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ESPN'S "OUTSIDE THE LINES" LOOKS AT WOMEN'S SPORTS
Published April 8, 1997
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).