In 1900, just 2.2 percent of competitors in the Olympics were women. By 2016, that number had risen to 45 percent, the highest it’s ever been. And while it’s true that we’ve come a long way in that time, there’s no denying that sexism in sports still exists.
A 2018 report by Women in Sport found that 40 percent of women in the industry still face gender discrimination.
Sexism In Sports: 15 Unacceptable Moments
15.Sexualization of female athletes
It’s not enough for female athletes to excel at their respective sports; they also have to look good while doing it. Research from the University of Texas–Rio Grande Valley found that women are often depicted in a sexualized manner on the covers of sports magazines. At the same time, men are more likely to be shown in athletic poses.
14.Don Imus’s sexist and racist remarks about the Rutgers basketball team
In 2007, shock jock radio host Don Imus lost his job at CBS after making comments that were considered both sexist and racist, calling members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “rough girls” and “nappy-headed hos.”
13.Sexist promotion at a minor league game
There have been some bizarre minor league baseball promotions over the years, from Speed Dating Night (single men and women changed seats throughout the night) to Mike Tyson Ear Night (plastic ears were given out) to George Costanza Night (okay, that one’s pretty great). But perhaps the worst ever was “Hourglass Appreciation Night,” which was planned (and later cancelled) by the Ogden Raptors, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Class A affiliate.
12.Cam Newton laughing at female reporter
Imagine being laughed at simply for being a woman while doing your job. That’s exactly what happened to Carolina Panthers beat writer Jourdan Rodrigue when she asked Cam Newton a straightforward football question, only to have the Pro Bowl QB laugh in her face and say, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes. It’s funny.”
11.Harassment of female reporters
Sexism in sports isn’t limited to athletes. As Sports Illustrated reports, female sports reporters often have to put up sexual harassment from agents, players, and coaches from various sports, facing everything from being hounded for their phone numbers to being flashed in the locker rooms.
10.Houston Astros minor leaguer’s sexist tweet
In 2016, Brooks Marlow, a minor leaguer with the Houston Astros organization, tweeted, “No lady needs to be on ESPN talking during a baseball game especially Mendoza sorry,” referring to ESPN broadcaster Jessica Mendoza. Luckily for Marlow, he doesn’t have to worry about Mendoza talking during his games since he fizzled out of the minors after just two seasons.
9.Women not allowed to run in Boston Marathon
Although it’s the oldest marathon in the United States, women weren’t allowed to race in the Boston Marathon until 1972. Five years before that, however, Kathrine Switzer managed to enter by registering under the name “K.V.” In a famous picture, an official can be seen attempting to push her off the course during the race.
Even when they’re dominating the competition at the highest level, female athletes still don’t get the credit they deserve. For example, one NBC commentator said of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team during the 2016 Olympics that they “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall.” Whatever that means.
7.Chicago Tribune identifies Olympic medallist as “wife.”
What does it take for women to be seen as more than just the wives of their husbands? According to the Chicago Tribune, at least a silver medal referred to Olympic bronze medallist Corey Cogdell as “wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein” in a headline. The newspaper followed it up by sending a tweet that omitted Codgell’s name altogether.
6.NBC blames women for commercials during Olympics
NBC Olympics chief marketing officer John Miller responded to complaints about there being too many commercials throughout the 2016 Rio Olympics’ opening ceremony by blaming… women? That’s right. Not corporate greed, but women.
“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans,” Miller said. “More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey.”
5.Eugenie Bouchard asked about her dream date
The 2015 Australian Open wasn’t the first time Eugenie Bouchard had been put in an uncomfortable position during a post-match interview. A year earlier, after winning a hard-fought match against former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in her first-ever major’s quarterfinal, Bouchard was asked who her dream date would be. Needless to say, the same question wasn’t being asked of her male counterparts.
4.U.S. women’s soccer pay gap
According to a complaint filed by the women’s U.S. national soccer team to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016, players on the women’s team earned up to 40 percent less than the men, despite outperforming their male counterparts. “To be able to perform as we do and to be the best in the world, we should be treated the same as them,” midfielder Morgan Brian said in an interview with 60 Minutes.
3.John McEnroe’s comments on Serena Williams
Serena Williams might be the greatest female tennis player of all time, but according to John McEnroe, if she played with the men, she would barely crack the top 700. Some in the media construed McEnroe’s comment, which he made in 2017 while promoting his new book, as being sexist and dismissive of the tennis star’s accomplishments.
In all fairness, Williams herself said she probably wouldn’t fare too well against the men. “If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes,” she told David Letterman in 2013. “I only want to play girls because I don’t want to be embarrassed.”
2.Eugenie Bouchard asked to twirl
After winning her match in the second round of the 2015 Australian Open, 20-year-old Eugenie Bouchard was asked to “give us a twirl” by the male TV presenter during her post-match interview.
The Canadian tennis player, ranked seventh in the world at the time, had just handily defeated Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-0, 6-3, yet all he cared about was what she was wearing.
1.Alizé Cornet code violation
During the 2018 U.S. Open, French tennis player Alizé Cornet was given a code violation for taking off her shirt on the court to fix it. Many saw this as an example of sexism and double tennis standards since male players often remove their shirts without being penalized.