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    Gender Inequality in Basketball

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    Effort, determination, enjoyment, and suspense are all a part of the game whether you are a man or a woman. Basketball is a popular sport that attracts a large following in the United States and around the world, with more than two hundred nations competing against each other. The sport is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, with more than eleven percent of Americans favoring it over others (Abdul-Jabbar, 2017). However, society often restricts which gender fits in its appropriate sport, and men are notorious for their domination of the basketball community. The gender discrimination in this game is observed by the substantial wage gap, differences in media coverage, and countless stereotypes.

    Providing equal pay for men and women is an important step towards integration and equality in America. Title IX, the law passed in 1972, was an attempt by government to ban sex discrimination and provide women with equal opportunity in an era where they were harshly discriminated against. Eventually, this new equality law was used to create equal opportunities for women in sports. However, Title IX does not require equal funding of men’s and women’s sports, regardless of how well-known a women’s team is.

    Although the United States has been trying to bridge the wage gap for years, there is a significant gap between the salaries of female athletes compared to their counterparts in the NBA, with men making more than five times what the average WNBA athlete would earn (Berri, 2017). According to a Forbes analysis in 2015, NBA teams generated $5.9 billion in revenue throughout the year. The NBA pays its players about fifty percent of this league revenue, twice the amount WNBA players receive (Berri, 2017). For example, the average salary across WNBA player starts at about $70,000, as compared to a NBA player’s starting salary of $560,000. Female athletes put in the same amount of time and effort during practices and trainings but are still often overlooked by the public.

    It is evident that female players do not get much attention from the mainstream media. Growing up playing basketball, I always traveled with the men’s teams. It was incredibly frustrating seeing the stands packed for their games, and the bleachers barely being filled for ours. I could never understand why our games were not as attended, considering we worked and practiced just as hard as the men. In fact, most female sports are largely ignored by the sports media, with women’s athletics receiving only about four percent of all sports coverage (Ottaway, 2016).

    Women’s basketball is viewed as boring and lackluster because there are fewer camera angles and graphics. In addition, the commentary is often monotonous during their games and there is a sizeable difference in the number of fans in attendance. In contrast, the press portrays men’s basketball to be much more entertaining than women’s. Men’s games seem more exciting because they maintain high production values and receive the finest commentators. Their games draw in a large crowd due to the media’s enthusiasm and dedication.

    The media’s bias towards men’s basketball is likely due to the fact that ninety percent of sports editors are white men (Ottaway, 2016). Men are likely to appreciate other men’s talents rather than praising a woman’s success. Women of color, who make up over seventy percent of WNBA players, are especially poorly represented in the media. Although the passage of Title IX is working to eliminate this imbalance, Caucasian women are often the athletes that receive the most attention from the press. Regardless, all women in basketball are significantly underrepresented in all forms of media and are typically not acknowledged for their athletic ability, but instead for their physical appearance, femininity, and sexuality.

    Sport participation has often been regarded as a masculine activity, especially the sport of basketball. The nature of basketball is associated with the essential views of masculinity—aggression, competition, physicality, and winning, all of which men are expected to possess. For many men, sports are a path to success and if boys lack athletic interest or ability, their masculinity is often questioned. It is believed that the more masculine the sport is, the more money gets invested into it, the more fans it attracts, and the more it supports the traditional norms of masculinity.

    In contrast, women are typically viewed as being fragile, weak, and submissive. Since basketball has always been regarded as a masculinized activity, women are seen as imposing on male boundaries. They often face scrutiny and stereotyping due to these flawed social norms. Female athletes are more likely to be noticed off the court, out of their “manly” uniform, and in highly sexualized poses. The emphasis of these athletes is not on their athletic talents, but their physical attractiveness and femininity.

    The frequent references include: make-up, hair, body shape and sexuality, which is rarely, if ever, discussed about male athletes (Senne, 2016). By only focusing on female athletes’ appearance, this reinforces the idea of patriarchal sovereignty, which is something that society needs to stray away from. The most common stereotype is that female basketball player all identify as homosexual. When men see strong women challenging society’s gender roles by asserting strength and competitiveness, they assume they are lesbians. According to a 2008 report by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, “Some girls avoid certain sports for fear of being perceived as unfeminine or lesbian; some lesbian athletes avoid going public about their sexuality in case they experience prejudice from other athletes or coaches,” (Bindel, 2014). Female players are impacted by this discrimination because they are often denied access for rewards or opportunities that they genuinely deserve. However, many female athletes will not step up in addressing gender inequalities because of their constant fear from the public perceiving them as lesbians.

    Many people support the idea of bridging the gap between men and women’s basketball; however, those opposed believe that women’s sports will never be as popular, because men are faster, stronger, and more athletic (Bodenner, 2015). The people that agree with this view are those that value masculinity over equality. They resonate with the long-established idea of patriarchal sovereignty and the traditional norms of society. Paul Gallico, a famous sportswriter in 1936, stated, “It is a lady’s business to look beautiful and there are hardly any sports in which she seems able to do it.” Although this quote was presented many years prior, there are several editors and leaders today that agree with Gallico’s claim. For example, Bill Simmons, an HBO sports personality, said in 2006, “The vast majority of WNBA players lack crossover sex appeal…the baggy uniforms don’t help.” In addition, Sports Illustrated contributor Andy Benoit tweeted in 2015, “Women’s sports are just not worth watching.” While men and women may differ in physicality, they do not differ in skills or ability and should not be looked down upon for asserting their athleticism.

    Gender inequality spreads throughout all areas of life, and it is particularly prevalent in the sports community. Basketball is a sport known for its male dominance, promoting traditional gender roles and masculinity

    It is necessary to reduce the stereotype that women are not equal to men in sports, starting with basketball, one of the most popular sports in America.

    Works Cited

    1. Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem. “The NBA Has Surpassed the NFL as the League of America’s Future | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Dec. 2017,
    2. Berri, David. “Basketball’s Growing Gender Wage Gap: The Evidence The WNBA Is Underpaying Players.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 21 Sept. 2017,
    3. Bindel, Julie. “Sportswomen Are Stereotyped as Gay – but That Doesn’t Make Coming out Easy | Julie Bindel.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Feb. 2014,
    4. Bodenner, Chris. “Why Aren’t Women’s Sports as Big as Men’s?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 9 June 2015,
    5. Ottaway, Amanda. “Why Don’t People Watch Women’s Sports?” The Nation, 21 July 2016,
    6. Senne, Joshua. “Examination of Gender Equity and Female Participation in Sport.” The Sport Journal, 29 Feb. 2016,

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    Gender Inequality in Basketball. (2021, Jul 28). Retrieved from

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