SBD/8/Sports Society

ESPN'S "OUTSIDE THE LINES" LOOKS AT WOMEN'S SPORTS

          ESPN's "Outside the Lines" examined "Women & Sports --
     At A Crossroads."  Topics featured the advent of two new
     professional basketball leagues, the perception of
     homophobia in women's athletics, the women athlete,
     questions concerning gender among coaches, and the increased
     media exposure given to women's sports.
          UNDER THE HOOP: ESPN's Bob Ley examined the ABL and
     WBNA.  On player exclusivity, Ley noted the WNBA "denies
     reports that its pre-draft contract binds players for two
     years.  The league says its players can play elsewhere.  ABL
     contracts make players exclusive to that league."  ABL CEO
     Gary Cavalli: "Those players who are playing in two leagues,
     their impact, their identity with the ABL is totally
     diluted.  People aren't sure which league they play for." 
     Cavalli: "The question is, the players coming out of the
     colleges this year which are going to be very, very
     important to both leagues, are they [the WNBA] ... going to
     go nuclear, and just offer them the moon and try to blow us
     out of the water?"  But WNBA Commissioner Val Ackerman
     responded: "We don't want to replicate the mistakes that
     we've seen with other leagues, men and women's, on the
     subject of player compensations."  Cavalli, on the WNBA: "On
     the record, all I'll say is that some sponsors have been
     reluctant to deal with us because of the leverage that was
     forced upon them by the NBA. ... They have the advantage in
     terms of having that major network that we don't have."
          HOMOPHOBIA: ESPN's Maryann Grabavoy: "Historically, the
     threat of a lesbian label in women's athletics has carried
     tremendous power.  Yet discussion of lesbians in sport has
     for the most part been forbidden territory. ... Today there
     is still a pervasive fear to openly discuss the subject. 
     The question is, 'Does this image issue continue to affect
     women's sports?'"  The WNBA's Lisa Leslie: "Everybody out
     there is not a lesbian just because they play a sport." 
     U.S. Olympic softball pitcher Lisa Fernandez: "I think that
     stereotype of what women athletes are as being lesbians is
     definitely prominent.  At some point, it almost deterred me
     from wanting to go on and pursue the goal of playing fast
     pitch softball."  Donna Lopiano, Exec Dir, Women's Sports
     Foundation:  "The label 'lesbian,' the label 'man,' that was
     associated with a female athlete, was about as negative as a
     society could get in terms of a stereotype" (ESPN, 4/7).

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ESPN, NBA, Sports in Society, Walt Disney, WNBA

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