Last week, in the midst of talks about equal pay and how good women’s basketball is getting, there was also talk about basketball rims. Yup, basketball rims; you know, the usually orange, shiny things that basketballs are shot through. Chicago Sky star, Elena Delle Donne, reignited a conversation that originally began in 2012 with University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma. Auriemma’s and Delle Donne’s solution to improving and drawing more attention to women’s basketball is to lower the rim. Their theory goes that if women can dunk (play “above the rim”), more people will watch women’s basketball. In support of this theory, Delle Donne points to the different sex-based standards in tennis (where women play fewer sets in grand slams) and golf (where women’s tees are set closer to the hole). While both Delle Donne’s and Auriemma’s track records confirm that they both are coming from places of genuine concern for growing women’s basketball, their solution is completely misguided. It’s misguided not for their lack of experience or goodwill, but because it’s based on at least one false premise, that if women play more like men, more people will watch.
The problem with people not watching and respecting women’s basketball and women’s sports in general has nothing to do with women being incapable of playing quality sports and putting on a good show. It has nothing to do with being able to dunk or play five sets as opposed to three. Instead, it has everything to do with the general societal belief that women and women’s sports are inferior. If that’s the starting place, then no amount of dunking will get people to watch women’s basketball.
Georgeann Wells, 1984
Women in the NCAA and WNBA, like Georgann Wells, Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker and Brittney Griner (to name a few), have been dunking for quite some time now. You know what happens when they dunk? We read/get comments like this:
“I’m more impressed with Super Mario jumping to the top of the flag pole at the end of the level than I am with these dunks.” Mr. T (YouTube)
“But is Britney Griner really a woman tho???” Dglenn45 (YouTube)
People always find a way to discredit the athletic feat because it was performed by a woman. This is true in other sports as well. When talking about Abby Wambach being the all-time leading goal scorer in international play. We get comments like:
“Being the best female soccer player in the world is on par with being the best rec player at 16 for men. Ridiculous that this author even mentions she has the most goals for both men and women. Way to represent your sport so well Abby.” Skinsfolife (NBCSports)
And every discussion about the accomplishments of Serena Williams and the UConn Women’s Basketball team are always replete with commentary about how they’ve only accomplished so much because there’s just no real competition in women’s sports and if they played in a man’s league, they couldn’t hack it.
Lisa Leslie dunking
No matter how good women’s sports get, some people will never be satisfied. Those people look at men’s sports as the standard and refuse to acknowledge that women and women’s sports are accomplished, respectable and entertaining in their own right. Those are people who aren’t really fans of sports or competition, but fans of the status quo and of male chest thumping. Those are the people who rarely give women’s sports a chance anyway but find time to insert their commentary whenever there isn’t enough negativity on a subject. Personally, I don’t see a worthwhile ROI in trying to change the nature of women’s sports to appease those people. Those people will never be appeased.
Instead, we should be focusing on those who genuinely love sports and can appreciate competition at all levels, among both sexes. For the people who really want to and do enjoy seeing women compete, our message should be: we love the support and to keep being patient while we grow women’s sports. We should be highlighting the vast improvements in women’s sports that we’ve seen over the past 10-15 years. We should be encouraging more girls to play and more people to fund women’s sports so that they can continue to grow. We should showcase more of our current athletes doing absolutely exceptional things in sports. If we do more of that, women’s sport will continue to get more and more exciting and attract more viewers. Let’s not waste time on pacifying sexists who really will only be happy with women who are barefooted and pregnant in the kitchen. Instead, spend time, energy and money on polishing the gold mines in their current state.
So what do you think? Should we be lowering the rims or working on different avenues to grow women’s basketball and women’s sports in general? Let us know how you feel in our comments section and keep up with GladiatHers.com on our website, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.