USA’s Women’s Soccer Team Is No Accident. It’s A Product Of Public Policy

The success story of women’s sports shows how marginalized groups can be given opportunities through policy interventions.

By Moira Donegan
The Guardian (7/7/19)

On Sunday, USA will play the final of the Women’s World Cup against the Netherlands, and there’s a good chance the Americans will win. Victory would bring a fourth world title for the US women’s team – there have only been eight World Cup competitions in history.

The talent pool for female soccer players in America appears bottomless. The American women are so talented that players who would be starters for other countries, such as the forward Christen Press, frequently find themselves on the bench. The US has found itself with a huge number of phenomenally talented female soccer players: how did we get them?

Nearly 50 years after title IX became law, a generation of women has reaped the benefits of institutional support, professional development and education that the law provides.

In large part, we got them through policy, in particular the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Shepherded into law by Congresswoman Patsy Mink of Hawaii, the title IX provision of the act was a response to feminists’ push to close a loophole in the Civil Rights Act of 964 that allowed federally funded schools, colleges and universities to discriminate by sex. Title IX was intended to prohibit this kind of discrimination, and it applied to all educational programs and all aspects of a school’s operation – including sports.

Opposed by Republicans from the start

Title IX was controversial from the beginning. The law was passed when school-based athletics programs for girls were virtually non-existent, and cultural mores and common superstitions alike held that sports and physical competition were the province of men, and unnatural or even unhealthy for girls. Republican senators John Tower of Texas and Jesse Helms of North Carolina were particularly preoccupied with the bill’s mandate that schools fund sports programming for women, introducing multiple amendments to the bill that aimed to exempt athletics departments from the non-discrimination mandate. The amendments failed, but title IX’s sports funding provision faced an uphill battle to implementation – it was gutted by the supreme court in 1984 and had to be re-implemented by Congress in 1988 in an override of Ronald Reagan’s veto. Even then, its enforcement was fought tooth and nail by school administrations and the NCAA. …

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