Just one month after the nation celebrated the 40-year anniversary of Title IX, a law that states no one shall be denied equal treatment on the basis of sex, the threat of inequality between boys and girls on the athletic stage still looms over Oregon.
Last week, Randy Anderson accused the Seaside School District of not providing equal facilities for the girls’ softball program and intends on suing them in U.S. District court on the grounds of Title IX violations.
Seaside wouldn’t be the first Oregon school district to face accusations of not complying with Title IX. Just last year, a blanket Civil Rights suit was filed against 60 Oregon school districts that included nearly 100 high schools for not providing enough opportunities for female athletes. Though the suit was dropped by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights, the fact that the case was even filed speaks volumes about the state’s treatment of female athletes.
As accusations continue to arise throughout the state, almost annually in the last decade, it is clear that Oregon has major steps to take in closing the gender gap. The frequency of these allegations is perhaps the most concerning part, as it suggests the threat of a lawsuit has done little to change attitudes and actions about equity on the athletic field.
For many, the problem appears as an overreaction by girls’ sports. Boys represent the majority of athletes and participants and therefore are provided more facilities and greater funding. On the surface, this logic seems fair but in reality, that is exactly what Title IX attempts to remedy. Title IX doesn't comment on the amount of athletes participating as a requirement for equal treatment. It only states that interested girls – regardless of the number - must be provided the same opportunities and resources as their male counterparts. That means Anderson’s daughter, Whitney, and the Lady Gulls softball team should have equal access to the same $1.2 million dollar turf field that the Seaside baseball team has.
Anderson’s lawsuit, however, is a part of a much larger picture. The incentive for girls and their parents to advocate for equal facilities is obvious but making others care and mobilizing support is another facet entirely. Especially in a state like Oregon, where the rain is prevalent and turf fields become a near necessity to keep games afloat, there are several teams throughout the state in need of more durable resources. But how does one rally greater support for girls’ athletics? As far as people can tell, the funds at most Oregon schools are dried up and unless the local news decides to make a spectacle of a Title IX case – which it usually doesn’t – few are even aware of the sweeping inequities across the state.
In order to rally support, for that is the main ingredient missing, it’s necessary to look at what inspires support of our athletes in the first place. When the football stadium is full, it isn’t just because we love the sport, but because we cheer their way to the state championship in hopes of bringing honor to schools and communities. And yet this attitude is one rarely adopted for sports outside of that realm. It is not just girls sports, many other boys sports get little love from the community as well, but with these continuous Title IX violations it seems that girls could benefit most from a little extra TLC.
In a recent issue of Sports Illustrated, Gary Smith devotes a 16-page spread to the question, “Why Don’t More Athletes Take a Stand?” To apply this question to Title IX and its missing activism, I would say it’s obvious that those who file for equal athletic rights feel neither support nor see results. When it comes down to it, whether or not the girls are treated fairly is a question that goes unasked or even worse, ignored. Only a month ago, the Oregonian boasted stories of Title IX success. This month, it buries a short story of recent sports inequity in the middle of the sports section.
My call to action for Oregonians is nothing drastic. Instead of going to see the local baseball game, go and watch the girls. Instead of sponsoring or donating to the football team, give the girls’ soccer program or cheerleaders a chance. This stands as a reminder that athletes don't just need equipment, they need community support, interest and an audience, whether they're on a million dollar baseball field or a rundown grass wetland of a softball field. Because in the end, it will take people not just hearing the complaints but seeing the disparity for themselves. For those who want to deny the necessity for a Title IX fuss, I encourage you to not speak until you see. It takes not just the family and friends of players but the Oregon community that can decide to make a difference and use Title IX to provide the level of equality it was intended to when enacted in 1972.
I sincerely hope that Whitney Anderson and the Lady Gulls softball team in Seaside get access to the field that they are legally entitled to. More than that, however, I hope this instance can succeed at bringing attention to the Title IX violations that are often ignored around the state.