In This Episode
Jordan Ligons, host of the Spinsters podcast and freelance Basketball journalist, sits in the host’s chair while Jason Concepcion takes a well deserved break from the grind now that the NBA season is over, and presides over a of couple of really important topics of conversation. Friday’s Supreme Court decision was one of those moments in American history that sent echoes through all corners of society, and the sports world is no exception. The overturning of Roe v Wade represents an extremely dark moment in the fight for women’s rights, and Rachel Bachman of the Wall Street Journal joined Jordan to discuss athlete reaction to the decision. Then, as Title IX turns 50, Jordan discussed the realities and limitations of the laws with Rachel Axon of USA Today.
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Rachel Bachman: In the 1970s, hardly anyone talked about breast cancer. It was taboo, really, until one of the first women to talk about it was Betty Ford. The president, Gerald Ford’s wife. And because she had it and she really was one of the first people to break down the taboo of talking about breast cancer. Now, you know, we know of millions of women who’ve had it, unfortunately, because that taboo is is no longer in existence. And what happens? The NFL has people wearing pink shoes and breast cancer awareness nights and donations and so on. That would not have happened before that taboo was broken.
Jordan Ligons: Hello and welcome back to Takeline. Jordan Ligons here. Host of the Spinsters podcast and a freelance basketball journalist. I’m with you today while Jason Conception takes a well-deserved break from the grind now that the NBA season is over. We’ve got a really important show for you today. Friday’s Supreme Court decision was one of those moments in American history that sent echoes throughout all corners of society. And the sports world is no exception. The overturning of Roe v Wade represents an extremely dark moment in the fight for women’s rights. And Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal joins us to discuss athletes reactions to the decision. Then, as Title IX turns 50, we discuss the realities and limitations of the laws with Rachel Axon of USA Today. I have so many feelings and emotions from this news. I think anger is the first one. I feel like I screamed, I cried. I read too much. I wanted to stop reading tweets in the news. It blows my mind that the decision, a very, very difficult decision, comes down to someone else making it for me as a woman, as a black woman. It’s layered. There’s so many levels to it. And I think anger is the number one feeling and also hurt for so many women because as we know with this recent decision, it does not ban abortions. There are still going to be unsafe avenues that women are going to be forced to take. And. That hurts me and hurts me that we’re we’re forcing that on to someone and not just saying like, hey, this is your body. Whatever you choose to do. I’m not even going to go down the road of what pro-life means and how we banned abortions before AR-15s. That’s a whole nother discussion for a different day. But I hope throughout this episode we can talk through it together because this is a really, really tough time. But specifically for sports, let’s gauge the sports world’s reaction with Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal. Friday was a horrible day. I think that’s almost an understatement in American history. The consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade will be innumerable in the days, months and years to come. But what we know for sure is that the decision has been met with outrage, disappointment and immediate resistance from all corners of society, including sports. The avalanche of negative reactions from across the sports spectrum has rung loudly. And here to help us document and discuss the conversation athletes are having around this latest American travesty. As Rachel Bachman, senior sports reporter of The Wall Street Journal. Rachel, welcome to Takeline.
Rachel Bachman: Thanks so much for having me, Jordan.
Jordan Ligons: Yay. Thanks for being here. I first want to start with your personal account, your story. When you learned the verdict on Friday, where were you? How did you see it? What was your first reaction?
Rachel Bachman: Honestly, I. I don’t exactly remember how I heard it probably on Twitter, like I hear about most news, but my reaction was similar to a lot of people and that people sort of knew this was coming because of the leak, but it was still stunning to see. I think this is the first time that the Supreme Court has actually taken away a right that it had previously granted. And so that fact alone was pretty shocking, no matter how how you come down on the law itself.
Jordan Ligons: And I was thinking about that, too, because of the leak. Imagine if we didn’t have that and this news just hit out of nowhere. It was a softer blow, but it’s still it still hurt. It was just terrible.
Rachel Bachman: It was shocking. It was definitely shocking. And it’s funny because we did have the leak and so a lot of people were prepared, but it was still shocking because the reality is always, I guess, a little different from the possibility.
Jordan Ligons: Yes. And in the sports world, I think a lot of people forget that athletes are humans first and women’s sports athletes, they are women’s first. So I know you’ve been following some of the reactions from a lot of athletes and people in the sports community over the weekend. Some of the biggest names have spoken out. Any comments in particular have stood out to you?
Rachel Bachman: Well, I think the most remarkable statement was from Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. Women’s National Team. And it just so happens that the ruling came down the day before the U.S. women’s team had a friendly game already scheduled, and they had a media availability scheduled. Megan Rapinoe is not scheduled to be on that media availability. They just usually make one player who happened not to be her that day and a coach available. And but she she chose to speak to the media because she has become you know, she’s been a captain of this team and she has become, as many people know, very outspoken on a whole range of issues. And she was fighting tears as she spoke about it. She called the decision sad and cruel. And, you know, what was was very emotional about it. And, you know, you just look at the statistics of you know, you look at opinion polls nationwide and so on about this issue. And, you know, generally speaking, younger people tend to favor abortion rights and women tend to favor abortion rights. And I haven’t seen this poll, but I would guess that probably female athletes tend to favor abortion rights above the national average. And so when you combine all of those things, you can draw the conclusion that many, many female athletes were very upset by this decision. And that’s what we saw play out in the reactions.
Jordan Ligons: Yeah, that video was so powerful of Megan Rapinoe. It was 9 minutes. She was just talking from the heart, fighting back tears, and it felt like she was talking for all of us. It was it was really amazing. But on the flip side of that, has anyone’s silence kind of surprised you or anyone not speaking out from leagues or anything else?
Rachel Bachman: Well, we we probably shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that the most the fastest and the the most outspoken teams and leagues about this were women’s teams and leagues. So we heard from the National Women’s Soccer League, which is the professional league for women’s soccer in the U.S. We heard from the WNBA Players Association very quickly. And then the most interesting reaction, I thought was from the NBA and WNBA, which issued a joint statement. And the NBA arguably has been the most progressive major U.S. men’s league in terms of becoming involved in social issues and being outspoken and so on. But it was interesting to me that that league issued a statement in conjunction with its women’s equivalent. I don’t it’s an interesting question whether the NBA, you know, if the WNBA didn’t exist, if the NBA would have issued that statement, I don’t know. Maybe it would have. But so far, I have not seen other major men’s leagues make statements on this issue. Maybe I missed it. But in about the 24 hours after this, the decision came down. I didn’t see anything from any other major men’s professional leagues.
Jordan Ligons: Does that surprise you at all or are we? I would hope that all the statements would be overflowing. But what do we need from male athletes and male leagues from this time? Like this is not the time to ghost us and be more silent.
Rachel Bachman: Well, it it actually doesn’t surprise me very much, because even as leagues have become more outspoken on various issues, they also have tended to be outspoken on issues that either their players care intensely about and are very outspoken about. So after George Floyd’s killing, we heard from the NFL, which, you know, that league really was not very outspoken about issues of racial justice before that. Some people would say very silent in some ways. And so it really that that, you know, there has been this change and shift in pro leagues to be more outspoken about issues. But at the same time, you know, in particular, the NFL and Major League Baseball have pretty large constituencies of conservative fans. They have large for one, they’re just very large fan bases. And two, they tend to be older fan bases than, for instance, the NBA or Major League Soccer, for instance. And so those things alone made me fairly unsurprised that they didn’t, at least initially, issue statements about this ruling and just stayed out of it.
Jordan Ligons: Right. Right. I know we heard from LeBron James and some other prominent individual male athletes. What do you think of if there was a male athlete listening to this right now? What do we kind of need from them to use their platform to help their female athletes kind of talk about this and or show support in any way? What would you think?
Rachel Bachman: Well, obviously, it’s an individual decision. Right. And since I’m a reporter, not a columnist, it’s not my job to advocate for certain things. But, you know, if if someone I mean, I think there is a level of empathy here that men could show in that this issue does disproportionately affect women. And that also, you know, one point I want to make is that this issue is often painted as, you know, abortion is completely elective and it only happens when someone’s been careless. And I think that’s sort of a very, very, very narrow look at things. There’s a lot of reasons why women in general and female athletes in particular can’t be on certain forms of birth control, can’t be on hormonal birth control, or maybe even can’t be on birth control at all. There are all sorts of context there. You know, there are reasons why women who who are pregnant, who got pregnant on purpose but have health challenges or complications can’t carry a pregnancy to term. And so I think those are the things that most upset many women because they fear that they can’t make those decisions now. And in particular, women in certain states are going to have a much harder time making those decisions. And so I just wanted to make that point that, you know, this is an issue that arguably affects women much more than men, obviously, but in particular, female athletes for whom their bodies are there are their livelihoods. You know, I don’t know if you probably remember, you know, years ago, the great sprinter Sonia Richards Ross talked in her memoir about how she’d had an abortion. It was an it was a completely agonizing decision and and very difficult. And how sort of the that decision is aftermath really complicated things with her then fiancee and husband partly because he couldn’t at a certain level, he couldn’t be involved. And so I think that’s just one example of many where women just carry a much heavier, heavier burden in this issue. And of course, female athletes in particular, that was right before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. So really awful, terrible position she was in to to make before those games.
Jordan Ligons: I immediately thought about her story when thinking about this and how this would you know, this ruling affects the sports industry. I think a lot of people might not see them connected in any way. But like I said at the top of this, women athletes are women first and their bodies, they have to be in shape. They have to do all these things and they’re in their prime. And there’s so much thing, their thoughts that have to go on. And that should be their decision when they would love to be a mom or start that process. Does this ruling affect the the sports industry? How else is it connected and tied together?
Rachel Bachman: You know, it’s it’s hard to articulate that because, well, of course, it affects women because it affects their bodies. And anything that affects women’s bodies is going to affect, you know, women’s sports. But here’s an example of something that I feel like has become a big issue because it’s become normalized to talk about. In the 1970s, hardly anyone talked about breast cancer. It was taboo, really, until one of the first women to talk about it was Betty Ford, the president, Gerald Ford’s wife. And because she had it and she really was one of the first people to break down the taboo of talking about breast cancer. Now, you know, we know of millions of women who’ve had it, unfortunately, because that taboo is is no longer in existence. And what happens? The NFL has people wearing pink shoes and breast cancer awareness nights and donations and so on. That would not have happened before that taboo was broken. And so this is just a very different situation. I think there’s still so much of a taboo about this issue that we don’t really the general public really doesn’t have any broader awareness of how prevalent abortions are. We just you know, we don’t because people don’t talk about them. It’s you know, Sonya Richards Ross stands out because she’s a rarity and having been so honest about it. And so I think that is one challenge of articulating how potentially profound this issue is. I mean, even aside from the choice issue, which is much broader than the number of women who end up having abortions for whatever reason, you know, it is just such it’s still such a taboo to talk about that we don’t have those broader discussions. And those casual I shouldn’t say casual, but you know, those conversations about helping make things better in some way, you know, and so like improving health care outcomes, for instance, for everybody, which which I think everybody can agree should happen. You know, there should be better health care and health support because a lot of the health care outcomes in this country are sub suboptimal for how a wealthy country are. So but so it’s just it’s very difficult to say what the ramifications of this are at this moment, because I don’t think that I don’t think we have a sense of how profoundly this issue has already affected women and female athletes because it is taboo. You know, so many of them have dealt with some variation of this issue in silence. And I think that’s going to continue as long as this is a taboo.
Jordan Ligons: Yeah, I agree with you. I think Sonya Richards Ross was incredibly brave to come forward and share her story. But I, I feel and I hope that other female athletes know that we we want to have that empathy. And if they do come forward and share their stories, it’s only and support and be able to put a face to this issue. I think a lot of times it is this taboo very far, different, far away thing, unless it becomes your story or a part of someone that you know. Thank you so much for being here and talking us through this. This was I feel like we were holding hands and going through this together. So thank you so much.
Rachel Bachman: Thank thank you, Jordan. It’s really we really are entering uncharted territory because, you know, really almost every female athlete alive right now has existed in a in a world of Roe. And so we’re now entering, you know, a new era. And so it’s very hard to say what that’s going to be like.
Jordan Ligons: Well. We’ll be we’re in this together. We got to hold hold each other up. She is Rachel Bachman, senior sports reporter at The Wall Street Journal. Rachel, thank you again for joining Takeline.
Rachel Bachman: Thanks so much, Jordan. Appreciate your time.
Jordan Ligons: In order to support our show, we need the help of some great advertisers, and we want to make sure those advertisers are ones you’ll actually want to hear about. But we need to learn a little more about you to make that possible. So go to podsurvey.com/takeline. That’s T A K E L I N E and take a quick anonymous survey that will help us get to know you better. That way we can bring on advertisers you won’t want to skip. Once you’ve completed the Quick Survey, you can enter for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. Terms and conditions apply again. That’s podsurvey.com/takeline. That’s T A K E L I N E. Thanks for your help.
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Jordan Ligons: In 1972, Title IX was enacted to protect students from sex based discrimination in any school or in any other educational program that receives funding from the federal government. 50 years later, the argument can easily be made that it must be strengthened in order to better serve and protect a more diverse spectrum of students and definition of sexual identity. Here to discuss the legacy of Title IX, as well as its future is Rachel Axon, an investigative sports reporter with USA Today. Rachel, welcome to Takeline.
Rachel Axon: Hello. Thank you for having me.
Jordan Ligons: Yay! Thank you so much for being here. I want to start with a zoom out and a macro view of Title IX. Last week was the 50th anniversary and it seemed like it was a party. And we were celebrating. We were talking about the history. But what are some of the circumstances in this country that led to the law originally being enacted? And what is this law supposed to protect?
Rachel Axon: So the simplest version is it protects from discrimination on the basis of sex at any school that receives money from the federal government, public school or private school. It’s a broad range. It’s kindergarten all the way up to graduate schools. And when it was first envisioned, they meant to address, you know, women not being allowed to get into graduate programs. And nobody kind of foresaw the effect that it’s had on sports and on athletics. And I think it’s fair to say the the landscape we’re in today would be virtually unrecognizable to anybody in 1972 when they were first seeking to pass this law. It’s obviously most well known for its impact on sports and athletics, although its protections apply much more broadly than that. When the law passed, there were fewer than 30,000 collegiate athletes who were women and then fewer than 300,000 high school athletes who were women. That’s now more than 3.4 million girls competing in high school and more than 219,000 women competing in NCAA. So certainly in terms of opening the doors, the opportunities, and then you look and you see the ripple effects, right? The skills, the the lessons, the things that we all know are good about sports for men. Women are reaping those benefits. And so, you know, there’s a study that showed 94% of women in the C-suite had a background in athletics. Certainly, I wouldn’t have my job if it’s not acceptable for women to play. It’s certainly not acceptable for women to to write about them. So there’s there’s so many ways in which it’s it’s opened the doors and the increase of opportunity has really changed things for women and girls.
Jordan Ligons: Yes, that is a beautiful description of it. I played college basketball. I would not have been able to with the scholarship without Title IX. And I did a story recently on the 37 Words documentary that ESPN just dropped. And it was kind of surprising that it became it started in education. I think it’s so sports is so forward facing. So a lot of people thought that that was the anchor of it, but it was education because it’s kind of the blanket statement of education and sports fit into that. I always found that interesting.
Rachel Axon: Yeah, there’s definitely a realization pretty immediately after it packs a pass because it says any program or activity. So this protects you. If you were in the marching band or if you’re in a STEM program or whatever other program or activity a school might sponsor. And in the seventies, they started to realize like, oh, oh, this might affect sports. And so you saw all these attempts to pass amendments to exempt football or exempt revenue producing sports, things like that that I think they realized pretty quickly after it passed that this was going to have an impact. But even then, it’s still has taken, you know, decades to do that.
Jordan Ligons: Yes. Yes. And I want to talk about your work, too, and what you did for USA Today. You and your colleague recently carried out a lengthy report on athletic programs at the nation’s top colleges and universities. What were some of your findings and specifically regarding roster inequalities on campuses?
Rachel Axon: Sure. So we’ve been working on this for more than a year, looking at different parts of, you know, compliance or ways schools can be measured with the law. Most recently, we came out with a story looking at proportionality, and there’s a way that schools can show compliance with how many opportunities they’re giving women. If if your school’s 60% women, then your athletic opportunities should be roughly close to that. And what we found is 87% of schools in the FBS could not show that, were not even close. Collectively, 110 schools would need to add 11,501 opportunities for women to get there. There’s two other ways they can show compliance, but those are very difficult as we outlined in our reporting. So just in terms of like even being able to get on the field, it’s still very difficult at the highest levels. And, you know, we focused on these colleges and universities because, you know, they’re the ones that people know. Right. You know, it’s it’s Michigan. It’s Wisconsin. It’s you know, all these Alabama, all these schools that we highlighted. And so rather than actually giving women those opportunities, many schools are sort of rigging the numbers to make it look more like they are. And so we we dug into different sort of roster manipulation tactics to see how they’re doing them. The first one is double and triple counting women to a far, far greater degree than they do to men. So the federal government says if you have one athlete and that person participates in more than one season or more one sport than they can count more than once. But what that does is if you have a female distance runner, she’s now 2 to 3 times as valuable as her male counterpart because she can count in cross-country, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field. And so we see schools inflating their women’s rosters. And then multiplying them, even though they may not compete very much, it’s not necessarily the same kind of opportunity. So as an example, cross country is a sport where you count five runners. At Florida State, they had 13 men on their cross-country team in the year that we looked at and 43 women and so far more than they need. But then you take that and you multiply it, and it certainly looks like they’re offering women more opportunities than they are. Another way schools do this, the ones that have rowing we’ve seen overwhelmingly tend to stuff their rosters with novice or new athletes who don’t really ever get a chance to compete. Don’t show up. You know, by the time spring season rolls around, that’s fairly common. And then the other one that stood out is the federal government, under a related law, allows schools to count male practice players as female participants for the teams they practice with. So very commonly, and you may know this from your time play, women’s basketball will have male practice players that they practice against. When that gets reported to the federal government, they just count those. And so it looks like there’s more women and there’s like there’s a little caveat box in the data that explains how many men count. But when we looked at it and did all these comparisons, we found that at least a quarter of the female basketball players reported to the federal government at these schools were male practice players. So. Yes, yes. So when you add all those those, you know, means of manipulation up. These schools collectively added 30 more than 3600 opportunities for women without adding a single new team. And so they can make their numbers look better. And everyone asks, you know, why? Why do they do that? And the reason is to avoid scrutiny. You know, people still don’t have a lot of awareness about Title IX, their their rights under it, how to how to exercise those rights. But if you do know that and you go to the only place where there’s publicly available numbers and they look better, then that may deter you from filing a federal complaint with the Department of Education, which anybody can do or filing a federal lawsuit against the school. So we know that there’s a big gap in opportunities. And instead of closing that gap in opportunities, they are just making it look like it’s not as bad as it is.
Jordan Ligons: Wow. I also had that question to the why is there a financial reason for them to to not provide? Well, there’s always there’s always money involved somehow. So how does money play into this, I guess, is the bigger question?
Rachel Axon: Well well, that’s obviously a huge factor. And that gets into some of our our other reporting. You know, we’re looking at FBS Schools, Football Bowl Subdivision. These are the biggest football schools and almost without exception, they devote the most resources in terms of, you know, personnel, scholarships, money, etc., etc., to one or two men’s sports. Right. Football and men’s basketball. But you don’t need to have you don’t you know, there’s nothing in Title IX that says you have to give the women’s volleyball team with 16 members the same amount of money that you give the men’s football team with 116 members. But there are things that that the law requires in terms of treatment. You know, like once you get them on your campus, you can’t just, like give one team the Taj Mahal and have the other one playing in the parking lot type stuff. And so the federal government has a list of 11 items. It’s called the laundry list, where they’ll go in and they’ll assess a school. You know, how how it equitable is the publicity, the recruiting money, the access to medical care all down this list. And so we during the Final Four studied this and looked at the same FBS schools for equipment, travel and recruiting money. And we just looked at comparable teams. So if a team has a men’s basketball team and a women’s basketball team, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, we pick six sports where where there was a balance in that. And between them we found in those three categories for every dollar that those schools spent on the men’s team, they spent $0.71 on the women’s team. When you when you add that up over the two years that we looked at, it was a difference of $125 million just in those three categories. I think the one thing that will stick out to me, I can’t tell you how many times we talked about this example. The University of Louisville in basketball spent 13 times as much for the men on equipment as it did for the women. And that in that two year period now some of that some of it is shared. So it’s not like a totally true reflection they explained to us. But there’s a lot that was not. In one purchase that they went to a sporting goods store, the men’s team spent $2500 on socks. That amount is more than 10%. 10% excuse me of what the women’s team spent on equipment period for the two years and the men spending it on socks. Yes. So so you see this difference in treatment and it doesn’t necessarily mean schools are for sure out of compliance because there’s a whole you know, they’ll be assessed in the whole program. But if you have these really big gaps and red flags and sports that are similar, it’s kind of hard to see how a school could offset that by you know, we treat the football team really well, but then we also treat, you know, softball, rowing and women’s lacrosse really well. It gets a lot harder to do. So those were some pretty big red flags in regards to Title IX compliance.
Jordan Ligons: And you know what else sticks out to me? The women’s team was way better than the men’s team, so they can have their money with their socks. But the women were at the Final Four about to win a national championship.
Rachel Axon: Well, and that was that was one of them. The UConn women. Right. You know, Geno Auriemma, the coach, legendary coach of the teams, later said, you know, we have everything we need. But I think we found around $1.2 million more spent on the men’s team in those areas than on the women’s team, which is kind of shocking. Right. Like UConn women are the standard in women’s basketball. Geno’s contention was, you know, I don’t need to recruit like they do, which is probably fair. You know.
Jordan Ligons: Classic Geno. If that was a quote from Geno Auriemma like CLASSIC.
Rachel Axon: Yes. Yes. You know, and that they they travel different. And this this we saw a lot where like, you know, the men’s team will always charter have a bigger travel party, things like that and the women’s team might fly commercial and and, you know, go with a smaller group, stuff like that. So when you add it all up, it’s a lot of big differences even at the programs where the women are really, really good.
Jordan Ligons: We talked about how, you know, the history of it and I feel like you are you and your colleague did an amazing job of showing like yes this is and equality law but there’s still things that aren’t equal and we still have a lot of work to do. And recently, President Biden has said that Title IX needs to be strengthened in order to overhaul the Trump era guidance on how schools handle sexual assault cases to under Title IX. Is there a real plan to do so, or was this just politicking on the anniversary?
Rachel Axon: You know, there is a real plan. So what we’ve seen in regards to enforcement of the law and this applies to all areas, you know, as you mentioned, it covers sexual misconduct. It covers protections for pregnant students, covers protections, now, you know, the Biden administration has clarified for LGBTQI+ students. So it’s very broad in that regard. We see it go back and forth. The pendulum swing under Democratic administrations. It tends to be more of a focus on enforcement, less so under Republican administrations. And under the Trump administration, the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, passed some rules that basically limited the scope of cases that the schools have to respond to when they learn about sexual assault. And, you know, victims advocates said, you know, really we’re meant to deter reporting and give rights to accused students. This is going back the other way now. It’s a it’s a it’s a process. It takes time in the rulemaking to, you know, they’ll put out their regulations. There will be a comment period. And then they have to follow this sort of stricter process. So it’s harder to undo than some of the other things the department does, just issuing a letter of guidance. But they have started the process, and that’s what they announced last week.
Jordan Ligons: Okay, I’ll I’ll I’ll take it.
Rachel Axon: It’s going to be a while.
Jordan Ligons: But started they have started. And it it it is, you know, as an anniversary, any type of anniversary comes up. We we do focus on it. So I’m happy that there are things that are actually taking place and not just saying, hey, things need to change and not doing anything. But going back to what you’re saying about the colleges, I just curious, like, how does the NCAA president, Mark Emmert, factor in all of this? Like, what is he doing or not doing? Because we know the NCAA can be a little shady sometimes to push gender equality forward. What is he doing? Do you know? Is he M.I.A.?
Rachel Axon: That’s a great question. So, technically speaking, the NCAA does not have an obligation under Title IX. There’s actually a Supreme Court case about this where because they don’t directly receive federal funding, then they’re not obligated by the law. They’re not bound by the law. Others have argued all of their members, you know, they are made up of the schools. All of their members are. But so they are not. And we’ve obviously seen the gender equity issues with the NCAA tournament a couple of years ago sit on a prince, highlighting all of the issues there. And then they, you know, commissioned this law firm to study it. But the NCAA as an organization effectively has not played a role in schools complying with this. They used to have, you know, starting in the nineties to to 2011, this process where schools, in order to be members had to be certified and come up with a range of plans. So they had to assess how they were doing on gender, how they’re doing on race and several other things. Do a report, give it to the NCAA and NCAA would say yes or no. To my to my knowledge, they never didn’t certify a school. They’ll just look at it and say, well, oh, you know, fix this. But there was at least something that the NCAA was doing that said, like, are you providing equitable opportunities based on gender? When Mark Emmert came to the NCAA, they ended that. It has never come back. So so so they don’t they don’t, you know, other than, you know, sort of encouraging it informally. They don’t have a role and they’re not bound by the law. I think there’s, you know, some people in Congress, especially those who have been involved in the, you know, questions about amateurism and now those sorts of things. Who would like to see that change? I don’t know how much support there would be for that within Congress, but they don’t necessarily have a role. Certainly we need greater enforcement from the government and other places. But, you know, if we want this to keep on living up to the law’s promise, the NCAA is not going to lead us there.
Jordan Ligons: That’s not that’s not surprising to me and in some sense. But for the for the last question, I think kind of looking towards the future, is there a world in which Title IX protections are ever repealed? I don’t want to think of. I don’t know. I want it to be change. But could we be living in the world given Friday’s horrendous Supreme Court decision where things change and not for the better?
Rachel Axon: I think I could never predict that, right? Like this is certainly well-established lore. I think maybe the thing in favor of that not happening is that there’s not a lot of enforcement of it now. We’re continuing our reporting, the whole team of us at USA Today, and we’ll be looking at sexual misconduct and specifically looking at enforcement. And this law is there, but effectively there’s no consequence for breaking it. And what started us on this project was, you know, experts and people we talked to around athletics and just another reporting, everyone saying like they’re not complying. Of course they’re not complying. Nobody’s complying. What are you talking about? And just accepting it is like this kind of like widespread understanding. And everyone just kind of knows that. And so we went out to, like, test that. How true is that? Can we show that that’s the case? And as we do our reporting, that’s that’s really backing this up. Part of the problem is the Department of Education that investigates us. It’s Office for Civil Rights is really underfunded, really understaffed. You know, they primarily respond to complaints that they get. So unless something filters up to the point of a complaint, it’s really, you know, not going to be on the radar. And then even when they do those, they take a long time. They get the school to sign a resolution agreement that says, like, we promise we will fix X, Y or Z or whatever. And then it still takes years to do so. If you’re a student who’s been discriminated against, you’re probably gone by the time anything does get fixed. If it does get fixed. The only sanction they have is to revoke federal funding from the school, which has not happened in 50 years. And the schools know this, so there’s no cost for them to not comply. Where we’ve seen greater success is through lawsuits. But again, that’s got significant barriers as students got to know they’re being discriminated against, have the wherewithal to go through with the lawsuit, though, still take time to go through. And so it’s really, really difficult given that, you know, we have the law as of right now. I don’t think it’s going anywhere, but it’s also not being enforced in a way that’s really making making schools live up to the you know, if not the letter, then at least the intent of it.
Jordan Ligons: Yeah, well, I know that we still have a long way to go, but we have this anniversary has has taught me anything. The 50 years of Title IX is it is okay to look back of how far we’ve come. And there has been extreme progress in, you know, since the seventies, since this law was passed. But the next 50 years, I hope there is much more progress and much great things. And your work is really pointing to that. So thank you for all that you do. And she is Rachel Axon investigative sports reporter in USA Today. Rachel, thank you so much for your time and being here on Takeline.
Rachel Axon: Awesome, thank you so much for having me.
Jordan Ligons: That’s it for us. Follow and subscribe to Takeline on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And don’t forget to subscribe to Takeline Show on YouTube for exclusive video clips from this episode. Jason will be back soon. I love you Jason, but thank you for letting me sit in. Bye.
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