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Billie Jean King

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Celebrate Milestones Based on Accomplishment, Not Gender

Posted: 12/21/2010 8:37 pm

Just to set the record straight... I'm a basketball fan. I love the sport -- women's, men's, college or pro -- it is something I enjoy watching as a fan. I even had a chance to watch my niece's son play in a kid's game at an Atlanta rec center last week and it was so much fun.

So, to watch the University of Connecticut women's basketball team tie, and then break, Coach Wooden and the UCLA men's team long-standing record of 88 consecutive wins has been a thrill.

I read a quote from UConn coach Geno Auriemma that said:

"Because we're breaking a men's record, we've got a lot of people paying attention. If we were breaking a women's record, everyone would go 'Aren't those girls nice, let's give them two paragraphs in USA Today, you know, give them one line on the bottom of ESPN and then let's send them back where they belong, in the kitchen."

Unfortunately, he is right on target.

Over time we have seen people, and especially the media, only pay attention to women's sports when we are competing -- or breaking records -- in the men's arena. It happened with me when I played Bobby Riggs. It was the same reaction when Babe Didrikson and Annika Sorenstam stepped up to the men's tees in golf.

It's always important to celebrate accomplishments for both men and women. Women's sports are never going to get a fair share until we receive more media attention. News like Lindsey Vonn's recognition as the AP Female Athlete of the Year for 2010, the recent launch of ESPNW and Barbara Stevens of Bentley University becoming the fifth coach in women's basketball history to win 800 games is definitely a step forward.

What the UConn women's basketball team has done has been extraordinary but would it have received the same attention if they were breaking a consecutive win streak held by Pat Summitt's University of Tennessee team? I'd like to think it would, but I'd probably be wrong.

I'd just like you to think about it. Let's celebrate breaking records and reaching milestones based on the accomplishment and not based on gender.

That's what the fan in me would love to see.

 
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