Despite Action Packed Plays, Girls Basketball Stands Remain Empty

By Bret Russell

Photo by Roni Blank

Senior Kaitlyn Quinn shoots a floater, scoring two points for the Groves girls varsity basketball Team on March 26; unfortunately, though, no one saw this intense play unfold because the student body was not offered tickets.

Fans filled the stands at the boys basketball senior night game this March 17, but the girls’ senior night stands remained empty.

Why? Covid-19 reduced capacity all year; however, for once the pandemic was not to blame for the lower attendance at the girls’ game. Not getting the publicity their hard work earns is a common theme throughout all levels of women's basketball, whether it be at the collegiate, professional, or high school level.

A recent example of this inequality would be during this Women and Men’s 2020-2021 March Madness. The women’s NCAA teams that made the tournament were treated unfairly in more ways than one. Some of these inequalities that occurred were the availability and amount of equipment, including weights and other workout/recovery equipment. There were also discrepancies in both the amount and quality of food that they were treated to, the clothes provided from NCAA, and brand sponsorships.

The equipment that women were given in the beginning rounds before the sweet sixteen was insanely unfair in comparison toward what the men received: dumbbells, weighing up to 30 pounds, yoga mats, and exercise bands/balls. The inquiry between women’s and men’s professional basketball flooded social media with the side by side comparison of the men’s gym, which included personal barbells and heavy plates. After thousands of Instagram users called attention to this variation, the NCAA dismissed their concerns by shifting blame to the pandemic.

“Some of the amenities teams would typically have access to have not been as available inside the controlled environment,” NCAA vice president Lynn Holzman said.

This statement is easily contradicted by the fact that the men's NCAA basketball teams did not experience the same shortage of equipment, and coronavirus and its respective restrictions doesn’t discriminate based on gender. The only difference between tournaments was that the women’s was held in San Antonio, Texas whereas the men’s took place in Indiana. While location should not have affected the amount of workout/ weight equipment, the relatively more relaxed COVID guidelines in Texas versus Indiana contradicts the NCAA’s claim that an abnormal environment due to COVID restrictions was to blame for inadequate treatment of female players.

Discrimination against female basketball players was also seen locally this year. Groves limited fan attendance to basketball games to just two tickets per player this year. The only time this rule was broken was when fifty tickets were auctioned off for the boys varsity senior night game. There was pent up demand for basketball tickets since pre-Covid this was a go to source for after school entertainment. Having the school not raffle off tickets to the girls basketball game worsened an already serious problem for female basketball: unequal viewership. By not offering tickets to the girls’ senior night game, we did not even give the opportunity for students to support female athletics. Friends want to support each other, others want to simply have plans on the weekend. Even if all fifty seats were filled, presenting the student body with an opportunity to watch the girls basketball game would have increased fan attendance and support. Raffling out tickets to both gender’s games would have been an easy change and actually made the school more money too.

Photo by Roni Blank

The Groves varsity girls basketball coach Simkins holds the 2021 Champion trophy following the team’s win on March 26. The win of this championship demonstrates their strength as a team and proves they are a worthy team to watch despite the empty stands.

Along with lack of financial support, stereotypes about girls vs boys basketball leaves the girls with fewer fans.

When Freshman Mitchell Woodford thinks of attending basketball games, his first thoughts go to men’s varsity games and, according to Woodford, many feel the same. Woodford said that boys basketball is known as more entertaining, and this is why it earns more publicity than girls basketball.

Lowering the rims may earn girls more viewership by not only increasing the intensity of the game with more dunks but by also getting more footage of great plays that occur each game. Lowering rims not only allows girls to overcome the genetic height disadvantage, but it also would increase the amount of captivating plays in a women's basketball game. At the professional level in the United States (WNBA) there have only been twenty-two in game dunks throughout the existence of the league, while in the NBA there have been over one hundred fifty thousand dunks. With more exciting play, comes more tickets to be sold and revenue generated for the team. When people go to basketball games, they are looking for insane plays and posterizing dunks. But with women's rims being at 10 foot tall you not only have a slower pace of play, but you have less of an opportunity to see dunks and not as many advertisement opportunities such as ESPN top 10 qualifying highlights.

Another way that women's basketball could get more viewership is lowering the price of tickets. By lowering the price of tickets, fans have greater incentive to go to games. Many spectators simply enjoy the environment of being in a stadium and would gladly go watch a game so long as the tickets are affordable, especially after missing out on almost a whole year of sports due to the pandemic. While this still perpetuates an inequality in pay, it may pay off in more fans, and later, more money.

The discrimination experienced by female athletes plagues all levels of competition. Whether it's at the professional level, collegiate, or at my own highschool, females are challenged by sports inequality.

As a basketball player, I have even seen fellow athletes give positive messages about the women's level of basketball, especially complimenting girls basketball players for their strategy during winning games.

When boys basketball players can see the excitement of girls games, not all problems are due to fan turn-outs, or rather lack of; there is unequal broadcasting/ marketing towards the public and less money being put into female team development at collegiate and the professional level. Inadequate publicity, leads to lower fan turnout, then leading to income imbalances for professional players. Systemic changes at all levels are needed before this vicious cycle can be broken.

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