Tennis star Serena Williams pens letter to address gender inequality in sport and beyond.
Serena Williams has long proved her dominance in the tennis world and in recent years has come to be known as one of the best athletes the world has ever seen. Still, despite her superiority, she continues to battle gender inequality in athletics. Headlines about Williams usually read “greatest female athlete” thereby relegating her legacy to one gender and diminishing her success. Essentially, the demarcation of “female” implies that her preeminence will never be on par with her male counterparts. Williams is not the only female athlete to experience the subtle undermining of her talent. Ronda Rousey is, pound for pound, the best MMA fighter in the world, male or female, yet she still faces criticism in the male-dominated sport. The belief that women athletes, no matter their accolades and accomplishments, will always be second-class in the history books that permeate the sports world. [There is an ever-present attitude that says “She’s good for a girl.”]
In the past few months, Serena Williams has started to utilize her platform to speak out on issues that matter to her. Her most recent message was an open letter in Porter Magazine addressing gender inequality. Williams discusses her frustration with unequal pay, stating, “I, like you, have done the same work and made the same sacrifices as our male counterparts. I would never want my daughter to be paid less than my son for the same work.” In many cases, female athletes actually make more sacrifices and work harder than males in order to overcome gender-specific obstacles in sport and society.
Unfortunately, this debate often spirals into arguments about head to head competition, i.e. male vs female - Williams could never beat the best male tennis player in the world, Roger Federer. This kind of discussion is unproductive and misses the point. The push for gender equality is not about physical athleticism or men against women. It is about equal recognition and compensation for the same level of achievement. As Williams writes, “we should always be judged by our achievements, not by our gender.”
Shortly after Williams’ letter was published, former Olympian Deidra Dionne hosted a Facebook discussion on gender equality in sport, urging men to engage with the issue. In and out of sports, women typically support other women who are breaking barriers and achieving greatness. Still, as Dionne points out, progress will not be made unless male athletes and fans champion the incredible talent and perseverance of female athletes.
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Kevin Durant may have a new home, but his heart remains invested in the OKC community.
Despite signing with the Golden State Warriors for the 2016-17 season, Kevin Durant has not forgotten his loyal fans and important connections in Oklahoma City. Last month, Durant donated $57,000 to Positive Tomorrows, a local elementary school committed to educating homeless children.
Durant’s memorable 2014 MVP acceptance speech revealed that growing up, he experienced the difficulties of unstable and inconsistent housing. Calling on his personal story, Durant took a special interest in Positive Tomorrows during his eight years with the OKC Thunder. He funded summer programs for students, donated shoes and presents at Christmas and contributed to building renovations. His most recent gift will buy land for construction of a new building for the nonprofit school.
According to Positive Tomorrows, Oklahoma is the 7th worst state in the country in homeless children with more than 7,500 in central Oklahoma alone. Even with all of the great work the school is doing to support these kids and their parents, they are not able to accept all applicants because of space constraints. Durant’s donation will allow the school to build more classrooms to accommodate more children in need.
The transient life of a professional athlete can make investing in communities a challenge. Sometimes, it seems futile to make investments in long-term projects and programs when an athlete could be traded away at any point. Many athletes decide that it makes sense to support initiatives in their hometowns because, regardless of their current team, they have deep connections to their childhood communities. If and when an athlete signs a multi-year contract, they may feel more inclined to make larger investments with their time and money in their current city. Still, once traded, it can be hard to decide what to do with their foundations or projects. Joakim Noah confronted this challenge when he was traded to the New York Knicks. Ultimately, Noah decided to keep and expand his foundation in Chicago. When Dwyane Wade was traded to the Bulls, he chose to keep running foundation programs in Miami, while also creating more programming in Chicago. It depends on each athlete’s situation, but it is important for each to consider the sustainability of their projects in the event that they leave the city. Durant spent the better part of his NBA career in OKC, and despite his move to the Bay Area, he remains loyal to the relationships he built with Oklahoma City community members.
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ESPN dedicates a multi-functional sports court in Mexico for its community residents.
Civic leaders, ESPN, and Disney employees gathered in Transportistas in Chimalhuacan to celebrate the opening of a new court space built for he community. According to Beyond Sport, the project is led by ESPN, along with love.futbol and A Ganar. The hope is that the space will be used for people to learn job skills and fulfill their potential through the power of sports. Beyond Sport said, “The program was developed by award-winning organization A Ganar, which uses sports as a vehicle to provide communities across Latin America with training and skills that lead to employment and enables young people to achieve success in life. The court space was enhanced by a KaBOOM! playground built to inspire kids to get up, get outside and get active.”
Chimalhuacan was carefully selected based on need, population and social issues. This court will help create a safe space and will greatly enhance the sports opportunities in the area for children. Located in a neighborhood known for violence, this is one of the only safe spaces nearby. “ESPN is committed to providing resources to kids in Mexico City to play sports,” said Russell Wolff, executive vice president and managing director, ESPN International. “We are pleased to collaborate with love.fútbol, A Ganar, KaBOOM!, Deportivo Don Bosco and Street Soccer Mexico to build this court and playground in a community where there is a need, as it can truly make a difference.” This is a long-term community initiative that should provide positive opportunities for children and keep children safe. As a result, these community members will grow up with positive opportunities to engage in sports rather than succumb to potential violence.
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The NFL is expanding its breast cancer awareness platform during the month of October.
Since 2009, the NFL has turned the field, cleats, players and stadiums pink each October to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer screenings and education in partnership with the American Cancer Society. Starting in the 2017 season, teams will be able to choose its own cancer charity and cause to support during a three-week period in October.
Anna Isaacson, NFL VP of social responsibility, told Monday Morning Quarterback, “It’s a balancing act,” when asked if this is a start of a trend. She continued, “We have seen a lot of success in having focused, strategic campaigns. Focusing on one cause, fundraising for it, bringing it to life, choosing a message, spreading word among our fans. We are committed to that. But we are also committed to making sure the voice of our clubs are heard and making sure the voice of our players is heard.”
Much of this was spurred by Devon Still’s very public campaign to raise funds and awareness for children’s cancer as a result of his daughter’s diagnosis. Last year, Still visited NFL headquarters to discuss potential campaigns aimed at raising awareness for social causes close to a player’s heart. The league knows it has the largest number of fans and a huge following through social and digital media avenues. As a result, the league must empower its players to use their platform to improve communities. While players and the NFL may not be able to raise as much money as one would expect, the awareness piece is crucial in order to spur conversations and get the general public involved and aware of the many issues in our world.
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Steph Curry and teammates join forces to support the families of victims taken in a tragic Oakland warehouse fire.
On December 2, a devastating fire broke out in a warehouse turned artist collective in Oakland, California taking the lives of 36 people. The Ghost Ship tragedy made national headlines as the deadliest fire in Oakland’s history. In response, the city’s beloved Golden State Warriors organization quickly donated $50,000 to the families affected by the fire. The Oakland A’s and the Oakland Raiders also contributed $50,000 for a total of $150,000 from the city’s sports organizations.
As first responders continued to clean up the debris, GSW players pulled together and donated an additional $75,000 to support ongoing relief efforts. Their message to the community was one of unity and compassion. Moreover, the hoop team’s star player, Steph Curry, donned graffiti clad shoes in warmups to honor the victims, and he plans to auction off both those and his game shoes to raise extra funds for the disaster.
In total, the city’s teams and players will give over $225,000 to victims’ families and first responders. Their collective response is an admirable example of the significant impact of cross-sport collaboration. We do not often see a town’s teams joining forces for a single cause, but perhaps this can be a model for future philanthropic efforts.
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