It’s time to end the problematic media rhetoric around Black women in sports.
TIME’S UP Message to Media Covering Black Women Athletes: #WeHaveHerBack
Culture, Equity, We Have Her Back
TIME’S UP launched the #WeHaveHerBack campaign ahead of the 2020 election to call out newsrooms for problematic rhetoric around women – especially women of color, and femme-identified candidates. Women have long been subject to stereotypes and tropes about qualifications, leadership, looks, relationships and experience. And for Black and Brown women those stereotypes are often amplified and weaponized. During 2020’s historic election, TIME’S UP, our partners, and our supporters demanded women’s equitable representation in the media. And we’re doing it again now.
This week marks the start of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and, for the first time, the games are nearing gender parity, with women making up 49% of competing athletes. Yet we’re still seeing the usual patterns of problematic headlines — or lack thereof. Basketball phenom Paige Bueckers’s powerful statement at last week’s ESPY awards framed the issue well. In her acceptance speech for best college athlete in women’s sports, Bueckers called out the unequal media coverage of Black women athletes saying, “They don’t get the media coverage that they deserve. They’ve given so much to the sport, the community and society as a whole and their value is undeniable.” As she put it, the lack of attention on Black women athletes sends a signal about who is valued — both figuratively and financially.
[Black women] don't get the media coverage that they deserve. They've given so much to the sport, the community and society as a whole and their value is undeniable.
University of Connecticut Basketball Player; ESPYS 2021 Best College Athlete In Women's Sports
Rather than being lifted up for contributions in their field, Black women in sports have often been portrayed in ways that don’t reflect their humanity or breadth of experience, often being essentially told to“shut up and perform.” We also know Black women athletes have historically received not only less in pay, but have experienced disproportionate rates of assault and harassment in their places of work — an issue that has recently garnered media attention as Black women in sports boldly and publicly share their experiences being discriminated against and harassed while simply trying to do their jobs.
It’s time to end the problematic media rhetoric around Black women in sports, regardless of their status or identity. All women in leadership deserve to be treated equitably and that includes the way the media engage with and cover their work. As we find ourselves in another historic moment for women, now is the time to call out racist and misogynistic media coverage and demand that women, especially Black women, be covered in a way that is fair, equitable and mitigates harm.
When Black women are safe and have what they need to thrive,
we all have what we need.
We’re calling on companies and leaders across industries to stop turning a blind eye to the experiences of Black women athletes and leaders experiencing harm while trying to do their jobs. Media executives, news editors, reporters, and other opinion leaders must do their part to ensure that media coverage of Black women is equitable, balanced, and respectful of their experiences. And while we will continue fighting for all women and femme-identified folk, we know that when Black women are safe and have what they need to thrive, we all have what we need.
TIME’S UP is going to keep saying #WeHaveHerBack until that’s the reality.