The Long Eclipse of Women’s Televised Sports and the Promise of New Media

19 July 2022


Cheryl Cooky discusses insights from a 30-year analysis of gender imbalance in sports coverage.

At an athletic conference in the 1980s, held by a sports organization now called the LA84 Foundation, a speaker addressed sexism and racism in sports media. But a critical and defensive industry audience bristled at the topic, accusing the speaker of cherry-picking examples to fit a narrative. So the foundation commissioned Drs. Michael Messner and Margaret Carlisle Duncan to conduct comprehensive research, initially published in 1989 in the report “Gender Stereotyping in Televised Sports,” which led to follow-up studies on the portrayal of women’s sports in televised news and highlights shows in the decades since. The most recent report, “One and Done: The Long Eclipse of Women’s Televised Sports, 1989-2019,” published in 2021, added sports e-newsletters and social media to the research.

The report demonstrates how little has changed in the mainstream media representation of women’s sports in the past 30 years, said Purdue University professor Dr. Cheryl Cooky, editor of Sociology of Sport Journal and lead author of “One and Done,” who first joined the ongoing study as a research assistant in 1999.

R/GA FutureVision’s Victoria Stapley-Brown spoke with Dr. Cooky about why she thinks mainstream sports media has made such little progress in gender representation, how new digital media outlets are changing the game, and how much legacy media even matters.

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