Op-Ed: Inequality for women’s sports must be addressed

Flora Poole

Inequality is not something to shrug away. It is not something to simply claim as “the way things are.” And most importantly, nobody should be abused or defied for speaking up about inequality. For the players on the Quinnipiac rugby team, they should not be abused or devalued for speaking up about inequality at Quinnipiac. For those across campus and social media who declare that Quinnipiac rugby is whining because of lack of recognition since winning its national championship, it is clear you are completely unaware that the issues both inside and outside Quinnipiac are a direct reflection of larger societal problems.

At Quinnipiac, one sport is being singled out as better, more popular and more important than the rest. The problem that has made itself visible to the student body and faculty of Quinnipiac, with President Lahey and the men’s Frozen Four championship, is that there is unequal support, representation, recognition and overall acknowledgement of female success. In the spring 2016 semester alone, the handler behind Quinnipiac University’s Twitter account dedicated 415 tweets and retweets on Quinnipiac athletic teams and their achievements. Three hundred and forty-two were dedicated to men’s ice hockey, eight to men’s basketball, one to men’s baseball and 65 to all women’s sports combined. Leading up to its national championship, rugby received four tweets over a period of 14 days promoting its championship. Men’s ice hockey, on the other hand, received 46 tweets in a period of three days covering their quarterfinal against Cornell.

The fact is that there are many other sports at Quinnipiac that are excelling and achieving greatness with very little promotion and recognition. This year golf, cross-country and tennis won their MAAC championships. Women’s basketball, after a 19-game winning streak, made it to the finals of their MAAC championship. Women’s ice hockey won the ECAC championship. In acknowledging all this achievement and little recognition, one should be able to recognize that this is not about the rugby team seeking a congratulatory email from President Lahey. This is about acknowledging that there is a structural problem at Quinnipiac University that does not promote, value or recognize greatness achieved by its female athletes.

President Lahey and others’ justification for this seems to be that sports like rugby do not bring the school attention or money. This fails to recognize that the school chooses what and who to advertise; the school has power in deciding what and who gets attention. By recognizing the achieved greatness of our women’s teams and promoting this, President Lahey and the administration in fact could create the attention, which they claim does not exist. But, there is reason to believe that a lack of caring about women’s sports is something lacking in the Quinnipiac administration, not in the general sports world.

A replay of the women’s Frozen Four 2016 championship tournament this year brought in around 651,000 households, more so than any other men’s Frozen Four competition that weekend, according to the BC Interruption. This also beat an estimated 635,000 household views of the men’s Frozen Four championship the year before.  It is not just hockey that is receiving such high view ratings. A video by NBC News Today said the U.S. women’s soccer team beat records with the amount of household views upon their World Cup win in 2015, far surpassing the best viewership that the men’s team has ever brought in. Not only have they surpassed the men in viewership, but they also surpass them in revenue according to U.S. soccer’s own numbers. In 2015, the U.S. women’s soccer team brought in revenue of $16 million, compared to the men’s team who caused a $2 million loss. This is irrefutable proof that U.S. soccer’s main source of income comes from the women, not the men. Despite this knowledge, upon their 2015 World Cup championship FIFA awarded the women $2 million for their record-breaking win 5-2 against Japan, according to an article by National Public Radio. The men who came eleventh in the 2014 World Cup were awarded $9 million, over four times the amount given to the women’s world cup champions. The U.S. women’s soccer team is standing up and fighting for equal recognition, equal facilities and equal pay, according to an article by CNN Money. Women athletes around the world are fighting the same fight as Quinnipiac rugby and speaking out to break the image that only men’s sports are valued. 

The media, like the administration at Quinnipiac, has the power to encourage and enforce change to break this worldly standard of men’s sports being more valued. They have the power to influence what we value, our perceptions, our beliefs and what we deem as important or impressive. Forty percent of all sports participants are female, yet women’s sports receive only four percent of all sport media coverage. according to The Tucker Center. When the media is portraying a man’s world, then naturally society will be a reflection of that. When the Quinnipiac administration is portraying a sports culture here where only men’s sports are valued, then naturally our student body will also become a reflection of that.

For Quinnipiac to assume that women’s sports are not valued seems to be more a reflection that many at Quinnipiac do not value women’s sports. In other words, it is not a function of the market; it is a function of a culture here that does not value women to the same degree as men. It is our administration that gives unequal acknowledgement sports at Quinnipiac. It is the administration that seems not to value women’s sports.

The women’s rugby team is not fighting for recognition. It is fighting for equality in Quinnipiac sports. Female athletes are just as successful as men and should be recognized for their achievements. We withstand the same physical and emotional demands, we train just as hard and yet our greatness is devalued. This is not about a congratulatory email; it is about acknowledging greatness when it happens, not just when men achieve it.

– Flora Poole, sophomore, women’s rugby