Please don't abandon women's sports. Let's use this moment to embrace greatness. (2024)

Women's sports don't have to be a niche community. We could all stand to put our money where our mouths are and keep feeding the excitement.

Sara PequeñoUSA TODAY

I would never call myself a “sports person," and I'm not athletically gifted.

I’m too short, too bow-legged and too awkward. I don’t get excited about the Olympics and spent my college years at the University of North Carolina missing basketball games by working instead. I hear they have a good team.

Recently, however, my attitude toward sports has changed. Like most good things in my life, that’s thanks to women.

I’m one of the casual fans who has been swept up in the frenzy over women’s basketball, fed in part by Caitlin Clark’s ascent to household name. I'm also from the South and felt it was my duty to cheer on the University of South Carolina Lady Gameco*cks when my friends and I squeezed into a Brooklyn one-bedroom to watch them win the women's basketball national championship this month.

I couldn't tell you the most interesting plays of the game, but I could tell you what I felt watching as South Carolina coach Dawn Staley broke down on camera, surrounded by the team that helped her get a third national title as head coach after an undefeated season. It was the feeling I had been waiting for, the feeling that keeps sports in our collective conscience and keeps fans coming back, year after year.

Future of women's basketball: Caitlin Clark is an icon, but we need more like Dawn Staley

The WNBA and women's sports are having a moment

This feeling – I think it's called being a fan – has continued into the month as I've watched respective moments from both Clark and Staley. I watched Clark take on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" host Michael Che for his misogynist jokes at the expense of women athletes, where she took time to uplift other basketball players who paved the way – including the Gameco*cks coach. I heard Staley praise Clark, now an Indiana Fever player, for elevating the game and growing viewership numbers.

It's actions like that, to me, that makes this moment so special.

There's a reason why tickets to the women's Final Four games cost more than the men's side. There's a reason that viewership for the women's basketball championship surpassed the men's final with 18.9 million viewers to their 14.8 million.

There's a reason you can't go online without seeing Clark's face or hearing mention of the WNBA draft, whose 2023 season also saw a spike in viewership.

The reason is Clark, but it doesn't change the fact that the entire sport should have been getting more recognition for years.

The fact that women's sports have been treated as secondary to the men's teams for so long is thanks to generations of misogyny. It shouldn't take an uncomfortable comment from a sports journalist or a player opening up about their working conditions for the rest of us to realize that women still aren't receiving the respect they deserve.

This lack of support affects game attendance, which in turn affects the working conditions of the players.

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The new attention to women's sports comes after years of advocacy

It’s why the United States women's national soccer team had to go to court to earn salaries comparable to their male counterparts despite winning four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals.

It’s why WNBA players have spoken up about the conditions they travel and play under, and it’s why Clark, arguably the most talked about basketball player of the past two years, is starting in the league making a fraction of what the first pick in the men’s draft will receive in their first contracts.

It is not fair that female professionals in their field are not being paid comparably to men. It shouldn't matter that it's occurring outside of what we consider a "typical" profession.

We might be experiencing another spike in popularity before the frenzy dies down.

Every few seasons, it’ll feel like we’ve made strides in popularizing the wildly inoffensive idea that women’s sports deserve the same enthusiasm – and fair pay for that enthusiasm – the men receive, only for reporters and advertisers to move on after the season ends. We’ve seen it before with the 2019 Women's World Cup.

I hope we all continue to care about these women athletes

Women's sports don't have to be a niche community – I'm happy to be here and want other people to hop on the bandwagon.

These games can be for everyone, they just need the support of the sports media landscape and the advertisers.

We've already seen how this can create household names. We only have to look to athletes like Simone Biles, Serena Williams and Megan Rapinoe. All of them have name recognition because they are both phenomenal players and have become fixtures on our screens thanks to advertising.

For me, I hope to keep the momentum going by catching some New York Liberty games in the upcoming season. I hope you look into tickets for your local WNBA team as well. We could all stand to put our money where our mouths are and keep feeding the excitement around women's sports.

Everyone deserves to be able to watch a team they care about, with people they care about. I've realized it's good for the soul, regardless of what gender is wearing the jerseys.

FollowUSA TODAY elections columnist Sara Pequeño on X, formerlyTwitter,@sara__pequenoand

Please don't abandon women's sports. Let's use this moment to embrace greatness. (2024)
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