Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sex sells? ... Not.

Although conventional wisdom might tell us that female athletes who showcase their sexuality through magazine photo spreads are increasing interest in women's sports, a pilot study by the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport suggests otherwise. Apparently, such coverage doesn't draw men and alienates women's sports fans. As SI's Aditi Kinkhabwala suggests, at least part of the reason for sexualized coverage could be because of the prevalence of men in decision-making positions. Ultimately, the positioning of female athletes as pseudo-cover girls is a losing proposition because it diminishes the sporting value of these women and female athletics in general.

The dynamics of race, sports and journalism

ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski covered Morehouse College's Black Athlete Forum, an event this week to kick off the college's new sports journalism program. The forum brought journalists and athletes together to talk about the disparities in minority representation in sports departments and about the oftentimes-negative coverage of Black athletes. Although the most publicized moments of the evening came in a charged exchange between Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer and journalist Jason Whitlock, I hope the lasting impact from this forum is in igniting interest in sports journalism among the students who attended. A greater presence of dedicated, well-trained minority journalists will benefit sports coverage immensely.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tip of the iceberg?

The cover story on USA Today's sports section addresses point-shaving in college basketball. The story reviews involvement of University of Toledo players in a scheme that involved working against the point-spread in games. The story recounts other major betting scandals in college athletics, including cases at Arizona State and Northwestern during the 1990s.
USA Today's story is a relatively rare look at the influence of gambling on college athletics, especially considering that a study published last year estimates point-shaving as a factor in 5% of games involving large spreads. On top of that, an NCAA study estimates involvement in gambling by male athletes at around 35 percent. Last year, Christine Brennan also pointed to NCAA documentation that about 5% of D1 players say they've taken money to play poorly or knew someone who did.
It was good to see the USA Today story today -- but the issue of point-shaving in college athletics needs a lot more attention.

Monday, May 07, 2007

USA Today on the trouble with Title IX

USA Today ran an op-ed in this morning's edition that considers whether Title IX should be changed (weakened). In an argument against changing the law, Title IX is neverthless charged with compounding the financial pressures faced by college athletics programs. A counterpoint piece written by the counsel to Equity in Athletics Inc. (an anti-Title IX group) challenges the proportionality test for Title IX, a common argument used to sidestep the real reason why Rutgers and other schools have recently cut their athletic programs: to feed men's revenue-generating (but usually not profitable) sports.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Implicit racism in sports: Who knew?

An unpublished research (and not yet peer-reviewed) report finds implicit bias among White refs against Black players in the NBA. The report, which experts hired by The New York Times say is more credible than the NBA's own research, has met a storm of protest from the NBA, journalists and athletes. But research has shown, time and time again, that implicit racial bias (see for yourself) is a reality. The mythology that sports is a great racial equalizer, however, is hard to shake.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Deford on Title IX: a Colbert-style salute

Erin Buzuvis and her colleagues' Title IX blog offers insightful analysis of Frank Deford's NPR commentary this morning about Title IX. Essentially, Deford perpetuates myths about the law but also offers useful insight about how schools could more fairly allocate money for men's sports.

Sports on the business pages

I wrote sometime back about the marriage of sports and business sections. According to an article in, ProTrade is aiming to launch 'the first real stock market in athletes.' The article makes a good case that trends are pointing the way toward the viability of a financial market "trading in jocks." Truth be told: It really sounds like nothing more than a more sophisticated form of gambling, a practice as old as sports itself.