Women Celebrate Accomplishments in Equality – Footwear News

It’s been 50 years since Title IX’s 37 words changed everything.

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 declared.

It was just the beginning of a hard-fought battle to push for equal rights in education and athletics for women, with pioneers such as Billie Jean King and Gloria Steinem leading the charge.


Billie Jean King arrives for the 1978 Wimbledon games at the All England Lawn and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, London on June 30,1978.

CREDIT: Tim Jenkins

Since Title IX, women’s participation in college athletics has increased. Women make up 44% of all NCAA athletes — compared to 15% pre-Title IX, for instance. It was a time when fewer than 30,000 women played college sports, according to a NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Report. Despite this progress, however, women’s collegiate athletics still lag behind men’s, where men have 60,000 more collegiate sport opportunities compared with women, per the same report.

Though the battle continues, advocates say now is the time to celebrate the accomplishments of the women who led this fight for equality. And more importantly, they add, Title IX isn’t just a sports law — it’s a civil rights law standing in plain site.

“It’s horrifying to hear how women were spoken of [50 years ago],” said Dawn Porter, co-director of ESPN’s “37 Words” docuseries. “Women couldn’t go to law school because there were quotas, sports scholarships didn’t exist, [but we have] to stop to celebrate what we accomplished. We shouldn’t settle but celebrate that we have power.”

To celebrate the 50th anniversary, ESPN’s four-part series charts the Title IX impact on American culture and the lives of women who paved the way. Parts 1 and 2 premiered on June 21, with parts 3 and 4 set to air on June 28.

Porter, who directed the project alongside Nicole Newnham, said it was a privilege to bring attention to athletes such as the 1976 Yale Women’s Crew team that protested unequal treatment, Olympic sprinter Wyomia Tyus and the 1999 US Women’s World Cup Soccer team. “Women today are standing on the shoulders of these women before them to fight these battles,” she said.


ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JUNE 11-12 - FILE - In this July 10, 1999 file photo, the United States' Brandi Chastain celebrates by taking off her jersey after kicking in the game-winning penalty shootout goal against China in the Women's World Cup Final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.  They were pioneers, and they were rock stars.  A dozen years later, they remain the most famous women's team in US sports.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File

In this July 10, 1999 photo, Brandi Chastain celebrates by taking off her jersey after kicking in the game-winning penalty shootout goal against China in the Women’s World Cup Final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

CREDIT: AP

Newnham added: “The thing I love the most about the series is that it’s a story about women helping women, and women looking to the next generation and saying, ‘I may not benefit from this action, but the girls behind me might.’ And that’s exactly what’s happening. We are still fighting the same fights.”

For Molly Kazmer, the first player signed to the Women’s Professional Basketball League in 1978, charting new territory for women athletes didn’t go unnoticed. “We were aware that we were paving the way for the future,” she said. “We had to overcome society’s stereotypes of female athletes and get people to take us seriously.”

The Women’s Professional Basketball League only lasted three years and it wasn’t until the NBA established the WNBA in 1996 that women could play professionally again after multiple failed attempts during the years in between.


Molly Bolin drives past an opponent during a recent 3-on-3 basketball game in Los Angeles, Nov.  24, 1982. The 25-year-old Brea, Calif.  basketball player recently played in the Foot Locker 3-on-3 championships in Los Angeles, where her team finished in second place.  (AP Photo/Doug Pizac)

Molly Bolin (now Molly Kazmer) drives past an opponent during a recent 3-on-3 basketball game in Los Angeles, Nov. 24, 1982.

CREDIT: AP

“We all just loved what we were doing. We were so happy to be the pioneers of the sport,” Kazmer added, noting her salary contract was only $6,000 per year. “It’s amazing we’ve made progress, but it’s a constant battle. Pay has a long way to go but as long as we are making progress in those other areas, [such as more media attention and on-the-court opportunities], then the pay will eventually catch up. We have to keep at it.”

Meanwhile, the next generation of changemakers includes athletes such as Paralympian Jessica Long. Born with fibular hemimelia, Long’s legs were amputated below the knees at 18 months old, so she could be fitted for prosthetic legs, learn how to walk and ultimately swim. Since then, Long has earned recognition as the second-most decorated US Paralympian with 29 medals and 52 world champion medals in swimming. She has also been an advocate for a fully-realized Title IX and access and opportunity for all.


NORTH HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, USA - SEPTEMBER 17: Television Academy's Reception To Honor 73rd Emmy Award Nominees held at The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on September 17, 2021 in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States.  17 Sep 2021 Pictured: Jessica Long.  Photo credit: Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency / MEGA TheMegaAgency.com +1 888 505 6342 (Mega Agency TagID: MEGA788049_073.jpg) [Photo via Mega Agency]

Jessica Long at The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on September 17, 2021 in LA

CREDIT: Mega

“The generation before us is the inspiration that keeps me going,” said Long, who participated in a Capitol Hill briefing and discussion on Title IX for legislators, policy makers and advocates in Washington DC, today. “I truly feel that it’s my next role as a Paralympian athlete to grow the movement. They’ve done their part as trailblazers for women in sports, now it’s my turn to continue the legacy.”

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