June 18, 2012
Fast Horse helped Coca-Cola and the NCAA celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Title IX at an event Monday in New York City. The event featured some of the greatest female athletes of the past several decades: Billie Jean King, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Summer Sanders, Cheyenne Woods, Shawn Johnson. Not a bad crowd.
But beyond the giltz of the celebrity athletes and the swanky digs (Lincoln Center), the event forced me to think about this 1972 law in a way I hadn’t. Ultimately, Title IX goes way beyond the obvious positive effects of giving girls and women opportunities to play sports in high school and college. A broader outcome of that has been the opportunity for outstanding female athletes to earn college scholarships the same way men do.
But it has shaped American life in a more subtle and more prolific way than “just sports.” Title IX was never intended to be about sports – instead, it had far more to do with education.
Our little agency, for example, is an equal mix of men and women. It’s essentially the reason I and my male counterparts are fortunate enough to work side-by-side with the talents of Allison and Cydney and Diane and Jen and Alex and Jenny and Natalie and Rita and Lynn. Each of them has had opportunities to achieve higher levels of education than perhaps their mothers or grandmothers, and as a result, they’re active, productive, and indispensable members of the Fast Horse team…not to mention professional America. To think of what FH would be without them is simply sad.
I’m 38 and a guy. So the passage – and really the effect – of Title IX hasn’t ever factored into my consciousness. And if you think about it, maybe that’s the coolest result. Gender equity (although EQUITY may be a strong word) isn’t something I often consider. It just IS. I don’t ever find myself judging somebody’s abilities or intelligence based on their gender. Truly. Never.
Meeting somebody like Jackie Joyner-Kersee, whose life would have been completely different if not for that law is really difficult to comprehend, yet an awesome thing to ponder. And fortunately, Title IX certainly isn’t just about producing world-class athletes and Olympic champions. I think about my own mom who, after a 1986 divorce at age 40, was able to lift herself out of a fairly menial job and make something great of her life while supporting two annoying kids… because she had a degree, which contributed to not only her self-worth, but her self-confidence. It’s something a woman 20 years earlier may not have been able to accomplish.
To me, that is the greatest achievement of Title IX, and it’s why working with Coke on the recognition of its 40th anniversary was such a cool experience.
Check out some photos from the night can be found below, and make sure to check out the documentary “Sporting Chance” on ESPN this Saturday at 11 a.m. Eastern on ESPN2.