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Oh Really?

Extending the female athlete spotlight past Mo’Ne Davis

Marketplace Staff Aug 22, 2014

It’s been a particularly cruel week – month – of news.

Ferguson. Ukraine. The murder of journalist Jim Foley.

I found a small glimmer of solace in a fastball. One pitched by an extraordinary 13-year-old kid from Philadelphia. Standing 5’4″, not much over 100 pounds, throwing at 70 miles per hour, at the heart of a remarkable little league team.

Oh yeah, and she happens to be a girl.

Of course, I’m talking about Mo’Ne Davis. She’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on TV, held out both as a sensation and maybe a pioneer for girls and women in sports.

On the one hand, hell yes. On the other, she’s just, you know, an athlete.

I’m terminally allergic to the phrase “throw like a girl,” even if it’s being reclaimed and adopted as a badge of pride. Because it’s always a reminder of second class citizenship in the realm of athletics.

Of that fact that there is a law, Title IX, to ensure that girls get equal treatment and equal funding (indeed, though Title IX is mostly associated with athletics, it’s actually much broader).

Davis has spoken of her desire to play basketball for the University of Connecticut’s famed program when she’s older. I hope she gets a chance to do that.

Maybe her rise can also be a chance to talk about the continuing inequities in sports funding, for women and for men. The Women’s Sports Foundation notes that, “even though female students comprise 57 percent of college student populations, female athletes received only 43 percent of participation opportunities which is 56,110 fewer participation opportunities than their male counterparts.”

There are legitimate, thoughtful arguments to be had about whether revenue-generating college sports (usually men’s football and basketball) should help cover the bills for other sports. And whether the NCAA should compensate its athletes (as a judge recently ruled they must, in part).

After the camera lights are off the dazzling Mo’Ne, let’s keep talking about this, so another girl gets the chance to pitch, or run, or play.

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