Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, one of the most important and successful civil rights laws in U.S. history, bars sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding, including athletics. The law gave women access to classes, facilities and opportunities that had historically been male-only.
Prior to Title IX, if a woman wanted to pursue a professional degree in college, she could be passed over for a law school or medical school program simply because she was a woman. Since then, the 33-year-old law has proven itself integral to women’s rights. From the class rooms and playing fields to the executive suites, Title IX has been a vital tool in advancing equal opportunities for women and girls.
But the current Bush Administration has worked, through a variety of maneuvers, to weaken Title IX and the educational equality it guarantees. In 2003, League of Fans and Ralph Nader joined with many organizations and individuals in the fight to preserve Title IX from a Bush Administration attempt to undermine the law. President Bush’s appointment of a Blue Ribbon panel, called the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, made recommendations to change Title IX policies that would have diminished three decades of progress in athletics for women. This energized millions of supporters who exposed baseless arguments from opponents of Title IX and finally led to the Department of Education upholding the Title IX standards of compliance.
The most recent Bush Administration assault on Title IX came in March 2005 when the Department of Education quietly cut the legs out from under the anti-discrimination law, inviting no public comment on the new guidelines before posting them on the Department’s website. Shifting the burden of proof from institutions to female students, the alteration allows schools to comply with Title IX by making female students justify that they are deserving of equal opportunities in athletics by responding to e-mail surveys. If these surveys do not show enough interest in, or ability to play, sports, or if there is a lack of response to the survey, then a school can avoid offering sports opportunities to women and be in compliance with Title IX.
As Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center questioned in a press release, “How many people open, let alone respond to e-mail surveys? This is simply an underhanded way to weaken Title IX and make it easy for schools that aren’t interested in providing equal opportunity for women to skirt the law.”
Julie Foudy, captain of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team who defended Title IX as part of the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, told USA Today, “I can hear it now. ‘We lost a women’s team because the e-mail survey got stuck in my spam folder for six months.’”
The Title IX Record of John Roberts:
Dating back to the 1980′s, John Roberts has taken positions in several key cases that have either weakened Title IX’s protections or could have, had his positions prevailed. The following synopsis is from the Women’s Sports Foundation:
A) Roberts Took Positions that Would Have Resulted in Eliminating Title IX Coverage of Athletics
During his tenure as a Special Assistant to the Attorney General, Roberts argued that Title IX coverage should not extend institution-wide. He argued that Title IX covered only those programs that specifically receive federal funds. (1) These arguments were accepted by the Department of Justice in Grove City v. Bell (1984), where it successfully argued for the Supreme Court to adopt a program-specific approach to Title IX (i.e., only the specific program that receives federal funds would be prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sex, not the entire educational institution). (2) Because virtually no athletic program receives direct financial aid, this ruling essentially stripped the OCR of the power to eradicate sex discrimination in intercollegiate athletics and the growth of women’s sports was significantly slowed for a period of almost four years.
Grove City marked a major setback in the progress Title IX had made for women and girls. Roberts continued to support the program-specific approach, and even opposed the Civil Rights Restoration Act (CRRA), which restored Title IX to its pre-Grove City (institution-wide) status and was eventually passed in 1988. The law has since been pivotal in the successful enforcement of civil rights laws like Title IX.
B) Roberts Advocated Limits on Title IX’s Application to Athletics Governance Organizations (NCAA)
While in private practice, Roberts brought a case to the Supreme Court on behalf of the NCAA, arguing that it was not covered at all by Title IX. (3) The court agreed with Roberts, in part, ruling that the receipt of dues from member institutions that were subject to Title IX was alone insufficient to subject the NCAA to Title IX. (4) However, according to a report by the National Women’s Law Center, the court did not rule on Robert’s more “far-reaching” claim, that the NCAA be exempt from Title IX coverage altogether. “Because the NCAA effectively controls intercollegiate athletics, if this argument were to prevail there would be no recourse for any practices or policies of the NCAA that discriminate on the basis of sex, [race, national origin, disability, or age].” (5)
C) Roberts Urged the Denial of Full Remedies for Intentional Discrimination Prohibited by Title IX (Franklin)
As a Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts filed an amicus brief in Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools that argued that victims of intentional discrimination should not receive any damages for the injuries suffered under Title IX. (6) The Supreme Court rejected Robert’s arguments and found that victims could recover monetary damages in Title IX cases. (7)
Franklin was a case regarding sexual harassment of an athlete by her coach. This position is particularly disturbing because monetary damages are sometimes the only form of relief available to the victims, who may have graduated by the time their cases reach a decision.
(1) Memorandum to the Attorney General from John Roberts, Special Assistant to the Attorney General, re “University of Richmond v. Bell” at 1-2 (Aug. 31, 1982).
(2) Grove City College v. Bell, 465 U.S. 555, 564 (1984).
(3) Brief of Petitioner at 26-28, NCAA v. Smith, 525 U.S. 459 (1999) (No. 98-84), 1998 WL 784591 (Nov. 10, 1998).
(4) NCAA v. Smith, 525 U.S. 459 (1999).
(5) National Women’s Law Center. Judge John Roberts’ Record on Protection From Sex Discrimination Under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. Aug., 2005.
(6) Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, 503 U.S. 60 (1992).
(7) Franklin, 503 U.S. at 75-76.
Scheduled on Thursday, September 15 for the hearings on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts before the Senate Judiciary Committee are two witnesses expected to testify on Title IX. From the witness list released by the Office of Senator Leahy:
Marcia Greenberger, President, National Women’s Law Center
Marcia Greenberger is the founder and Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center. The creation of the Center 30 years ago established her as the first full-time women’s rights legal advocate in Washington, DC. A recognized expert on gender discrimination and the law, Greenberger has participated in the development of key legislative initiatives and litigation protecting women’s rights.
* Update * Greenberger’s Testimony
Coach Roderick Jackson, Birmingham, Ala.
Roderick Jackson is a teacher and the Acting Head Coach of the girls’ basketball team at Ensley High School in Birmingham, Ala. After complaining to school officials about the tremendous disparity in resources and treatment between the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams, Coach Jackson was fired. Coach Jackson went to court to get his job back, and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. In March, 2005, the Supreme Court decided the case in Coach Jackson’s favor. In a 5-4 decision in which Justice O’Connor wrote the majority opinion, the Court ruled that an individual can sue under Title IX to challenge retaliation against him or her for protesting sex discrimination. In its decision, the Court recognized that prohibiting retaliation is essential if Title IX — or any broad anti-discrimination law — is to provide effective protection against discrimination, and stated that the Title IX enforcement scheme would “unravel” if Jackson were not allowed to proceed.
Interested readers concerned with John Roberts’ record on Title IX should contact their Senators.
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Brian Kitts
12 Nov 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Paul Busch
9 Oct 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Chuck Wilson
17 Sep 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Tom McMillen
5 Aug 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Sab Singh
13 Jun 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Joseph Siprut
11 Apr 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Fred Bowen
20 Feb 2013
Q & A with Legendary Sportswriter Frank Deford
27 Jan 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Brenda VanLengen
28 Dec 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Diana Cutaia
1 Nov 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Patrick Hruby
28 Sep 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Allen Sack
8 Aug 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Donna Lopiano
5 Jun 2012
Q’s & A’s with Jim Thompson
14 May 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Activists: Dave Zirin
18 Apr 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Activists: William Dowling
27 Mar 2012
Q’s & A’s with Notable Sports Figures: Taylor Branch
9 Mar 2012
Q’s & A’s with Notable Sports Figures – Joe Nocera
27 Feb 2012
Q’s & A’s with Notable Sports Figures – Chris Nowinski
13 Feb 2012
Q’s & A’s with Notable Sports Figures: Joe Ehrmann
3 Feb 2012
- Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Brian Kitts
Special FeaturesFrom League of Fans
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to encourage social & civic responsibility in sports industry & culture. See League of Fans Core Principles
Petition from Baseball Fans Everywhere To Mariano Rivera
April 6, 2013League of Fans Calls for More Humanistic Coaching Programs. Click here to see the release.
League of Fans Announces 2012 “Sport At Its Best” Awards
December 20, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on Ralph Nader's Call for Budding Sports Reformers
December 7, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on Ralph Nader's Claim that Sports Media Are Dropping the Ball on Social, Cultural, and Economic Issues in Sports
November 22, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on the campaign to Make the NCAA Live Up to Its Stated Purpose
October 26, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on the campaign to create a National Sports Commission
October 11, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on the campaign to Ensure Equal Opportunity in Sports for all Americans
September 21, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on putting the "Youth" back into "Youth Sports"
September 8, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on the campaign to abolish the BCS and Establish a College Football Playoff
August 25, 2011
Read the news release and report on Mandatory Implementation of King-Devick Concussion Test in High School and Youth Sports
August 11, 2011
Click here to read the report and news release and about the campaign to promote sports and physical education for all students
Read the news release and report on Campaign to Promote Humanistic Coaching Education Programs
July 13, 2011
Read the news release and report on the Push For Community Ownership in Professional Sports
June 24, 2011
Read the news release and report and Sports Manifesto on Re-Launch of League of Fans
March 24, 2011
NCAA's Reaction to League of Fans' Proposal
March 29, 2011
League of Fans' Response to NCAA
March 25, 2011
League of Fans Proposes Eliminating Athletic Scholarships to Help Restore Integrity on College Campuses
League of Fans is a project of the Center for Study of Responsive Law.