February 6, 2023
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ColumnsThe Tuck Rule

Women’s sports deserve more respect from the media

Wake up America, women’s college basketball is amazing.

It seems like every year around this time in particular, people who have never watched women’s college basketball all of a sudden come out and claim that nobody cares about women’s college basketball. They then go on to argue that the reason women’s college basketball isn’t covered is that nobody cares.

Last year, 3.8 million people tuned in for the national championship game. The Women’s Final Four viewership last year was up 38 percent, proof that the sport not only has fans, but an expanding fan base. Also keep in mind that women’s basketball isn’t fortunate enough to play at primetime like the men’s team and instead is forced to play in the Sunday afternoon time slot so that a regular season baseball game can be played at night on ESPN.

Perhaps if the media covered women’s college basketball more, this fanbase would be even bigger. On the morning after the 2018 Women’s Final Four, in which both semifinal games ended in a last-second buzzer-beater in overtime, I examined 10 media outlets.

These outlets ranged from print newspapers to television stations to online-only sports platforms. Only two — CBS Sports and The New York Times — had a story about the Women’s Final Four as the top story. The others — Fox Sports, NBC Sports, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Athletic, The Ringer, USA Today and Bleacher Report — required a great deal of digging to find a story.

Following the Men’s Final Four, where the first game was mediocre and the second was a blowout, I examined the same 10 media outlets. All of them had a story about the men’s tournament as the top story, and The New York Times even had it as the top story on the homepage.

Media outlets often claim that the reason for this lack of coverage and prime positioning is because people won’t be interested in reading. But perhaps it’s just because their view is skewed, considering that 90 percent of sports editors are male and only 10 percent of sports coverage is created by women.

There is also proof that media outlets are more likely to cover animals than women’ sports. You are more likely to find a picture of a dog sleeping or panda eating than a story about women’s sports.

There are other reasons, too, that people allegedly don’t care, such as the idea that women’s basketball isn’t as entertaining as the men’s game. Or they say that women aren’t as athletic as the men and therefore can’t play at a high level. Women can’t dunk, but their ability to defend the ball and consistency when it comes to free throws and jumpers are far superior to the men.

This has been one of the best women’s sports events in the past decade, and the lack of coverage and respect is flat-out and childish.

Danielle Allentuck can be reached at dallentuck@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @d_allentuck