Introducing Front and Center: A Women’s Sports Column

In the first edition of “Front and Center,” Columnist Melanie Schwimmer ’23 explains the rationale for the content she will cover going forward, and highlights the most important news stories in women’s sports from the past few weeks.

Introducing Front and Center: A Women’s Sports Column
In the first edition of "Front and Center," Columnist Melanie Schwimmer '23 explains the rationale for the content she will cover going forward, and highlights the most important news stories in women's sports from the past few weeks. Photo courtesy of Andy Miah.

As students, scholars, and humans, we ignore sports at our own peril. We have created — and ingrained ourselves in — a $620 billion beast of an industry, and it’s well past time to analyze it critically, to center the athletes and sports stakeholders that mainstream media ignores, to investigate the way politics and sports intersect, and to understand the multitude of ways sports rules our lives.

In the past week alone:

  • In a huge win for civil and workers’ rights, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team signed a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), running through 2028, that ensures equal pay with the men’s team. The agreement also ensures equality of fields, travel, accommodations, and coaching staff. Importantly, as stories of abuse come to light, the CBA cements a commitment to a safe work environment.
  • “The Queen of Basketball,” which documents the story of Lusia Harris, the first woman officially drafted by an NBA team, won an Academy Award.
  • Alexis Hopkins became the first woman ever drafted by an American professional baseball team for an on-field role when she was drafted by the Kentucky Wild Health Genomes of the Atlantic League, an official MLB professional league partner. She is expected to become the team’s bullpen catcher. Forty percent of the league’s athletes have MLB experience.
  • 4.8 million people tuned in to watch Serena Williams’ final match, as she concluded her playing career and began the next chapter of her legendary life.
  • Stephanie Gilmore won her eighth World Surfing League title, besting Olympic Champion Carissa Moore to make surfing history with the most WSL titles held by a woman.
  • Sue Bird played her final WNBA game, as the Seattle Storm lost to the Las Vegas Aces in Game Four of the WNBA semifinals, wrapping a G.O.A.T. worthy career. The win sent the Aces to the Final against the Connecticut Sun.
  • Canada Hockey beat the United States 2-1 to take home gold at the Women’s World Championship and win-back-to-back titles.
  • BYU put out a statement claiming they have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at an August home volleyball game against Duke, challenging the statements of multiple Black athletes on Duke’s team who started that a fan yelled the n-word whenever a Black player would step up to serve.
  • Women runners came together across the country to Finish Eliza’s Run, honoring Eliza Fletcher, a Tennessee schoolteacher who was murdered on her morning run. Women are speaking out about safe running conditions, fighting back against harassment and abuse suffered on runs at all hours. Multiple Amherst runners joined in on the national movement.
  • Athletic departments are reviewing their policies about abortion and contraception in light of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the unclear nature of abortion rights nationwide. Departments are calling for NCAA guidance.
  • Thirty-one current and former University of California Berkeley swimmers sent a letter to the UC Berkeley chancellor and other university leaders, calling on them to address the “toxic culture” within the highly regarded program in light of verbal and emotional abuse by Teri McKeever, the longtime coach of the women’s team.

The stakes of sports, particularly female and non-binary sports, are incredibly high for questions of civil rights, capitalism, and justice around the world. This column will center the stories of those who continuously lose air time to their male peers and will ask questions of the society sports has built.

The stakes of one story are at an all-time high, as WNBA superstar Brittney Griner faces nine years in a Russian penal colony for bringing cannabis oil for personal medicinal use into the country. Every day, basketball legend Dawn Staley posts how long Brittney Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia. In this column, I will join her: 209 days.

With this in mind, whether you are a die-hard sports fan, a casual viewer, a student athlete, or someone who believes sports play no role in their life whatsoever, this column is for you.

Welcome to Front and Center. I am so glad you are here.