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Commentary: Women still fighting for equality in sports

Abby Sweet / Lantern photographer

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On June 23, 1972, the United States government passed an education amendment that included Title IX. Within the amendment was a statement that clearly summarizes the purpose of Title IX and what it stands for: “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 education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Almost 40 years after the amendment was signed into law, women are still fighting for equal consideration in sports against their male counterparts. It is not always at the collegiate or professional levels either, where most of the media attention is focused. More often than not, it is in high schools where isolated incidents continue to take place.
Last week, Our Lady of Sorrows Academy’s baseball team in Phoenix forfeited the state championship game it was scheduled to play against Mesa Preparatory Academy in Mesa, Ariz. because Mesa had a girl named Paige Sultzbach starting at second base.
Our Lady of Sorrows is a member of a separatist branch of the Catholic Church and said that playing against a team with a girl would violate the school’s mission to teach boys and girls separately.
I’m not here to start a religious debate, question the beliefs of any religion, or say what is the right or wrong thing to believe. My question is simply this: What’s the big deal?
Sultzbach is obviously a good enough player to be a starter for a varsity team, where she is the only female member, that reached the state championship game. She even sat out two previous contests against Our Lady of Sorrows this season out of respect for the views of the school. As a passionate person, she was not about to sit out the state championship game though, and who could blame her?
As a member of a team and a fierce competitor, there should be no reason a person, male or female, should be asked to sit out after they have worked all year to reach the biggest game of the season.
Many people who have played a high school sport know that it is almost every player’s dream to play for a state championship in his or her respective sport. It is something I dreamed about many times growing up, but like many people, I was never fortunate enough to have the opportunity to live that dream. Sultzbach and her teammates had that opportunity, but it was taken away from them because she is a girl.
I admire Sultzbach’s decision to play even though she knew it would cause her team to win a state championship by forfeit which she said was absolutely not the way she wanted it to be. Most people want to feel like it was earned because it means more that way. Sultzbach clearly earned the right to play baseball for her school and to play for a state championship, but Our Lady of Sorrows denied her that chance.
And the fight for equality continues for another day.

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