The Women’s National Basketball Association will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX with special events and uniforms.
Players in two games on June 23 will wear uniforms which feature an “IX” in place of the number on the front of the jersey. The Chicago Sky will visit the defending champion Minnesota Lynx at 12:30 EDT, and the Los Angeles Sparks will play the Phoenix Mercury at 9 EDT. Both games will be telecast on ESPN.
“As the most successful women’s sports league in the world, we truly believe the WNBA is a proof point of the impact of Title IX,” said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie in a statement. “The women of the WNBA — and all of the men who enjoy the game or have daughters and sisters who dream of becoming professional athletes — are beneficiaries of this legislation. We are proud to recognize this important anniversary.”
Title IX was passed as a part of the Education Amendments of 1972. The law states that no person “on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Title IX required schools and colleges to provide equal educational opportunities to women, including extracurricular activities. It forced schools to allow women to participate in sports on an equal footing as men. The impact in just two generations has been staggering. In 1972, there were fewer than 300,000 women participating in high school sports. Today, that number is over three million. In college, women’s participation in sports has gone from fewer than 30,000 to over 166,000.
Individual teams are also recognizing the anniversary.
- The Atlanta Dream will host a “Women in Sport” night on August 22.
- The Chicago Sky will honor nine women who have “inspired change across Illinois” as a part of a “Title IX team.” They are also offering the opportunity to sponsor tickets for girls to attend games.
- The Connecticut Sun will feature a Title IX event at one of their games, date to be determined.
- The Indiana Fever will hold a Title IX salute event on June 21, and will also host a speakers’ panel featuring women from a variety of fields.
- The Los Angeles Sparks will host a pre-game event on June 24, and will also hold a silent auction for artwork by the late Varnette P. Honeywood, with proceeds to benefit the Varnette P. Honeywood Foundation.
- The Minnesota Lynx partnered with the Minneapolis chapter of the Athena Awards to honor the 2012 award recipients. They will recognize top women’s athletes throughout the state during the course of the season.
- The Phoenix Mercury are asking fans to submit stories of how Title IX has impacted themselves or their family members. All who submit stories will receive a free ticket to the game and an on-court recognition at halftime.
- The Seattle Storm will feature stories from players and fans throughout the season, both in-game and on broadcasts. They will also host women sports figures from the past on Youth Sports Night.
- The Tulsa Shock will hold their third annual Women of Inspiration night on June 23. Oklahoma University women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale will speak about Title IX and women’s athletics at a pre-game reception.
- The Washington Mystics will hold a panel discussion before their July 1 game against Phoenix. Panelists will include Ann Meyers Drysdale, Basketball Hall of Famer and Natalie Randolph, Head Football Coach at Coolidge High School.
The impact of sports hasn’t been limited to athletics alone; one study suggests that women’s increasing participation in sports is responsible for 20 percent of women’s gains in education and 40 percent of their gains in employment.
Moreover, the cultural impact of the law is unmistakable. You only have to go out to a soccer field or softball diamond on a summer day to see girls playing sports as if there’s nothing unusual about it. There isn’t today, but that wasn’t the case 40 years ago. It’s no wonder Title IX has been called “the most successful law of the last 40 years,” and no wonder that the WNBA would see fit to honor it.
Image Credit: WNBA