Men and women participating in segregated sports leagues is a much-debated and largely controversial subject. As men sports leagues continue to generate large amounts of capital, women leagues continue to struggle to keep their relevance both in terms of revenue and popularity. Aside from a difference in revenue, the physical aspect of sports in comparison to gender and the societal effect allows for a rich debate in whether sports should continue to segregate or start integrating based off gender.
But before I delve into these issues, it is important to provide background information on women’s sports, which largely began after the introduction of Title IX in 1972. Title IX states that no person in the United States should be excluded from participation, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance based off of their sex. The passing of Title IX largely changed the aspect of American sports, as a rise of prominent women athletes became deeply associated with the culture of the United States.
However, despite allowing an equal playing field in terms of participation and received benefits, the disparity in economics behind men and women’s sports is staggering. Take the NBA, for example, where the average franchise is worth $1.25 billion, which is up 13% from the previous year; mainly due to the new television deal the Association struck with ESPN and Turner Sports.
In contrast, the value of a WNBA franchise flails in comparison to that of an NBA team. In 2008, when Ron Terwilliger purchased the Atlanta Dream, the newest WNBA team, he made a meager $10 million.
Apart from the value of these franchises, the value of the players is largely different. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers has the highest NBA contract, earning $25 million dollars for the 2015-16’ season while the maximum contract in the WNBA is $107,000. Players of sports are paid off of their market value to their teams. Bringing men and women together in sports would only bring an increased disparity to an already existing problem of unequal income distribution among athletes.
By bringing top talent from a WNBA roster and allowing them to play with the best men’s players, the already shrinking market for women’s basketball would continue to suffer negatively. This could lead to the collapse of the WNBA, which in turn would strip the near 200 players the right to a salary and the opportunity to continue to play professional basketball in the United States.
From a financial aspect, there is too much money to be lost by integrating men and women’s sports. Men athletic programs have proven to be the moneymaker when it comes to gaining capital from sports. Due to the market sizes for segregated gendered sports, bringing the two together would seriously hinder potential profit.
Aside from financial reasons, the clear physical disparity between men and women possess another issue when it comes to integrating sports. In 2015, the average height of an NBA player is 6’5, while the average height for a WNBA player is 5’11”. In addition to the near 7-inch average height difference, men are also stronger than women, which causes a further issue in integrating sports. Men, who are physically stronger than women, tend to have greater muscle mass, denser, stronger bones and a higher count of testosterone-induced muscular hypertrophy.
As a result of the difference in physical build, the risk of injury for women is greatly increased. According to Mary Lloyd Ireland, an M.D. from Lexington, Kentucky, women are more likely to suffer injuries to their ACL’s than men, mainly due to the ligament being smaller. This has a negative impact, mainly because the ACL serves as the main stabilizer of the knee. It is not just the ACL that is an issue, though. For sports that have concerns with CTE allow for the integration, the issues of player brain safety will continue to pose a threat to the validity of the sport.
Lastly, integrating sports could have a large implication on societal issues in the United States. During the previous year’s, one issue that largely arose was the often arrests of professional male athlete due to physically abusing their significant other. Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy were thrown in the public spotlight for their cases of domestic violence against their respective other. This caused public outrage and several on-field disciplinary changes from the National Football League.
As the NFL faced pressure to change their rules, public organizations such as NoMore.org and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence continued to advocate against domestic violence. With years of advocating and voicing concerns, these organizations, along with many others, have served as emotional outlets for women who suffer from domestic abuse.
Sports such as football, boxing and mixed-martial arts pride and market themselves to males that enjoy watching physical bouts for entertainment. By allowing integrated sports that thrive themselves off of their physicality and aggression would undermine the work done on a societal level to shy away from domestic abuse, as men physically abusing women would become nationally broadcasted events, which can lead to higher abuse rates.
Financially, it is hard to see an existence in which both men and women can equally participate in integrated sports. Along with the disparity in the value of these franchises, the value of players will continue to separate if sports are integrated. In addition, the negative physical and societal influences that come with integrated leagues far outweigh the positives. Women would not only become more subject to injury, but men throughout society would view televised events in which men are physically dominating and acting as aggressors towards women. This would have a negative impact on today’s societal issue of violence towards women. While in theory it is nice to see men and women play sports on an integrated field, in reality, the playing fields would continue to promote an unequal platform in sports for men and women.