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Women, Sport, and Film - 2002
Prof. Chris Shelton
Every sports fan hates to admit the fact that sports are simply business, but it is undeniable that sports are one of the most lucrative businesses in the U.S. Right now the market for women's professional sports is growing rapidly. The best way for women's sporting organizations to promote and sell this market is to align with previously established organizations such as the NBA, NCAA and the USOIC. Although joining with men's organizations is a difficult process that involves compromise, merging with these organizations helps to land big television contracts, gives greater publicity, and brings in endorsements, advertisers and investors. The lack of these benefits was among the key factors in the failure of the ABL. Inversely, these are the reasons for the successes of the WNBA and women's sports in the Olympics.
Throughout the history of female athletics merging with male sports organizations has not always been a pleasant experience. In 1982 the AIAW merged with the NCAA, despite the NCAA fighting tooth and nail to try and find ways out of Title IX, an act of Congress that required Universities to provide equal funding for women's athletics. The NCAA did everything they could to stop the equal funding but finally gave in during the 1990's. Right now the NCAA embraces its women's sports programs and has had many women represented on the executive committee roster and even has a committee on women's athletics. Also, the NCAA has worked out television contracts with ESPN, FOX sports and CBS. This has lead to not only coverage of women's sports but publicity. Women's games are talked about on Sports Center and College Hoops Tonight everyday during the season.
The addition of the women's to the Olympics did a lot more to promote commercial secures and the advancement of women's The Women's Olympic Games went out of business shortly after the Olympics allowed women to participate. Women lost a lot with this merger at first due to the fact that women were prohibited from many Olympic events that they could have participated in as part of the Women's Olympics. These restrictions weren't lifted until 1984. However in the long run co-ed Olympics are beneficial for women's sports. At the 2002 Olympics at Salt Lake City there was only two sports that USA women did not compete in, ski jumping and the Nordic combined. Female athletes were well represented even though there were a few more male athletes in some events and the television air time was almost equal for both sexes. The ABL never stood a chance against the WNBA. The ABL a independent women's league and the WNBA, a subsidiary of the NBA, played a big part in putting the ABL, a separate women's basketball league out of business. The WNBA could afford to pay players less because the players could receive a lot more publicity and endorsement playing in the WNBA. The ABL made huge mistakes right off the bat. First off there season was from October to March right and competing with the NBA and the college basketball season. Thus it was harder to land large television contracts. The could only get contracts on lower budget cable stations the Black Entertainment Television and some but not much regional coverage on the Sports Channel ( now Fox Sports). In their third and final year they did not renew the contact with BET and Fox Sports would show 16 games, a 61% decrease of games seen on TV . However they did work out a deal with CBS that would show two ABL playoff games. League went under before they could even finish the season. With the help of the NBA the WNBA was able to avoid costly mistakes while using the pervious existing structure of the NBA and its capital to increase the popularity of the WNBA and ensure some financial security. The WNBA had NBA marketers and promoters and big television contracts on NBC, Lifetime and ESPN. The WNBA just this season will be showing a lot more games the ever before. The LA Sparks will receive 22 of their 33 games televised nationally More importantly the WNBA had money behind it, commercial on NBC billboards all over there home cities and their marquee players such as Lisa Leslies were in shoe commercials.
The market for women's sports is growing rapidly and a big part of this success is because of these mergers with established organization. These mergers of women's and men's sports can do a lot more for the promotion and the TV coverage then any newly formed league male or female, an example of the is the WNBA and the Olympics. Although the history of these mergers has had a shaky history in the past those days are over. There is a lot of money to be made on women's sports if promoted right and if leagues like the WNBA fail it would be a major set back for women's basketball so why not have the NBA and all its promoter TV contracts and executive expertise behind them.
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