With the opening of the new Leo D. Mahoney Arena on campus back in November, more Fairfield students have begun to attend more basketball games than before. The new arena was seen as an opportunity to raise school spirit all over campus, and create a stronger fanbase behind our athletic teams. At a recent men’s basketball game, $10,000 was offered for anyone who could make a half-court shot. The catch was that anyone who had played basketball previously in high school was not allowed to enter the contest. There was a foul shot contest at a women’s game this past year, where the winner won a gift card. At another recent men’s game, a $50,000 shot contest was held. The game also happened to be the most attended game of the year at the new arena. It was just this past Saturday that a $10,000 full-court golf putt took place at a women’s game. According to a press release on the official athletics website, the promotional schedule was announced at the beginning of the season; but still, I was intrigued, was this all really a biased decision, or was it something else?
I emailed representatives who worked in the athletics department for some clarification on the situation. I was interested in whether or not this was a consciously biased decision based on gender or whether it was just a random decision for the game. I was told by Deputy Athletics Director Zachary Dayton “that the decisions are unique for every game,” and that there was truly no decision based on which team was playing. Dayton told me that their goal “is to create a variety of contests that fans can enjoy at both men’s and women’s games.”
However, I still question some of this. I think that there has to be a conscious decision on what the contests and the promotions are going to be for the game. This is all just a big business, and their goal is to make money. It makes sense for them to hold these contests at the men’s games because they are getting a larger turnout. At a recent men’s game against Rider University, the arena was almost 70% full, according to Fairfield Athletics. At a recent women’s game against Canisius College, the arena was only 28% full. Both of these games were on the same weekend, just one day apart. The numbers follow almost the same pattern with each game. No matter the date, the men’s team is still getting the larger turnout. It is no surprise that this is happening though. Historically, men’s sports teams have always had a larger turnout at games compared to women’s teams. Is this because of some deep-rooted misogyny? Most likely. It unfortunately will probably stay this way for years to come. This is quite sad because women’s sports are just as equally exciting as men’s sports.
I believe it is important to acknowledge that there is a gender inequality issue in sports. In recent years the issue of gender inequality in sports has been brought to light by athletes all over the world.
I recently saw a campaign video for women in sports. It featured a little girl in a large soccer stadium asking the internet, “who has scored the most goals in international soccer?” to which the internet replied by stating that the correct answer was Cristiano Ronaldo with 118 goals. However, the young girl retorts with, “what about Christine Sinclair?” For those who do not know who Christine Sinclair is, she is a Canadian soccer player who has scored 190 goals in international soccer.
So, if we were not to include gender in the question “who has scored the most goals in international soccer,” the list would go: Christine Sinclair, Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm, Carli Lloyd, Kristine Lily, Birgit Prinz and then Christiano Rinaldo with his 118 goals. Why do we as a society automatically assume that when we ask questions like this, we only mean men? Why are women not included in this? Why are men the default?
This issue is obviously not just in soccer; I only mention it because growing up I was a huge follower of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, and I feel like all of these situations intertwine with each other because this is a constant issue in all women’s sports, not just basketball or soccer. However, bringing it back to Fairfield, I wanted to see what students thought of this. Sophomore Tim Furey expressed that “even though the men’s team does not have the same amazing record as the women’s team, more people are still going to go to their games because they are more mainstream.” Another student I spoke to told me that she believes “that since the students are not showing up to the women’s games these promotions are not going to take place.”
I would also like to make a final note that the women’s team won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference last year. Have we forgotten that? They are an amazing team and deserve the same amount of support the men’s team receives. My opinion on this matter is torn. On one hand, I think that the athletic department does not have a gender bias on the promotions and that they are unique. On the other hand, it seems like that because student turnout at women’s games is so low, they have no other choice but to not have these promotions. Which raises the question, what would raise the turnout at these games? Would a $10,000 shot contest bring in fans? Well over the weekend, it seems that $10,000 did not change much. The attendance was still significantly lower than in previous men’s games.
I think we as a student body should make a larger effort to show support for our fellow Stags, and start attending more women’s basketball games. Why not just attend both the women’s and men’s games, instead of just men’s games? The best way to help the problem is to show support for the athletes.