By Ken Reed
For the first time in in Indianapolis 500 history, a racing team made up of mostly women will participate in the race this year.
The Paretta Autosport team is comprised of about 70% women, including the driver, owner and crew. This new first in auto racing comes 44 years after Janet Guthrie became the first woman to race in the Indy 500.
Team owner Beth Paretta acknowledges and gives kudos to the women that came before her team.
“We stand on their shoulders,” says Paretta.
“There have been women that have been mechanics that had to hide the fact they were women, had to wear bandanas over their hair so that … people wouldn’t be heckling them.”
The Paretta Autosport team is part of Indy 500 track owner Roger Penske’s Race for Equality and Change initiative that launched last summer. It’s one of many efforts to make the speedway more diverse and inclusive.
It’s a terrific development for a sport that has long been one of the most sexist sectors in our society.
Guthrie knows that all too well.
“The general idea was women don’t have the strength, the endurance, the emotional stability, women are going to endanger our lives,” says Guthrie, reflecting on the atmosphere she experienced when she hit the starting line at the Indy 500 track in 1977. “And you could read that on the newspapers most every day.”
Guthrie recalls fans yelling “Get the (breasts) out of the pits!”
Paretta appreciates the hardships Guthrie and other women at the Indy 500 have had to endure but she’s focused on the present and future. She hopes her team inspires more women to get involved in motor sports.
“Racing is the only sport today that can be coed at the pro level and I think that’s a really amazing comment,” says Paretta. “Because if you look at everywhere else — business, industry, science sectors — life is coed.”
As Guthrie says about sports and life, “Doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. If you’re a pro, you’re a pro.”
Here’s a shout-out to Roger Penske for his equality initiative and another to Beth Paretta and her team for knocking down another barrier to equality.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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