April 04, 2023 4 min read
Athletes News Press
I’m sitting in my room in Dallas, Texas across the street from the American Airlines Center, just getting back from one of the most magnificent sporting events I’ve seen. The 2023 NCAA Women’s Tournament has been full of record shattering success, and it’s just getting started.
There were so many moments that gave me goosebumps from head to toe. #1 Stanford going down in a tear jerker early on, the emergence of Australian born Georgia Amoore and Virginia Tech making it to their first Final Four appearance ever, and South Carolina’s historic 42-game winning streak. However, for the sake of simplicity and my deep personal belief that all good things come in 2’s and 3’s, I want to highlight this year’s Women’s Tournament in three categories. Read below for my personal March Madness recap:
I could use this entire article to talk about the brilliance of Angel Reese, both on and off the court, but I want to highlight the treatment of LSU’s star and the racist and sexist standards pervasive in women’s sports. Her Bayou Barbie persona has pierced through the heart of mainstream media in a way that’s making a lot of people feel uncomfortable. Why? Because once again, racism and sexism in sports, particularly regarding black female athletes, are at the forefront of LSU’s national championship moment. People are going wild, but not for all the right reasons. Her and many athletes are being criticized in the media for simply being themselves– beautiful black women, who have their hair, nails and lashes on point, speaking wildly accurate opinions openly and freely, then backing it up with some of the most elite basketball we’ve ever seen in the women’s game. Angel Reese and her Bayou Barbie persona embody what the patriarchy finds very threatening– power. I’m not sitting here saying I agree with all the actions taken place on the court, but I’m not disagreeing with them either. Of course, sportsmanship and gamesmanship are absolutely important. But, who decided what this looks like? If we reflect with honesty and openness, many people would agree that the rules have always been made by the same demographic. Do you think black, brown, queer and female athletes were invited to the table when decisions were being made about what sportsmanship and gamesmanship should look like? As a queer, female athlete I can certainly tell you I’ve never been asked this question. I am grateful for Angel and all the other athletes who are prioritizing their own authenticity, and helping to shape the future of women's sports.
She is officially in the company of one and was undoubtedly the swaggiest player in the tournament– aka Swaggy C. Clark, the Iowa junior, finished the Eight Eight win over Louisville with 41 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, she’s the only player in the NCAA Tournament history to record a 40-point triple-double, sending Iowa to their first Final Four since 1993, and had a very quiet almost double-double yesterday with 30 points and 8 rebounds. She’s also the first player to score 900 points and 300 assists in a single season. There’s no question Clark is a generational player, a once every 5-10 year star and it is an absolute privilege to watch her shine. She has the vision and leadership of Sue Bird, and the scoring tenacity of Diana Taurasi. Clark is the facilitator and the dagger, which makes her game uniquely balanced and entertaining to watch. Button line, Swaggy C is the real deal and has brought more pride to the state of Iowa than their beloved field corn.
The numbers don’t lie, investing in women’s sports is producing incredible returns. We are seeing the remarkable impact, reach and financial returns of the last two years with brands, networks and the NCAA entity itself finally making the decision to start investing in what we already knew was a great investment– women’s basketball. The rating records were shattered, with an average of 9.9 million viewers for the LSU vs. Iowa game, making it the most viewed NCAA women’s basketball final in television history. Peak viewership topped at 12.6 million, making it the most viewed college sporting event on ESPN+ ever. This was the highest tournament attendance (357,542), highest scoring final (102-85) and the best individual performances ever (Reece and Caitlin especially). The NCAA estimates the women’s TV rights could hover around $100 million next year, compared to their current $6 million contract. Moving forward, it’s looking more and more like the women’s game and their stars are plenty big enough to become their own business, decoupled from the men’s. We love to see it!
Caitlin Clark isn’t surprised by the shattering numbers of this year’s historic Women’s Tournament and neither are we. When you give women a safe space to be seen, protected and supported, magic happens.
Thank you for reading,
By: Rachael Rapinoe September 06, 2023 2 min readRead More