From the Office of State Senator Kevin Witkos
This past Saturday I had the opportunity to run the scoreboard and sit front row at a soccer event in my hometown of Canton. The event, called ‘Soccer Under the Lights,’ brought the Canton Warriors against the Granby Bears. Both the girls and boys varsity soccer teams played games, and the Canton Youth Soccer Players played a half time exhibition game.
This was such a great night and opportunity to see our towns’ young athletes compete. It also served as a reminder of gender equality in our sports, Title IX to be exact –a law requiring schools and colleges receiving federal money to provide the same opportunities for girls as they do for boys.
I’m sure many of you at home recall the civil rights era where issues of discrimination were addressed. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, which came about as a resolution to our country’s needs, was also a way to refocus a great deal of attention on women’s rights – a movement that began in 1920 with women’s suffrage.
After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson began issuing a series of executive orders to make clarifications to the act. Then, in 1970 during a congressional hearing on women’s rights, an amendment to Title IX was drafted and introduced by Congresswoman Patsy T. Mink, with the assistance of Congresswoman Edith Green. At the time the focus had little to do with athletics and much more to do with certain employment practices of federally financed institutions. But, their work was successful and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 became United States law and was enacted on June 23, 1972 (it amended Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.) Title IX was renamed the ‘Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act’ in 2002 to honor the hard work of Congresswoman Mink, but is still more commonly referred to as ‘Title IX.’
As we read it today, under United States law, Title IX states, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance..." So not surprisingly, soon after the passage and adoption of the law, Title IX became best known for its impact on high school and collegiate sports.
Like many other laws, with its 1972 passage came a great deal of opposition. Some men’s sports teams, universities and even the NCAA spoke out against the law. As this was the case, further clarifications were made to Title IX, the last change made in 2006.
Although many opposed the law, its positive effect was visible immediately. According to statistics published in the New York Times, six years after the enactment of Title IX, the percentage of girls playing high school team sports climbed to 25 percent from about 4 percent (300,000 in 1971). Today, that number is 2.4 million.
The rise of women's basketball is a prefect example of how Title IX has impacted women’s sports. In 1972, a national study estimated that just over 132,000 girls played high school basketball and by 1995 the number had increased to more than 412,000. Further, the United States women’s basketball team has won multiple Olympic gold medals, and support has risen for the NCAA women's basketball tournament. And closer to home, the success and great achievements of the UCONN women’s basketball program also illustrates the importance and of Title IX.
It is a shame that it took federal legislative action to ensure our sons and daughters are treated equally as athletes, but the outcome was a welcomed feeling as I watched parents and families cheer on all players at ‘Soccer Under the Lights.’