When Notre Dame faces Baylor tonight in Denver to decide the national championship in Division I women’s basketball, you can be sure that ESPN will have more than hoops on the menu. If past results are any indicator of future performances, tonight’s telecast will probably come with a heaping helping of Title IX advocacy — just the sort of advocacy that won’t deign to acknowledge the profound damage the use of gender quotas to enforce the law has done to men’s sports.
But ESPN’s efforts to smother any discussion of the deleterious impacts of Title IX enforcement won’t stop with effusive praise for the law from their on-air talent. Just a few days ago, ESPN.com, in conjunction with its women’s sports website, ESPNw, rolled out a microsite called The Power of IX as the “digital hub” of its efforts to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX.
As you might have guessed, the microsite features plenty of adulatory coverage of the law, including an interview with President Obama, a personal essay about the law from Katie Couric and an analysis of how female coaches are having a tough time competing with their male counterparts for jobs coaching women’s teams. Missing is any discussion of how countless men’s athletic programs have been cancelled due to Title IX quotas, including men’s swimming at UCLA. Before it was cancelled, the UCLA men’s swimming program produced 16 Olympic gold medalists.
Needless to say, one has to wonder why a news organization like ESPN would ignore juicy stories like these, especially as it would seem that the 40th anniversary of the passage of the law might be a good time to reflect on the totality of its impacts instead of just one side of the story. Then again, why should we expect that when ESPN as a corporation has already taken a side in the Title IX debate?
Why do I say that? One of the leaders in the effort to preserve the gender quota system used to enforce Title IX is the Women’s Sports Foundation. Along with groups like the National Women’s Law Center and the National Organization for Women, the WSF has been a stalwart when it comes to fighting efforts to reform the Title IX quota system while also working to expand it to American high schools.
And when you go to the WSF website, you’ll see that both ESPN and ESPNw are listed as “Partners and Funders” and “Corporate Supporters.” That’s right, a corporation that has made billions of dollars in revenue airing advertising targeted at male sports fans is using those dollars to support a radical activist organization dedicated to limiting the ability of young men to participate in athletics at all.
I’d be tempted to call ESPN’s actions ironic if they weren’t so cynical.
Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.