Katie Ledecky stands on the deck of the Fina World Cup in Indianapolis after breaking the 800 meter freestyle world record. Photo courtesy of Team USA/Getty Images.
ABIGAIL RUBEL | OPINION COLUMNIST | [email protected]
Since sport is an important part of mass media, there are many sports that don’t get enough attention. Football, men’s basketball and baseball all take the spotlight for media coverage, leaving many sports in the dust – including swimming, especially women’s swimming. The sport is full of incredible athletes like Katie Ledecky and Simon Manuelbut their accomplishments aren’t often reported by mainstream sports outlets like ESPN and CBS.
Funding and viewership
Funding is one of the biggest problems facing low-attendance sports — both men and women — whether at the high school, collegiate, or professional level. And with that, there are some sports that are not covered at all. Sports media senior Bella Riggione detailed which sports tend to be heavily funded.
“Football is probably the sport that gets the most coverage, especially the NFL,” Riggione said. “You have the most money. They bring in the most revenue.”
Riggione is right. The NFL brought a whopping $17.19 billion in 2021 revenue compared to US swimming that brought in $5.8 million. These stats are not surprising considering football is broadcast across multiple networks every Monday, Thursday and Sunday. Even Amazon broadcasts football on Thursday evenings now. Swimming competitions can’t compete with soccer in the sheer volume of competitions and games – and are failing swimmers.
Even though swimming doesn’t have a large number of competitions, it still produces many newsworthy moments, such as: Katie Ledecky set a new world record in the 800m freestyle and 1500m freestyle. Both records were set in the space of a week, but received little coverage in the mainstream media.
Next to the search for Ledecky’s name Twitter or CNN, there isn’t much information online about their latest achievements. Riggione shares how she found out Ledecky broke the 800m record.
“I was there, which was really cool,” Riggione said. “…but to be honest, I wouldn’t know until I was there. I wouldn’t have known otherwise…I had to search through my Twitter mentions of Katie Ledecky to find the tweet talking about her.”
Riggione’s feelings show how little publicity there is for swimming. Physical attendance at the meeting should not be the only way for them and others to learn about the sport and Riggione’s experience exemplifies the lack of coverage. without cover, Swimming takes a backseat to the more visible sports.
sexism in sport
All women’s sports – not just swimming – have constantly struggled to get their fair share of media coverage. While the near lack of media attention may indicate that there is no demand for coverage, The fan base for women’s sports is very present. Olivia McKeea double degree in marketing and music industry in the first year, is a member of the Butler women’s swim team and a fan of women sport In general.
“Personally, I’m much more involved with women’s sports just because I’ve researched Title IX in the past,” McKee said. “I just like to watch women’s sports.”
Even as fans keep demanding more women’s sports coverage, it remains an uphill battle.
The US women’s soccer team is ranked in the world, while men are in third place, yet the men’s FIFA World Cup is advertised everywhere. Basketball is considered a very popular sport for men. Everyone hears about the NBA and athletes like Lebron James and Stephen Currybut the WNBA receives far less attention. Steven Williams IIa freshman business major and member of the Butler football team, noted the difference in coverage between men and women in pro basketball.
“The WNBA in particular lacks representation,” Williams said. “… [it seems like] nobody really wants to see it.”
Sport centered around men is nothing new, but something that has prevailed throughout history. Even from ancient Greece, Men were the ones who competed in the Olympics. This sexism in sport is literally ancient and still happening today.
“If you turn on the TV and put it on a sports network, it’s going to be mostly a man’s sport,” McKee said. “Unless it’s about gymnastics, figure skating or the women’s world championships. Those are the three most popular women’s sports, and that’s because they’re stereotypically women’s sports [sports].”
The limited coverage of Ledecky’s win makes sense given mainstream media trends. Society needs to care more about sports that are undervalued and give women in sports their well-deserved spotlight.