Over the past few months, many sporting events captivated the attention of the American public. A classic NBA Finals as well as Deflategate made many headlines throughout the summer, but women’s sports stole the front pages of many newspapers. Ronda Rousey, the United States women’s national soccer team and Serena William’s quest for a grand slam all have sparked discussion among sports pundits. The big question that remains from this summer is whether female sports can maintain this type of attention for an extended length of time.
Ronda Rousey’s dominance in the Ultimate Fighting Championship ring has encouraged many people to follow the sport. Only one of Rousey’s 12 opponents managed to make it out of the first round without losing, and Rousey won her last three title fights in a combined 64 seconds. While the sports world can only watch her with awe, it is only a matter of time until people lose interest. Part of the beauty of sports is its unpredictable nature, the fact that any team could win on any given day. Yet, Rousey completely controls the sport with little to no competition coming her way. While her dominance is admirable, it is difficult to foresee people paying to watch a fight that will likely last under a minute. Over the next few months, it will be interesting to see how and if Rousey remains atop the sports headlines.
Similarly, the United States women’s national soccer team faced little adversity in its 5-2 win over Japan during the 2015 Women’s World Cup final. After a disappointing loss to Japan in the last World Cup, the women’s team rebounded under a new coach and the leadership from veterans like Carli Lloyd. In 2011 and 2012, the U.S. women’s team received a lot of attention for its second-place finish in the World Cup and its gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. Yet, for the three years between those Olympics in London and this year’s World Cup, the sport fell out of favor in the American public. Women’s soccer has failed to establish itself as a consistent presence in media. Many of the players on the World Cup winning team in 1999 were only receiving $12,000 in salary from their professional teams. Not much has changed for female professional players in the past 16 years. Until the climate of the sport improves, it is difficult to see women’s soccer consistently remaining in the news.
While many women’s soccer players are left frustrated by the pay in women’s sports, tennis superstars like Serena Williams rake in millions yearly for their athletic success. Serena Williams has cemented a tennis legacy that puts her among the greats of the sport. Her ability to consistently win grand slams, 21 in all, greatly enhanced the popularity of the sport. Women’s tennis’ television ratings surpassed the men’s tennis ratings at certain tournaments,, and the sport has maintained that success. As Serena Williams seeks to accomplish one of the toughest feats in sports, one that has eluded her throughout her career,
Women headlining the summer sports stories is great for the progress of women’s sports, but a heavy burden falls on the media to keep these sports in the public light. When the sports are not playing competitively, the leagues receive virtually no coverage. The NBA offseason receives more attention from reporters than the WNBA does during its playoffs. While the sporadic spikes are great for women’s sports in the short term, something must change for long-term growth.
Nick Barton is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. More Than a Game appears every other Tuesday.
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