No matter how much we would like to believe that equality has permeated every facet of sports culture, there’s no denying the imbalance of coverage for female athletics in the modern sports landscape.
Yes, we’ve come a long way. It’s not hard to find some form of women’s athletics on a major sports network at any given time. From softball to women’s basketball to an occasional mixed martial arts fight, women’s sports have found their way to the biggest stages.
But we still have a long way to go, and Robin Roberts is doing her part to remind us of that.
Roberts is a woman of many talents, perhaps most famous for her groundbreaking success as ESPN’s first female African American anchor and current host of Good Morning America on ABC. Having earned a degree in communication from Southeastern Louisiana University, Roberts has put her education to good use and has become a figurehead of female broadcasters in and out of the sports world.
At Southeastern Louisiana, Roberts also went on to set records as a member of the Lady Lions basketball team, finishing her collegiate career with 1,146 points and 1,034 rebounds—sixth-most and fifth-most, respectively, in team history.
Her sporting background perhaps led her to her iconic role with ESPN, but she’s not done making her impression on women’s athletics.
In 1972, Congress passed Title IX, an act that set in motion a series of changes that has indelibly changed women’s sports. With its passage, Title IX mandated equal opportunities for women’s college athletics, molding the landscape we see today.
Forty-one years later, Roberts is still reminding us of the importance of that piece of legislation with ESPN’s Nine for IX—a series of nine female-directed documentaries produced by Roberts in recognition of Title IX.
Each documentary in the series addresses different issues related to women’s athletics, and each is an important reminder of both the strides the sporting culture has taken toward equality and the vast distance it has yet to traverse.
Nine for IX began airing on July 2 and will conclude on Aug. 27, and the series has already been met with tremendous applause.
Roberts’ efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, and at the ESPYS on July 17, she’ll be presented with an award that recognizes her contributions that “transcend sports,” as noted by ESPN:
Robin Roberts will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage award at the 2013 ESPYS on July 17 in Los Angeles, ESPN announced Tuesday.
The award goes to individuals whose contributions transcend sports. Past honorees include Jim Valvano, Muhammad Ali, Dean Smith, Billie Jean King and Pat Summitt.
The Arthur Ashe Courage award also recognizes individuals for their immense courage, as Roberts has shown in beating breast cancer and battling with the effects of her cancer treatment after being diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, as she explained in an ABC News piece entitled, “Robin Roberts: I’m Going to Beat This.”
What Roberts has done for women both in and out of sports has been significant enough to warrant such an award, but it has also given female athletes—and really, all women—a shining example of what it means to represent equality while simply living the life they choose to lead.
Roberts’ story is inspirational in many rights, and being honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage award is evidence of that fact. Roberts deserves to be honored for everything she has done, and not just for her contributions to the sports world.