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Ralph Nader and League of Fans Ask Secretary Paige to Reject Recommendations that would Undermine Title IX

Minority Report

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Responding to the report recently released by the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, Ralph Nader and League of Fans sent a letter today to Secretary of Education Roderick Paige urging him to reject all recommendations that would potentially allow schools to reduce the number of athletic opportunities and scholarships they are currently obligated to provide women under Title IX. Title IX bars sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding, including athletics. The letter follows.

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Dear Secretary Paige,

We are writing to voice our strong support for Title IX one of the most important and successful civil rights laws in U.S. history and to express our concern over the recommendations made to you by the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics to undermine the enforcement of Title IX.

As you know, Title IX has affected positive change in this country for over three decades. Prior to Title IX, if a woman wanted to pursue a professional degree in college, she could be passed over for a law school or medical school program simply because she was a woman. Similarly, opportunities for girls' and women's sports participation at all levels was absurdly deficient. Since then, Title IX has been a vital tool in advancing equal opportunities for women and girls in the classroom and on the playing field.

But the benefits of Title IX are not limited to opening opportunities for girls and women who are happier, healthier and more confident because they have played sports. Nor do the benefits end with the countless women who have gone on to successful careers and trace their accomplishments back to Title IX. What Title IX has achieved in influencing boys and men who respect girls and women and their athletic, academic and workplace abilities is every bit as important and nothing short of remarkable.

From the very start, your creation of the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics was widely believed to be a vehicle to push a pre-determined Bush Administration agenda to weaken Title IX. Heavily weighted to oppose Title IX, the Commission voted to recommend scaling the law back based on misguided arguments blaming Title IX for the elimination of some "lower profile" men's sports (men's sports opportunities actually continue to grow), rather than the increasingly excessive and irresponsible spending on the college football and men's basketball "arms races." The Commission has perpetuated offensive stereotypes that girls and women are not as interested or as talented in playing sports as men -- a bias that civil rights laws like Title IX seek to eliminate.

Despite their heroic efforts in defense of Title IX, Commission members Julie Foudy and Donna de Varona were heavily outnumbered both in terms of the unbalanced composition of the Commission and witness testimony that was skewed.

With ten out of the fifteen Commissioners affiliated with Division 1-A schools (most of them administrators or coaches from big-time football schools or conferences) with the most self-interest in weakening Title IX, representation was clearly slanted. So too was the witness testimony with panelists hand-picked by the Department of Education testifying two-to-one against current Title IX standards while many civil rights activists and legal experts in favor of Title IX were not heard.

Despite the gains women have made under Title IX, resources for women's sports have never caught up to resources for men's sports at most colleges and universities. Women are still being discriminated against, with over 80 percent of schools still not in compliance with Title IX. Women's athletic programs continue to lag behind men's programs by every measurable criterion, including participation opportunities, athletic scholarships, operating budgets and recruiting expenditures.

While 56 percent of our college populations are female, female athletes still receive only 42 percent of all college athletic participation opportunities, 36 percent of sports operating expenditures, 32 percent of athlete recruitment spending, and 42 percent of athletic scholarship money -- amounting to $133 million less than male athletes receive in scholarships each year.

Your recent statement that the Department of Education will move forward only on recommendations that received unanimous agreement of the Commission is a step in the right direction, but not a satisfactory commitment to protecting the Title IX policies that guarantee equal opportunity for women and girls. In their Minority Report, Commission members Foudy and de Varona raised serious objections to the entire document and explicitly dissented from a few of what were characterized as "consensus" recommendations. Foudy and de Varona say they unsuccessfully "urged another meeting of the full Commission to carefully review the language and impact of the final report," prior to publication. Upon review of the report's treatment of some supposed "consensus" recommendations as drafted, they made clear that they did not agree with the report's formulations of previous points of agreement.

Foudy and de Varona argue that the Commission recommendations (many of which "would seriously weaken Title IX's protections and substantially reduce the opportunities to which women and girls are entitled under current law") are the result of a flawed process that failed to address key issues or "reflect an understanding of the discrimination women and girls still face in obtaining equal opportunity in athletics." This criticism applies as well to the misnamed "consensus" recommendations. In moving forward, you should give careful attention to the Minority Report's recommendations, which were crafted with an eye toward enhancing opportunities for both women and girls, and men and boys.

Parents want our sons and daughters to know that they are equally valued and will receive equitable opportunities to play and be treated fairly in athletics and in life. If your goal is to undermine Title IX and the positive change the law has affected for more than three decades, you will be sending a message to women, men, girls and boys that their rights and abilities are different and unequal.

We urge you to reject the recommendations (12, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23 and the unnumbered recommendation) that would potentially allow schools to reduce the number of athletic opportunities and scholarships they are currently obligated to provide women under Title IX. Make no mistake about it, if you choose to support any of those proposals, you will be supporting discrimination against women at educational institutions that receive federal funds.

Until women have the same opportunities as men to enjoy the psychological, physiological and sociological benefits that sports participation can provide, your duty is to preserve and vigorously strengthen the enforcement of Title IX.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader

Shawn McCarthy
Director, League of Fans

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Minority Report

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Founded by Ralph Nader, the mission of League of Fans is to improve sports by working as a sports industry watchdog to increase awareness of the industry's relationship to society, expose irresponsible business practices, ensure fan accountability, and encourage the sports industry to contribute to societal well-being.