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Last month, 30 women in the sports space took to the tiny red stage at The ‘Quin House in Boston. Athletes Unlimited and CSM Sports & Entertainment gathered prominent names in sports to weigh in on today’s 50th Anniversary of the 37-word Title IX legislation.
“Title IX helped open doors for women across all professions, and these informative and inspiring talks are a perfect way to celebrate those gains while signaling the possibilities of what still lies ahead,” Athletes Unlimited co-founder Jonathan Soros said in the media release.
“Here at CSM, we are committed to bringing female leaders to the forefront, which is why we are proud and excited to be supporting TEDxBoston for this series of live talks,” Gina Hagedorn, President of Brand Experiences at CSM Sport & Entertainment, said. “Working with Athletes Unlimited for the last three years and now partnering with them on this very important initiative feels like a full-circle moment. And to be doing this to mark such a significant moment with the 50th Anniversary of Title IX feels all the more special.”
From Sheryl Swoopes to Kate Fagan. From Elizabeth McQuitter to Mira Shane and more, the event celebrated women in sports, many of whom directly benefitted from Title IX. Here are a few highlights from my conversations with the presenters.
Don’t You Forget About Me
As the WNBA forges ahead in its 26th season, former WBL player Liz McQuitter wants to ensure she and her pioneering sisters aren’t forgotten. The Women’s Professional Basketball League, known as the WBL, only lasted three seasons, but McQuitter is on a mission to ensure folks know their legacy still lives on.
“The message I want to bring to Title IX at 50 is, as we’re celebrating the 50 years, can we also take pause and look back at who are those first women that have stepped through the doors Title IX opened,” McQuitter told me in a phone conversation last month.
She wants people to know the WBL came along at the right time and directly or indirectly led to the gains we see in women’s basketball today. McQuitter, Muffet McGraw, and Ann Myers Drysdale are just a few names considered living legends of the game. They all played in the WBL.
“Don Not Put Me In That Box!”
My first impression from watching Shane’s TEDx Talk is what a force! She is a queer, biracial badass. Her message for Title IX at 50 is all about self-love. It is a beautiful and powerful self-reflection that is also apropos for today.
Perhaps more than ever, young people and athletes are under enormous pressure while also having a warped sense of community. But unfortunately, we have seen how debilitating stress, compounded by the loneliness often required to stay physically safe amid a global pandemic, has taken on young athletes.
“So today, yes, I’m talking about Title IX and being a part of professional sports, but for me, that all goes back to the power of authenticity and how we learn to love ourselves,” Shane told me.
Representation is Hope
If you are a woman who loves sports or a sports fan that values women’s sports, you likely have intimately felt the pain point of a lack of merchandise. The chicken and the egg of it all is enough to make one dizzy.
Through her business Playa Society, not only is Esther Wallace creating options that resonate with women’s sports fans, but she is also providing a new example of what six feet tall women can be – an entrepreneur.
Wallace talks about her love-hate, or hate-love, relationship with basketball in her TEDx Talk. Design and fashion was always a passion for her, but she didn’t have many tall girls and women in the space to encourage her.
“I chose basketball over art school. I chose basketball over design school,” Wallace told me during a phone interview. She chose basketball, as she mentions in her speech because the representation she saw in Tina Charles or Candace Parker gave her hope.
Wallace as an entrepreneur has had to manufacture that hope as she walks her newest path.
If you’ve gotten this far, you realize I spoke to Black women and women of color. Of the 30 or so speakers, there were about six of them hit the stage. For the next 50 years of Title IX, I hope we pay heed to what McQuitter, Shane, and Wallace shared about their journey and the ways not even Title IX was able to overcome the lack of support for Black women in sports and society.
Other speakers featured last month include:
- Sheryl Swoopes, 3x Olympic Gold Medalist, 3x WNBA MVP, and 4x WNBA
- Morgan Shaw Parker, President, and COO of Atlanta Dream (WNBA)
- Molly Seidel, 2021 Olympic Bronze Medalist, Women’s Marathon
- Haley Rosen, Founder & CEO, Just Women’s Sports
- Kate Fagan, Writer, commentator, and podcaster
- Melissa Ludtke, journalist and plaintiff in landmark equal access case, Ludtke v. Kuhn