When Will the World of Sports Become a Hospitable Place for Women?

by Jayati Ramakrishnan

Staff Writer

Another college is in the spotlight for an alleged sex scandal: Andre McGee, a former coach of the University of Louisville basketball team has been accused of attempting to hire escorts and strippers to have sex with and dance for members of the college basketball team.

As a new sex scandal involving not one or two people, but a whole team of college athletes, takes over news headlines, the question arises again: why is the world of athletics an inhospitable place for women?

The escort who outed the team, Katina Powell, was on television program “The View” last week to talk about the incidents. Powell said she had attempted to contact the NCAA to tell her story, but was ignored by the college athletics governing body. Powell then took her story to a publisher, and is now selling her book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules.”

Show hosts asked Powell about her experiences with the team, and the theme of their questions centered around one topic in particular: why was she coming forward with this information?

“Did something happen that made you want to come forward?” asked host Raven-Symone. “Did something go awry?”

Another host pointed out that everything had been consensual, and all participants were of legal age, expressing confusion as to what Powell’s intentions were with trying to tell her story.

“Was it about the money?” she asked. Powell admitted that she was interested in the money, but added that she wanted people to know what really goes on in colleges before they send their children there.

On the surface, this might not look like an issue of women’s rights. While controversial, the women engaged in those activities with consent, and were of legal age.

But it’s a women’s rights issue because it highlights a bigger problem: by condoning, and even facilitating this type of activity, major institutions, such as college sports teams like Louisville, are teaching their students that women are not people, but sexual objects - and ones that can be purchased. They may not see it this way, but this sends a message to the athletes on their team, and to young men everywhere: we don’t value women.

The concept of teaching men to respect women from a young age, in order to prevent rape, sexual assault, and gender inequality, are not new, and they’re discussed in many different contexts. And it’s great to keep having those conversations. But events like this one, even if all the sex was consensual, show very clearly that those lessons are not being learned.

Any team that hires women specifically to entertain and have sex with its players is not one that respects women. Treating women like a purchasable commodity is not the way to teach young men that women are equal to them. If men do not see women as people, they’ll learn to view them as objects.

It's also problematic because the world of sports is slanted in favor of men. Even during Powell's interview, her hosts couldn't understand why she'd come forward with her story. They were convinced it was about the fame. Even when Powell admitted she wanted to make money from her book, it was hard for them to understand the concept that she might also be trying to shed light on a problematic situation.

This incident may be an example of a consensual encounter. But it’s also an example of one of the reasons gender inequality and sexual assault are problems in our country: if wildly successful, visible athletes don’t respect women, nor will the impressionable young minds who look up to them.