Title IX and Gender Equality in Sport
Sport is one of few arenas that individuals expect to be judged only by their ability and athleticism; however, when gender is considered, there is still a great deal of inequality. Researchers, scholars, and participants in sport have been debating the need for more representation of women and equal opportunities in sport for decades, and there have been some strides taken to level the playing field between men and women in sport. As a Christian it is our duty to ensure that our brothers and sisters in Christ are receiving fair and equal treatment. Second Corinthians 8:13 tells us that “ of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality” (The Holy Bible, New Living Translation). This means that even in the realm of sport, it is our Christian duty to create equal opportunities for men and women, alike.
The level of sport that has been cited for the most incidents of inequality is the collegiate level. To remedy this notorious inequality, the Title IX clause of the Education Amendment of 1972 was enacted. The Title IX of Education Amendment of 1972 was enacted to provide opportunities for females to participate in athletics while at educational institutions (Osborne, 2013). Collectively, the amendment has had a positive effect on the participation of women in sport across the board, with the number of women participants in sport growing from 15% in 1972 to 43% in 2001 (Bell, 2008). Student-athletes have benefited greatly from the legislation; nevertheless, progress has not come as easily or quickly for women in administration and coaching roles.
There are severe gaps in female representation in administrative and coaching roles at the collegiate level. Women make up less than 20% of the administrative roles in college athletics. According to an article from ESPN, “of the 1,101 athletic directors at NCAA-governed schools, 269 are women, according to Women Leaders’ in College Sports, an organization that tracks hiring trends in the industry. Of those women, 55 are in Division I programs, 57 are in Division II and 157 are in Division III” (Voepel, 2017). Inequalities do not stop at titles and positions, there is also a dramatic gap in salaries as well. The national average of 83%, “with female coaches earning on average only 62% of what male coaches make” (Osborne, 2013, p. 535) (Brown, 2017).
An important piece of legislation that is helping to combat this is the Title VII Amendment, which broadly protects employees against discrimination on the basis of five classes: race, color, religion, country of national origin, and sex. Title VII protects individuals against discrimination in compensation, which has proven to be difficult to prove in court proceedings (Osborne, 2013). Roughly, half of the Title IX and Title VII cases resulting in favorable rulings for the plaintiffs. Those that have resulted favorably usually end with the Defendant settling with the plaintiff outside of court to avoid admission of noncompliance with Title IX protocols (Associated Press, 2016). Even after cases are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted, many women that assert claims in college sport regarding discrimination are “blackballed” in the field and suffer retaliation and disparate treatment. This reality is a direct opposite of God’s command of “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” in Matthew 7:12 (The Holy Bible, New Living Translation).
Moshak v. The University of Tennessee
The University of Tennessee has historically had separate athletic departments for their men’s and women’s athletic programs. Each of the respective departments were responsible for its own organization and operation practices. However, during the 2008-2009 school year, the university’s president requested that the two departments be merged in a three stage consolidation to eliminate having unnecessary positions in the department. During the process of consolidating, three senior female employees discovered that there were major discrepancies between the salaries of the male and female employees of the same level and background. University officials and administrators tried to justify the discrepancies in salary by citing “complexities of football,” assumed satisfaction with “comparable” conditions and “market factors” as the justifications for the differences in salaries between similar male and female positions (Moshak v. The University of Tennessee, 2012).
The three former employees, Jenny Moshak, Heather Mason, and Collin Schlosser, followed proper protocol by filing appeals to increase their salaries through a Position Description Questionnaire with their supervisors, which led to a formal complaint with the University’s Office of Equity and Diversity. The OED found alleged that their report found no evidence of discrimination; however, there were minor violations of their University’s personnel procedures, which only warranted action from the department of human resources of the University. This finding led to an appeal to the Chancellor, Jimmy Cheek and an appeal to the President, Joe DiPietro, which each led to no action being taken. After having their concerns and reports ignored and dismissed, the trio decided to file a formal legal suit against the University “alleging sex discrimination and unlawful retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (Martin, 2013). The three women claimed that they were intentionally discriminated against by the department during the merger, Moshak and other female employees were eventually forced out to silence their claims.
Moshak, Schlosser, and Mason filed a civil lawsuit for declaratory, injunctive, and monetary damages on the basis that they had been victims of sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title IX and Title VII of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Martin, 2013). Moshak argued her case on the basis of the University compensating the men’s head athletic trainer on a “substantially accelerated pace” in comparison to her, even though she had been a member of the athletic staff for a longer period, performed more duties than the men’s head athletic trainer, and had been promoted to the associate athletic director of sports medicine position for over ten years (Moshak v. The University of Tennessee, 2012). Due to her allegations brought against the school and the athletic department, the plaintiff alleges that she was demoted and stripped of many of her administrative and supervisory duties as a form of retaliation when the athletic departments merged the men and women divisions.
Plaintiff Mason alleged that she was terminated from her position of strength coach during the merging of athletic departments, and the process was not conducted according to the UT policies and procedures for employee termination (Moshak v. The University of Tennessee, 2012). This termination was seen as discriminatory and malicious by the plaintiff, because it was done so only after allegations of discrimination were reported for investigation to the university’s department of human resources. Also, the decision to terminate the plaintiff’s employment seemed contradictory to the athletic department’s view of employee performance, considering the fact that Mason had been promoted twice and had no negative coach evaluations in the ten years she had been employed at the university (Moshak v. The University of Tennessee, 2012).
Plaintiff Schlosser alleged that the university terminated his position of employment during the merging of the athletic departments, due to the gender of the athletes that he serviced. Schlosser had consistently received high marks on his annual performance evaluations, had not been demoted or reprimanded for any behavior, had a higher level of education than an employee of a comparable position, had a smaller budget of funds and employees per athlete than an employee of a comparable position, and had been employed at the institution longer than his counterparts in the men’s athletic department (Moshak v. The University of Tennessee, 2012). Nevertheless, during the merger his position was phased out with no explanation; and his claims of discrimination were blatantly ignored by the OED and department of human resources, because he was male.
The suit was settled for $1.05 M out of court, with Moshak receiving $345,000, Mason receiving $277,500, and Schlosser receiving $127,500 in damages (Associated Press, 2016). All of the awarding were taken from revenue of the department and was not fulfilled using funds from any government entity or donor funds. Though the “university unequivocally denies that any of the three former employees suffered any discrimination or retaliation,” they felt that settling outside of court was the best decision for the department at the time, after nearly three months of litigation (Associated Press, 2016).
Gender equity and Title IX have been hot topics in the athletics arena for decades; so, it is surprising that one of the most successful female athletic programs in collegiate history had this issue arise. However, this law suit and the other filed by Debby Jennings, the former media director, shed light on the still shaky relationship that collegiate athletics has with its female participants. Much like what is described as the atmosphere at the University of Tennessee, the collegiate athletic sector has “created a testosterone wall effectively prohibiting women from earning equal pay and further denying [women] the opportunity to advance their careers” (Associated Press, 2016). With the dismantling of the AIAW, opportunities for women have dwindled, which has raised the issue of Title IX compliance at institutions across the nation.
Trends of low representation are very apparent in collegiate sport, according to the yearly demographic reports from the NCAA. In the 1970’s the percentage of women in administration roles was at an impressive 90%, because most universities had separate athletic departments for men and women (Osborne, 2013). However, many intercollegiate institutions merged their departments after the NCAA forced out the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) by offering all the amenities they offered for their men’s sports in 1973; many women were demoted and laid off from their administrative roles (Bell, 2008). During the 2015-2016 season, only 18.7% of all athletic directors of NCAA institutions are female, which is only 222 of the 1,135. Lower level senior administrative were not much better, with only 34.4% of associate directors and 30.4% of head athletic trainers being female (NCAA Sport Sponsorship, 2016). Trends such as these can have further adverse effects on representation; because it discourages females from pursuing chances of promotion in their respective fields.
The Bible, the doctrine of our faith that directs our interactions, has a clear, defined explanation of the type of equality that we should reach for as believers. Unfortunately, many of those in sport are not committed to treating others fairly as our Father in heaven has instructed us to. Women are not only treated unfairly, but they are subtly objectified and demeaned as well. According to an article in The Sport Journal, “some researchers analyzed media coverage of female athletes and reported that women receive poorer quality of technical production, less overall coverage, and are demeaned as ‘girls’ while men are portrayed as ‘strong and powerful men’ that are ‘historically important’” (Scheadler, June 2018). The Bible tells us “don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves,” and while this seems to be the mantra of most female athletes, those in positions to promote their hard work and excellence are doing the opposite (The Holy Bible, New Living Translation). It is selfish and not Christ-like to objectify a woman’s body while she competes in sport, and it is highly discriminatory to do so and treat men differently. To combat these narratives of women being objects rather than people and being too emotional or sensitive for sport, several companies are taking to media to show a new repsect for the female athlete. An example is the partnership between Nike and Serena Williams in their “Dream Crazier” ad that was just released, which challenges women to not stifle their dreams in sport and life. In the ad Serena vocalizes the challenges of the female athlete:
“If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic. If we want to play against men, we’re nuts. And if we dream of equal opportunity—delusional. When we stand for something, we’re unhinged. If we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us,” she says. “And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.” (Penrose, 2019) Women of Serena Williams’ caliber are taking to printed media and social media to take a stand for those female athletes that do not have the ability to take a stand for themselves.
Galatians 3:28 tells us that “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (The Holy Bible, New Living Translation). It is impossible to live by this when there is special treatment given to men that are not afforded to women. The unfortunate reality is that this type of behavior is embedded in young men ins sport at an early age. In his book Engaging Men in Building Gender Equality, Richard Howson asserts that “students, particularly boys, on numerous occasions constructed [that] boys as superior to girls, girls as inferior to boys, and boys as ‘the norm’” in sport and athletics (Howson, 2015, p. 251). So, by the time young men reach college level sports, they have developed a sense of entitlement and privilege. This is more so true for those men that are in positions of power in administrative positions and head coaching positions.
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Title IX and Gender Equality in Sport. (2021, May 17). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/title-ix-and-gender-equality-in-sport/
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