I'm actually disappointed in myself for not noticing that during Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast, it was repeatedly mentioned that the city of Seattle hasn't been home to a champion in pro sports since 1979. Problem is that the Seattle Storm won a pair of WNBA titles in 2004 and 2010.
On Twitter, Storm CEO and President Karen Bryant took umbrage to the slight.
— Karen Bryant (@KBSeattleStorm) February 3, 2014
Lauren Jackson, who was a member of both championship teams took it a step further.
Jayda Evans, a sports columnist for the Seattle Times echoed Jackson's sentiments in a column.
“It’s time to look at this quantifier for what it is — sexist,” Evans wrote. “The WNBA is the only successful women’s professional league in America. That makes it major. And that has to be recognized. Period. Finding a way to not mention it when simply throwing out a list of titles attached to a city is blatantly disregarding women’s pro sports and a city’s pride in its teams’ accomplishments.”
There is a segment of the sporting community which is still dragging sexist views around like a rotting corpse, however, the aspersions cast here are misdirected. As the British comic Ricky Gervais once opined, "just because you're offended, doesn't mean you're right."
Evans and Jackson jumped the shark by labeling Fox's omission sexism without providing context. The assumption is presumably based on the idea that Fox's broadcasters purposely ignored Seattle's title on the basis that it was won in a women's sport.
Women's sports still has an uphill battle to fight for the popularity and long-term viability of their sport. Their Super Bowl snub was emblematic of that battle. Women's basketball just doesn't have the same cultural significance as men's hoops and as a result, their two titles were swept under the rug alongside the accomplishments of Major League Soccer clubs.
The truth is that it's as difficult to find women's hoops on television these days as it is to read columns online from the Seattle Times without a subscription. A decade ago, at the height of their popularity, clashes between the WNBA's elite teams were being played on NBC during the NBA's offseason when the only sport they competed against for media attention was Major League Baseball.
I have as much evidence that it was sexism that as Evans and Jackson do.
However, men's soccer is trapped in a similar cage of cultural apathy despite ESPN's best attempts to increase the sport's popularity. Over on the east coast in D.C., the Washington Post and numerous other outlets have written ad nausea about The District’s 22-year pro sports championship drought. Should MLS' D.C. United, 2004 MLS Champions, be insulted? Probably. Despite consecutive MLS championships, the LA Galaxy weren't thrown a single parade. At least the Storm were given that courtesy.
To that same effect, only 5,000 attended their 2010 parade, which was just a fraction of the 400,000 lining streets and curbs for the Miami Heat's 2011 celebration.
However, most fans' aren’t very passionate about sports beyond the Big Four of MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL. La Opinión Sports editor Gabriel Ochoa most sports coverage is o Mexican soccer teams rather than the two-time champion LA Galaxy to appease their readers’ requests. As fledgling leagues they don’t inspire the same level of collective passion or vitriol and captivate the attention of entire communities. If sports fans were Tiger Woods, the WNBA and MLS would be considered the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Big Four are the majors Woods is usually out of contention for by Sunday–just like the Wizards by March.
Being vigilant to prejudice is a prudent approach, but as a society we've got to begin being more prudent in throwing around accusations. Just to be clear, this isn't some diatribe targeting sexism, feminists or women's basketball. It's broader than that.
This is emblematic of the confirmation bias, a process that selectively perceives issues from an individual’s subconscious based on past experiences. Confirmation biases produce hypotheses that are impossible to prove or disprove. Wildly tossing accusations of prejudice around at the sight of minimal slights is a crutch doesn't get us anywhere. It's an individual’s right to surmise intentions using their own reasoning, but this one doesn't stick to the wall.
On Monday morning, I got a call from an individual I actually respect suggesting that Russell Wilson was snubbed for Super Bowl MVP because he was a young black man that humiliated Peyton Manning. If Doug Williams hadn't won Super Bowl XXII MVP after dismantling John Elway's Broncos or if Desmond Howard wasn't named Super Bowl XXXI MVP over the golden boy Brett Favre, maybe I would have given it more credence. If you analyze Lordes' Grammy-winning track "Royals" closely enough, you can formulate a 1000 word column dissecting why it was racist.
On a lighter note, because I attended UGA during the Tebow years, I’ve been accused of being biased against the University of Florida for years.
Unbeknownst to most people, I grew up a Florida fan in D.C. and it was the first school I visited when I began touring colleges. I was adamant in blogs before Tebow’s sophomore season that based on my reservations about Matt Stafford and what I’d seen in spring practices from Tebow in 2007, he’d have a better college career than Matt Stafford. In fact, I subconsciously went a little overboard with my coverage of the Gators basketball program in January. I attended UGA for the journalism program. Its just business, but I can dish it right back at UF.
Jackson has likely been the target of sexism in the past from cave dwellers because of her status as a women's basketball player, but this wasn't an attack on women’s pro basketball. Fox and every other sports media outlet that used that stat were being myopic, but so was Jackson.