Beyond Athletics

Dick’s Sporting Goods Catalog Included No Female Athletes. The Only Question Is: Why Am I Surprised?

mia hamm fights for soccer ball

We’ve been writing about the positive impact women’s sports has on leaders and on business. Unfortunately, there’s a different story to tell about women’s athletics as well. The Washington Post recently ran an article detailing how a 12-year-old basketball player complained to Dick’s Sporting Goods because their catalog had only one image of a female athlete in its pages, and how that advertising decision reflects on the way female athletes are treated in general.

As a young girl, you could find me playing pretty much any sport available at the given time. Pick-up basketball, street tennis, backyard football, beach volleyball – you name it.

I am just like every girl who has played a sport.

If I was challenged in a running race, a swimming race, a potato sack race, I was ready to go. As I got a little bit older, my passion for sport only grew, however the soccer field eventually stole my heart.

As a child of the ’80s and ’90s, and a female soccer player, my hero was Mia Hamm.  Representing the University of North Carolina, and then the United States, with such grit, class, and athleticism made her the ultimate role model. From regularly scoring the most goals, or the winning goal, to being on the field with Brandi Chastain during her famous black-sports-bra-moment in the 1999 World Cup, there were so many reasons to dig Mia Hamm.

That’s what makes Dick Sporting Good’s catalog so hurtful.

My esteem for Mia Hamm and my lifelong love affair with sports made this recent Washington Post article really hit home. Sure, I had a #9 jersey back then, and posters of Hamm across my bedroom walls, but the women’s sports market in the 90s is simply not even close to what it is today.

To an industry with predominately male executives whose decades-long motto has been “shrink it and pink it” when outfitting women: Get with the times.

With an industry currently making millions upon millions from girls’ and women’s sporting goods, where is the female empowerment and representation in promotion, press, and marketing? On top of that, women being featured solely on the sidelines or in the stands, serving up snacks at the game-watch party, or wearing jeans and a t-shirt riding in the car alongside her brother, whose suited up for his game, is grossly unacceptable – it wasn’t acceptable back then, and in a world where women make up 40% of American athletes – it is so not acceptable today.

And it took a girl to realize how inappropriate it all was.

Something I found particularly remarkable about what this situation is that the initial force behind the deep-dive into the women’s sports industry and overall sexist portrayal of women athletes was that it took a 12-year-old girl to realize the only picture of a woman in this catalog was sitting in the bleachers.

To an industry with predominately male executives whose decades-long motto has been “shrink it and pink it” when outfitting women: Get with the times. Why not take the millions you’re making off of female athletes and use it to empower them, to fuel them, to truly highlight and recognize that women make up nearly HALF of all of the court time, field time, pool time, and innings on the diamond or putts on the course.

Thank you to McKenna, for having the fortitude and bravery to write this letter, thank you to her Dad for tweeting it, and thank you in advance to the Presidents and CEOS of the sports world, for taking it to heart and making a change for female athletes everywhere.

Side note: I had a lifelong dream become a reality when I met Mia Hamm at the Manhattan Beach, CA Target store in the summer of 2012. After the initial shock and awe, and a 5-minute internal debate on whether to approach Hamm or not had transpired, I introduced myself and shared my admiration and thankfulness for the soccer star. Hamm was just as amazing and gracious in-person as I hoped and imagined she’d be.

Photo credit: (Wikicommons: Johnmaxmena)

About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.