Nike has had a mixed history with ads representing women in sport, but this “Voices” spot celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX this past weekend is pretty great. It features women athletes including runner Joan Benoit Samuelson, boxer Marlen Esparza, and basketball players Lisa Leslie and Diana Taurasi, and ties their journeys in with girls starting their own athletic careers.
Title IX made discrimination between men’s and women’s educational programs illegal. It had a huge impact expanding women’s athletic programs in high school and college, and Forbes points out it also promotes economic equality: “economists have long observed that participation in sports at a young age correlates to higher wages, greater educational attainment and overall professional success in adult life.”
But ESPN notes that despite the obvious and visible successes of Title IX, the fight to maintain the law and achieve equality in high school and college athletics is far from over:
Anyone who thinks this is one of those fights that is signed, sealed, delivered, over and done and won, just isn’t paying attention. Because it’s not.
Not as long as a whistleblower like Roderick Jackson had to push his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 to get his job back after he was fired for insisting on more equal treatment for his high school girls’ basketball team. Not when a 15-year-old girl like Paige Sultzbach, who played second base for her high school’s varsity boys baseball team because it had no softball team, is dragged through another case of adults in sports behaving badly. When Sultzbach’s team got to the final of the Arizona Charter Athletic Association state tournament this spring, the private school team they were supposed to play defaulted rather than play against a girl.
And Title IX supporters are still finding themselves shooting down the same old tired myths about the policy from those who believe you can’t support women’s athletics without taking away from men’s.
For more on the importance on Title IX, the Huffington Post put together a neat slideshow of quotes from women athletes from Billie Jean King to Maya Moore to Angela Ruggiero – as well as some supportive male coaches and politicians – about what the policy has meant to them.
Here’s to the last 40 years and 40 more with Title IX.