Events Around Washington Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Title IX
WASHINGTON — Fifty years ago today, 37 words changed the game for women all around America. Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which Richard Nixon signed into law on June 23, 1972.
The law states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
On the eve of the anniversary, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Tennis Pro Billie Jean King and others gathered at an event hosted by the Global Sports Mentoring Program at the Capital One Arena.
The Global Sports Mentoring Program was an initiative launched by the U.S. State Department in 2012, allowing participants from around the world, specifically in the sports sector, to gather twice a year for a mentorship experience.
The 16 to 17 participants are chosen “from a list of nominees selected by U.S. Embassies across the world.” In their application, delegates must define a key issue that women and girls in sports or people with disabilities face in their countries.
During the mentorship experience, which takes place over the course of three weeks, the participants chosen for GSMP create an action plan on how to solve the issue they defined in their application, with the intention of implementing it when they return home.
Maya Mosley, a student athlete who will be running track next year at the University of Maryland, spoke at the GSMP event on Wednesday.
She called King the “ultimate trailblazer” and acknowledged that she wouldn’t be where she is today without King’s dedication to sports.
“My dreams are possible because of Title IX. And on behalf of young women like myself, I can promise you this — we will carry the baton of Title IX here at home and around the world so that we can blaze a trail just like my grandmother, my mother and so many amazing women here today,” Mosley said.
King reflected on all the work that has been done to promote women’s equality, thanks to Title IX, while also acknowledging that there is more work that must be done.
“Title IX is one of the most important pieces of legislation of the 20th Century. It is a law that speaks to the importance of gender equity in this country and stands as a benchmark of global significance,” King said.
When Title IX was passed in 1972, only 14.6% of athletes at the Olympic games in Munich were women. In 2016, 45% of all athletes at the Olympic games in Rio were women and by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo (held in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic), 49% of all the athletes were women.
“The reason women have access to sports today, including athletic scholarships, is because the law includes the word activity,” King said. “If we didn’t have that word in there, activity, [laughs] I don’t know what would have happened.”
King explained how there was a debate when the Title IX writers were originally writing the law on whether to include the word activity or not. Inevitably they decided to keep it in, in case they “forgot anything.”
“Without the word activity, women and girls would not have seen the growth in sports opportunities so I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve thanked him for leaving it in,” King said.
The first lady spoke on the role Title IX has played not just in sports, but within the classroom as well.
“Today we celebrate 50 years of incredible progress. Title IX has created generations of athletes. But, as Billie Jean said, it’s not just about sports. It’s made our schools and our colleges becoming more fair, more equitable places to learn,” Biden said.
“But it’s not just about education. Title IX is about who we are as a nation. It’s a promise that in America we believe that every girl deserves every opportunity today and for decades to come,” she added.
At an event hosted by CBS Sports on June 16, two of the hosts from CBS’s all female-hosted sports talk show “We Need To Talk,” held a taping of their show and panel afterward at American University, with the topic of Title IX.
The hosts were Summer Sanders, four time Olympic medalist, and Jamie Erdahl, a sports reporter for CBS. They spoke on all that has been done over the last 50 years since Title IX was established and all that still needs to be done today.
Erdahl, who is 33 years old, discussed how she never felt like she “didn’t belong” in a space. She compared this to the women who came before her that had to fight so hard for a more equitable space in sports and the classroom.
Erdahl spoke about her aunt who has been a women’s basketball referee since Erdahl was born. As she gained an understanding of what her aunt was doing, Erdahl mentioned to her how much she felt she was traveling to these games.
“She said it’s not nearly enough. That was, to me, so interesting to hear it phrased that way because it seemed like a lot, but maybe that’s because I was living my life in opportunity,” Erdahl told The Well News.
“Like I said on the show, I was born into a generation of Title IX athletes that just assumes that this is what we get. She is a woman who has been in basketball a long time and essentially has watched it develop and it didn’t seem like enough to her,” she added.
When Sanders was asked how we can strive to make Title IX the norm in the coming years, she said the most important thing to do is take notice.
“I was just talking to a group of high schoolers that were talking about the softball team versus the baseball team. They notice things aren’t the same — you need to go talk about it,” Sanders told The Well News.
“I would love for all the young girls who are learning about Title IX to know that they are now joining a team. It is not as if we expect this young generation to take the lead. They are now joining a mass group of amazing women who are going to help be that voice, but they need to practice now because eventually they will be leading the charge and they need to get comfortable doing that,” she said.
Natalie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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