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League of Fans Outlines Necessary Steps to Re-Energize the Quest for a Level Playing Field in Athletics

Ralph Nader announced today that his League of Fans organization is launching a new initiative to accelerate the march toward equal opportunity in sports. Nader said pertinent federal and state laws need to be enforced more vigorously and new laws and policies enacted if the vision for equal opportunity in sports is to be realized.

“As a country we’ve grown lax in our enforcement of Title IX and other laws designed to give all Americans an equal chance to participate in sports,” said Nader. “We live in a country in which females and those with disabilities continue to be treated unfairly and unjustly in the world of sports. That’s unacceptable.”

Ken Reed, League of Fans’ sports policy director and author of the organization’s Sports Manifesto, said that because of the significant successes of Title IX since the law was enacted in 1972, the general assumption is that gender equity in sports has been – or is close to being — achieved. However, that’s not the case.

“Unfortunately, female athletes continue to lag significantly behind their male counterparts in every measureable category, including participation opportunities, number of scholarships, allocation of operating and recruiting dollars, and opportunities for advancement in the athletic administration field,” said Reed. “As a society, we need to do the right thing and creatively find ways to equitably distribute opportunities in athetics.”

While it’s true that some men’s college sports programs have been diminishing, e.g., wrestling, baseball, gymnastics and swimming, declines in those sports have been more than countered by the growth in others, such as men’s soccer, lacrosse, track and field, and basketball. The fact is the overall number of male intercollegiate athletes today is higher than it was in 1981. Loss of male high school and collegiate athletic participation opportunities – as a whole — is a myth.

Since 2004, the gap in the number of sports participation opportunities between males and females has expanded, not decreased. The fact is, more athletics opportunities have been created for males than females in recent years.

With progress stalled and organized opposition groups getting louder in an effort to roll back Title IX, Title IX advocacy organizations say vigilance in the endeavor for equal opportunity in sports is needed now more than ever.

“While we’ve definitely made significant progress toward equal opportunity in sports for all Americans, we still have a ways to go,” said Nancy Hogshead-Makar, senior director of advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation. “Athletics are rare and unique educational opportunities, subsidized with our tax dollars, which deliver superior lifelong returns on investment for both genders. We are excited that League of Fans is actively joining this important cause.”

“It would be my hope that one day we won’t need to legislate equality and fairness; equal opportunity will just be our ethos as a society,” said Diana Cutaia, director of athletics at Wheelock College and a long-time Title IX educator. “However, today is not that day. I am thrilled that League of Fans is bringing this important issue to center stage.”

While the focus on the equal opportunity in sports front remains gender equity, Reed said disabled Americans face huge inequities when it comes to sports participation in this country.

“There are more than 50 million people in the United States that have documented disabilities,” said Reed. “Unfortunately, they aren’t getting anywhere near the same athletic opportunities as their fellow citizens. That fact negatively impacts their physical, mental and emotional health. We need to do more to improve access and increase opportunities for disabled athletes in the United States.”

The announcement came in conjunction with the release of the League of Fans’ eighth report, “Clear Actions Need to Be Taken to Ensure Equal Opportunity in Sports for All Americans,” from its Sports Manifesto. The full report is available at the League of Fans website: http://leagueoffans.org/pdf/Manifesto8.pdf

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