Sports spectators showcase disparities

On April 14, 2014

The finale of NCAA’s Women’s March Madness took place between Connecticut and Notre Dame but does anyone even know who won?

With a combined record of 76-0 (both teams are undefeated) the climate for excitement was almost perfect for a championship game.

Yet the men’s championship was still far more popular than the women’s. Why does such disparity exist between the two genders in college basketball?

The inequality doesn’t end in college sports, however. The average attendance at an NBA game in 2014 is about 17,500 compared to a meager 7,500 in the WNBA.

Women’s sports simply are not as demanded as men’s sports in the United States.

It goes almost without saying that women are paid less than men in sports. The estimated median salary for NBA players in 2013 was $2.3 million compared to $80,000 for a WNBA player.

It is hard to estimate any further disparity in salary between athletes because there is no women’s version of the NFL or the MLB.

While there certainly is inequality between genders in professional sports, is it such a bad thing?

If you let the forces of supply and demand work without hindrance, men are worth more in professional sports.

More people tune in to watch the games on TV and advertisers are willing to pay more in order to show ads during men’s games.

For that reason, male athletes in professional sports are monetarily worth more than female athletes.

This doesn’t mean that men try harder than women or are necessarily better, but that society values them more in sport.

The problem with women in professional sports is simply a lack of presence. Until the launch of the WNBA in 1997, the only place you could see women compete professionally was every four years at the Olympics.

That lack of existence in the professional spotlight may have something to do with the inequality that exists in the industry.

Another problem involves the great man theory. This is the idea that a few great “heroes” are responsible for many historical events.

When applied to sports, it is easy to name several men that are easily associated as the best at sport that they play: Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Joe Montana, Babe Ruth, etc.

When it comes time to name a great woman who defined the sport she played, are you able to do it? Danica Patrick maybe?

The single biggest threat to women in sports though isn’t pay discrepancies or lack of presence in sports, but the wrong type of presence.

“Sports” that flaunt sex appeal over athleticism are backward steps for equality. WWE fights between scantily clad women or Lingerie League Football are both prime examples.

Many men look at these “sports” and expect all women’s sports to be sexified in the same way and are frankly disappointed when they watch a WNBA game.

While all of this inequality exists in sport, it may not be a bad thing.

Because professional sports are privatized markets (as opposed to the Olympics), this type of difficulty women have participating in this profession is a sign that our society is not inclined to see women in that sort of position at this time.

If things are to change, they need to change on a society-wide level rather than just in sports.

Any change at a smaller level will seem forced.

While change may or may not be necessary, it is important to give the athletes of the WNBA the respect that they have earned.

While they may not be as popular as men playing the same sport, they are still athletes and they still work hard at their craft.

Also, if you were pitted against them in a game of one-on-one we all know who would win.

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