When asked how to break the tie between Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh to determine who gets to represent the US in the 100-meter dash in this summer’s Olympic games, Justin Gatlin suggested they mud wrestle. While he was only joking, it is this kind of commentary that calls into question the true existence of gender equality in athletics.
Just 3 days following the 40th anniversary of Title IX, Gatlin’s comment, sincere or not, begs the question of whether women’s and men’s sports will ever hold the same level of respect. When the talent of Olympic- caliber female athletes cannot be taken seriously by their male counterparts, this lack of support serves as yet another hurdle these women must surmount.
In a society where the history of women’s athletics is characterized by overachievement by a few for the sake of opportunity creation for many, I wonder when (if?) the day will come when women will have sufficiently proven themselves and can compete on a global stage without others questioning or undermining their abilities. Women like Billie Jean King, Wilma Rudolph, Althea Gibson and Florence Griffith-Joyner set world records and broke down barriers, validating their own abilities and opening doors for women like Mia Hamm, Venus and Serena Williams, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Diana Taurasi and all the others we admire today.
Justin Gatlin’s statement is a mere glimpse of a mindset that is all too pervasive in our society today. However, there are far too many historical icons that put their careers and reputations on the line to create equal opportunities for women in sports for us to allow this myopia to persist.
Original article: http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-justin-gatlin-felix-tarmoh-20120626,0,1884465.story
Race been intricately intertwined with sport throughout history and has been used to break down some of the most ominous barriers. Moments like those of the 1968 Olympics or the 1995 Rugby World Cup demonstrate the power sport wields to transcend social injustice and bridge racial divides. More than a tool for civil rights, many athletes have testified about the power of sport in their own lives- creating opportunities, inspiring dreams and sparking ambition. And for many African- American athletes, the experiences that have most dramatically shaped their lives often hinge on both race and sport. To then be offered a product that, in my opinion, mocks two hot-button social injustices that disproportionately affect African- Americans- slavery and incarceration- is deplorable.
So I have one question: HOW did this make it off the drawing board??? I find it quite disturbing that, throughout what is typically an 18-month footwear development process, the Adidas leadership team failed to recognize the disastrous connotation this design embodies. It took anuproar from the public, proliferated via social and nationally syndicated media, to cause Adidas- a company that claims to be “committed to producing original, forward-thinking products”- to question the viability and marketability of this shoe. Quite backwards, to say the least. A global brand, or anyone for that matter, cannot afford to be so future-oriented that it fails to reflect on the past and what bearings it may have on the present and future. Slavery is certainly an issue with an infinite forward reach, as it defines nearly 300 years of black culture in America; incarceration continues to disproportionately plague African-Americans to this day.
Our society cannot take lightly the intricacies of race and how it has become so deeply entrenched in every facet of humanity, sport and fashion included. Adidas made the right decision in withdrawing its plans to make the shoes available for purchase this summer, but only time will tell if that will be enough to preempt a loss of market share on account of offending and alienating a demographic that makes up a significant portion of the basketball shoe market.