Despite the success of many female athletes representing the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics, the legislative reform largely responsible for the growth and success of women’s sports in the United States — Title IX — has been conspicuously absent from media coverage of the games.
The passage of Title IX in 1972 led to an explosion of women’s participation in collegiate sports. The law forbids most educational programs which receive federal funding from discriminating against participants based on sex, and specifically requires equal opportunity in athletic programs for men and women. The National Center for Education Statistics found that thanks to Title IX, women’s participation in college-level sports has increased dramatically, particularly in the last decade.
The 2014 Winter Olympics provides even more evidence that the law has had a lasting effect on post-collegiate athletics as well. In the women’s two-person bobsled, American women achieved history by taking home silver and bronze medals at the same Olympics. Each of the four women medaling in the event — Elana Meyers,Lauryn Williams, Aja Evans, and Jamie Greubel — participated in collegiate athletics before adapting to Olympic bobsled competition thanks to Title IX. The other American team competing in the medal round — Lolo Jones and Jazmine Fenlator — was also comprised of athletes who participated in college sport programs that likely owe their existence to educational reforms brought about by Title IX.
Furthermore, this year’s gold medal match in women’s hockey featured the two best teams in the world, the United States and Canada; of the two teams’ 42 combined athletes, 36 played collegiate hockey in the United States (Olympic rosters here and here).
In 2012, when the law’s 40th anniversary coincided with the Summer Olympics in London, America’s athletic successes garnered praise for the law. Numerous outlets reported on the role of Title IX in leveling the playing field for American female athletes. Media outlets like ESPN and Sports Illustrated dedicated airtime and column space about the role of Title IX for American Olympians. The United States national team celebrated the anniversary with a lengthy and informative piece on its official website. The law was celebrated on The New York Times‘ official London 2012 blog.
But despite continued Olympic achievement for the United States’ women’s teams in this year’s Winter Olympics, Title IX has received little attention from media this time around.
A Media Matters review of current Olympic coverage from three major print outlets — The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal — revealed no substantive mentions of Title IX as it relates to current or former American Olympians since the start of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games on February 7. A further review of transcripts from broadcast evening — ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS — and cable evening and prime time — CNN, Fox News, MSNBC — news coverage of the 2014 Olympics shows a similar lack of coverage concerning Title IX’s role in encouraging and supporting American female athletes.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening (defined as 5 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and network broadcast news (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS) from February 7, 2014 through February 20, 2014. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Olympics or so chi or title nine or title 9 or title ix.
Media Matters conducted Nexis and Factiva (for The Wall Street Journal) searches for print articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post from February 7, 2014 to February 21, 2014, using the search terms: Olympics or so chi or title nine or title 9 or title ix.
The following television programs were included in the data: PBS NewsHour, World News with Diane Sawyer,Evening News (CBS), Nightly News with Brian Williams, The Situation Room, Crossfire, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, Piers Morgan Live, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The Kelly File, The Ed Show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. For shows that air re-runs, only the first airing was included in data retrieval.