Fair Play Joins in Celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day

February 5, 2019

[PHOTO: Fair Play staff attend the 2019 Stanford University Girls and Women in Sports Day Celebration & Stanford Women’s Basketball Game vs. Cal]

February 6, 2019 marks the 33rd annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day celebrating the extraordinary achievements of women and girls in sports. This year’s theme Lead Her Forward honors the many ways that sports give girls and women the tools to achieve excellence and realize their boundless potential.

Fair Play for Girls in Sports (“Fair Play”), a project of Legal Aid at Work, joins the country in celebrating the many positive benefits that girls and women gain and give back when they play sports. Fair Play specifically seeks to ensure female youth in underserved areas, such as low-income communities, and communities of color, can take part in sports teams and experience equity on such teams by enforcing laws such as Title IX and California’s Fair Play Act / AB 2404. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in sports programs run by schools receiving federal funding at the K-12 levels and in colleges and universities. Similarly, the Fair Play Act bolsters Title IX’s goal of equitable athletic programs by requiring gender equity in community sports leagues run by and through local park and recreation departments.

Despite these laws, surveys estimate that just thirty-six percent of park-run and park-hosted competitive sports opportunities (or team slots) go to girls, even though girls comprise roughly fifty percent of community youth and wish to participate in sports on an equal basis. In addition, a smaller share of athletic program slots go to girls in comparison to boys throughout the nation’s schools, despite girls representing roughly fifty percent or more of public school student bodies. This means far too many girls are relegated to the sidelines and missing out on the myriad benefits of participation.

That is why it is essential we not only celebrate female athletes, but we focus on addressing the inequality still present in sports. Many female students are simply unaware of their Title IX and Fair Play Act rights. Enabling girls and their advocates to speak up is vital because such voices can invoke change. Last year, a brave nine year old female athlete, Riley Morrison, wrote a letter to NBA star Stephen Curry to complain that “Curry 5” basketball sneakers were not made for girls. Morrison was starting a new basketball season and wanted to wear Curry’s new signature shoe. Curry rapidly responded and made sure the shoe becomes available in both boys’ and girls’ sizes, demonstrating the power of what a young female athlete can do. Curry also, for the first time, hosted a free all-girls basketball camp helping ensure that girls continue to be the next generation of women basketball players.

Another example of a young female athlete demonstrating this year’s theme, Lead Her Forward, is Mo’ne Davis a seventeen year old senior high school student at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia who became one of the country’s brightest female sports stars when she pitched a shutout at the Little League World Series in 2014, going on to accomplish so much more. Not only was Mo’ne the first African-American girl to participate in the Series, but her pioneering effort was celebrated by President Obama, who invited her to the White House, and she became the 2014 SportsKid of the year. Mo’ne has committed to playing softball at Hampton University and plans to major in communications, hoping to become a motivational speaker for children and to host her own television sports show. Mo’ne embodies the sport-school-workplace connection such that athletics participation is proven to help girls live healthier lives, graduate at higher rates, and succeed in employment.

Riley, Mo’ne, and girls and women across the country are courageously forging new paths, to ensure female athletes experience a truly level playing field, once and for all. Fair Play encourages everyone to take action this National Girls and Women in Sports Day by supporting a female athlete friend or family member, by attending a women’s sporting event, helping a girl sign up for a new girls’ sports league, watching women’s sports on television, or sharing with others about equity mandates such Title IX and the Fair Play Act.

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