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You Play Ball Like a Girl: Debunking the Myth That Sportswomen Are Not Marketable

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What if I told you that a few photos of a sweatshirt, delivered at the perfect time, cracked a case that had stumped some of the world’s greatest marketing minds

What if I told you that a few photos of a sweatshirt, delivered at the perfect time, cracked a case that had stumped some of the world’s greatest marketing minds for more than twenty years? What if I told you that a dismissed lawsuit played an integral part in this? One made possible by a rainy night in Couva, Trinidad? Or that all of this, hundreds of years in the making, could aid a wrongfully incarcerated man in being freed after spending twenty two years in prison, and pioneer one of the largest-scale social justice movements of the 21st century? All catalyzed by the effects of a global pandemic? If I told you, would you believe me? But let’s get back to that sweatshirt for now.<br/>In January 2020, the Coronavirus was a seemingly distant issue for another part of the world to most Americans. A generation that had seen the likes of H1N1 and Ebola come, cause irrational panic, and subsequently disappear had grown complacent with regard to unknown diseases. On March 9th, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert took a defiant step in dispelling fears of COVID-19 by touching every microphone in the room at the end of an interview. Two days later, a test revealed that he had contracted the virus, the first professional athlete to do so. The NBA suspended all activities, and thus began the succession of sports leagues across the nation suspending their seasons as global infection numbers rose. But we humans are resilient. As weeks became months, the NBA and WNBA were able to engineer “bubbles” to play in: isolated areas with only the players and essential personnel to play the games, equipped with safety precautions and persistent testing. With no fans allowed inside, social media and media members provided the only glimpse into the “bubble” that ordairy fans would get.<br/>The mornings of July 25th and 26th, as the players arrived for the first games of the day and were snapped by photographers, many sported orange hoodies with the trademark white WNBA logo in the center, to promote the start of the WNBA’s “bubble” season that summer. This sent the internet into a frenzy. “#OrangeHoodie” was trending across all social media platforms, the item sold out on many websites, and more people than ever were talking about the WNBA online. That season, WNBA viewership spiked. More people watched the WNBA than ever before, even with the NBA’s playoffs taking place at the same time. How, then, did a single orange hoodie change the future of marketing the WNBA? What does that tell us about other women’s sports that have similarly struggled with attention and viewership? What role does media exposure play in all of this; do we perceive women differently in the media than we do men? Are these issues rooted in deeper societal prejudices, or are women’s sports simply quantifiably less entertaining?<br/>On a journey to find the answers to these questions, I learned a lot about the relationship of media and culture, about sport, and about the outstanding untold stories of American sportswomen. However, the most important thing I found was that women are marketable. After long being denied the opportunities and exposure they deserve, American culture has as a result pushed women to the background under the guise of them not being demanded or marketable. This could not be further from the truth. They are not demanded because they are not seen. Investing in sportswomen would not only create a better future for all women, but for all people. How, then, is this achievable? How will the powers that be allow for changes to be made? How can we as individuals be receptive to this change? In this thesis, I will take you on a journey where media is fun and fair, and where the future is female.

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  • 2021-05