allegations and he left with a nearly $2 million severance package.

I’m hoping this story (just one example of many over the years, unfortunately) continues to spark change that will keep women, on and off the field, from experiencing this sort of harassment in the future.

I want to celebrate women in sports for their accomplishments, for their wins, for their perseverance. Right now, I’m still celebrating NC State’s women’s back-to-back championships. I hope to read many more similar happy headlines going forward, and I hope the necessity for the others grows smaller and smaller until it’s nonexistent.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or by phone at 252-332-7206.