Rape Culture is Alive: Women in Sports

I would be remised if I didn’t highlight this topic in my blog about women in sports, because it is important and it deserves to be talked about. In our society rape and sexual assault are topics many fail to adequately talk about with young girls, which makes it harder for them to deal with it. We pretend it doesn’t happen, so when it does, some women are too ashamed to talk about it. Rape and sexual assault undeniably happens to men and women alike in the sports world, but the first time I was ever introduced to the topic publicly was a few years ago.

Larry Nassar, 53, was accused publicly of having assaulted dozens of young women, most of the cases disguised as medical treatment. Nasser worked at Michigan State for about twenty years as a team physician. He also worked with USA Gymnastics during the same time frame. This man has clearly worked very closely with women, giving him several opportunities to commit crimes against them. At this point, up to 69 women have accused him of some form of sexual assault. Last month, Nassar was accused of deleting evidence of child pornography that would’ve been used to convict him of his crimes. He faces up to a lifetime in prison.

The funny things is I haven’t read or heard anything else about Nassar’s case since it first opened. Something as big as this should be constantly in the news reminding sexual assault victims that if they tell their stories, justice can be obtained. Rape culture is still alive and well today, and it’s time we dealt with it openly, publicly, and viscously. It is very easy for a man or women to disguise sexual assault as medical treatment when working closely with the female population in the sports world. Cases like this staying in the public eye could help save the mental and spiritual lives of lots of women just trying to prove themselves in sports.

Girls: if you know someone who is a victim of sexual assault, whether it’s a friend or yourself, don’t be afraid to tell someone. You deserve justice.

Claressa Shields

Happy International Women’s Day! It is only right for me to blog on this day honoring and celebrating women in our respective roles in this society, even in the sports world. Today, I am honoring 21-year-old, Olympic gold medalist in boxing, Claressa Shields.

Claressa Shields was born in Flint, Michigan. She was introduced to boxing by her father, Bo Shields, who had boxed in underground leagues. He talked to her about boxer Laila Ali, piquing her interest in the sport. At that time she began boxing at Berston Field House in Flint, where she met her coach and trainer, Jason Crutchfield. Claressa gives credit to her grandmother who encouraged her to not accept restrictions based on her gender.

Shields first made history when she became the first U.S. boxer to win two gold medals in 2016. Claressa will also make history this weekend. She is fighting in the ShoBox event, where she will be competing close to her hometown. This is historic, because Shields has just recently stepped into the world of professional boxing and has only fought in one match. She never dreamed that she would be chosen to fight in the main boxing event for Showtime Boxing.

Even though her transition from the amateurs to the pros just started, Shields is very excited and unbothered about fighting her opponent on March 10, 2017.  Her opponent is a Hungarian fighter who has fought 23 pro fights and has gone 134 rounds. This seems intimidating compared to Shields’ one pro fight and four rounds. Yet Shields isn’t concerned about the disparity and is also heavily favored to beat her opponent.

Thank you to Claressa Shields for having the courage to break gender barriers in boxing and for not letting her age or lack of experience keep her from taking a chance and establishing herself in a male dominated field. Her black girl magic is showing! #BlackGirlMagic

Aaliyah Bass

As you all know, I am using the month of February to highlight black, female superstars in the sports world. This time, instead of searching online, I did some local research paired with interviewing and found another precious, African-American superwoman in the sports world. She is a USM track team participant who is using her platform to introduce other women to Jesus.

Aaliyah Bass is a freshman, Athletic Training major from Jackson, MS. She walked-on to the USM Track and Field Team this year, so she is currently not receiving scholarship at this time. She doesn’t let the fact that she isn’t on scholarship determine how hard she works and plans to soon receive one from the athletic department. Aaliyah is a short distance sprinter.

Aaliyah says, “I run because it takes me where I want to go.”

The most interesting thing I learned about her was that she is apart of FCA, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She has actively and single-handedly gotten several of her teammates to join her in this organization over the last semester. Aaliyah believes the only reason God allowed her to be apart of the team was for His glory and her outreach. She thinks her purpose in this sport is much bigger than just running because evidently she’s not even as fast as she used to be right now! Thank you for your contributions to the sports world girl. I hope that you keep spreading black girl magic and the love of Christ to your peers!

Bessie Coleman

When we think of sports, we usually think of games such as basketball, football, soccer, tennis, or track. We don’t usually think of cheer, dancing, and definitely not flying as a sport. The Oxford dictionary defines sport as an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. By definition, Bessie Coleman participated in a “sport” when she flew her planes.

Bessie Coleman was born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. She was one of 13 children born to her parents who were both sharecroppers. She was the first African American woman to obtain a pilot’s license. Because African Americans nor women were able to attend piloting school in America, she flew to France to become a licensed pilot. Although her goal of opening a flying school for African-Americans was never fulfilled, she paved the way for others to “defy gravity” and break down walls built to stop us from progressing. Bessie was known as “Queen Bess” to people who came to her shows and was known for her gravity-defying and very dangerous tricks.

On April 30, 1926, Bessie died in a flying accident during a rehearsal at age 34. Bessie’s life shows us that black women can accomplish anything in life and in the sports world that we set our minds to. Bessie is still showing us today how we can break barriers and restraints that are set against us. Thank you Bessie! #BlackGirlMagic

Wilma Rudolph

It’s no secret that women in sports, especially black women, don’t get enough credit for what they do. So, during black history month, I will be using my blog to highlight the groundbreaking things African American women did for the world of sports. My first legend is Wilma Rudolph.

Wilma was diagnosed with polio at an early age and wore leg braces for the better part of her life. During the 1960 Olympics, she became the first black women to win three gold medals in track and field in a single Olympics. She was deemed the “fastest women in the world“.

She once said, “The triumph can’t be had without the struggle. And I know what struggle is. I have spent a lifetime trying to share what it has meant to be a woman first in the world of sports so that other young women have a chance to reach their dreams.”

She founded the Wilma Rudolph Foundation to advocate and be a voice for amateur athletics. Wilma died on November 12, 1994, after losing a long battle with brain cancer. Wilma is just ONE of the many black women who paved the way for the rest of us. I’m so glad she made her way through the world of sports sprinkling #blackgirlmagic the entire way.

Serena Williams

The Williams sisters competed against each other in the 2017 Australian Open final this past week. Serena Williams was frustrated in the beginning of the game and could not get into her usual groove. She eventually got into the swing of things and managed to get ahead of her sister, who hasn’t made it past the semi-finals since 2009. Serena was ultimately the winner and will probably be the favorite to win a 24th Grand Slam this May.

We know that Venus is certainly doing big things with her businesses, but its refreshing to know that Serena is still capturing the attention of the world with her athletic abilities. Although Serena is an international tennis shero and an inspiration for young, black tennis players, she’s been in the limelight in the past few years more so because of women and men body shaming her. They say “she looks like man”, her body isn’t “womanly”, and “tennis players should be lean”. The thing is: I’m sure her strong calves, heavy thighs, buff arms, and sculpted abs aid in her amazing tennis skills.

Serena certainly doesn’t fit the bill when put up against European beauty standards, BUT those are stupid and can’t determine what beautiful is anyway. Despite the sting of other people’s words, she rolled with the punches and held on to her curvy shape. I am so glad she didn’t pay attention to the negative thoughts of others, because sports would be nothing without her black girl magic invading the world of tennis. Good job girl!

“I’ve had people look down on me, put me down because I didn’t look like them — I look stronger.” – Serena Williams

Venus Williams: Tennis Star and Business Woman

Venus Williams, a tennis superstar and sister to Serena Williams, is finally fulfilling her long-term dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Although Venus is STILL climbing to new heights in the tennis world, I think its important for people to understand that black women and black women athletes alike can do more than play a game.

Venus has dealt with a few bankrupt retailers, a manufacturing partnership gone wrong, and a few beginners’ mistakes that hurt her endeavors in the start of her retail career. Her journey with fashion and design has had its ups and downs, but she is currently soaring to the top in her businesses.

Venus created EleVen by Venus, a company that makes women’s tennis outfits, yoga clothes, fitness wear for running, dance, and they even make casual gear known as athleisure wear. She also founded and is the CEO of V-Starr Interiors, which is a design firm with clients ranging from fancy houses to tennis clubs athletic centers to hotels.

She is a full-time entrepreneur while maintaining a full schedule on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour.  She is 36 years old and is still thriving in a sport in which athletes peak in their 20’s. She is currently ranked number 17. Venus usually wears and presents her designs during her personal matches before they are debuted in her retail stores. She is doing well for herself and has nowhere to go but UP from here.