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Top Women’s Players Concerned About Gender Equity In Triple Crown Tour

by in News with 56 Comments
Seattle Riot takes on San Francisco Fury in the finals of the 2012 Club Championships.

Photo by Pete Guion — UltiPhotos.com.

Much of the aftermath of USA Ultimate’s announcement of the Triple Crown Tour focused on the Men’s division and whether those teams and players would stay within USAU’s system or join NexGen’s proposed league. But the new format and, particularly, USAU’s stated focus on marketing the sport stand to alter the women’s division just as much.

Following the announcement of the format, a group of women’s players from a wide range of club teams organized to discuss and express its concerns to USAU regarding the impact to the division, describe the desires and goals of the Women’s division as a whole, and figure out going forward how the new format and potential broadcasting deals will impact the division.

“I think many women felt like there wasn’t a voice for the women’s division as a whole” in the creation of the TCT format, said North Carolina Phoenix’s Lindsey Hack.

Of particular concern to the Women’s players is the impact on the gender equity policy.1

The gender equity policy essentially requires USAU to cover and promote all divisions equally — offering equal numbers of photos and articles in the quarterly magazine, for instance. It also allocates funds to programs to increase participation in the women’s division, until growth and participation reaches that of the men’s division.

It was introduced in 2008 by Peri Kurshan, then a board member. She was also a longtime player for Boston’s Brute Squad who most recently coached San Francisco’s Nightlock.

Before the policy was put into place, Kurshan said the women’s division wasn’t growing at nearly the same rate as the open division. “The magazine had very few pictures of women and there weren’t a lot of programs in place for things like women’s clinics,” she said.

Since the policy, she explained, “there’s been a lot more parity and equity in terms of how the women’s division is portrayed in the magazine and on the website and in streaming video, and I think that’s made a big difference in encouraging women and girls.”

Following the announcement of the TCT, many women were wary of USAU’s emphasis on promotion and marketing of the sport, and potential loopholes that could allow the gender equity policy to be overlooked.

“At the time we were forming, we heard that the board was going to be discussing the policy at the annual board meeting,” said Kate Leslie, who most recently coached Atlanta’s Ozone. Prior to the board’s annual meeting, the group of women submitted a policy statement to the board in support of the gender equity policy.

In drafting the policy statement, Leslie spoke with a Title IX expert, who told her that the current USAU gender equity policy is “probably the most protective policy around gender in any sport,” and that most professional sports have no protections at all. She encouraged Leslie and the group to not cede their rights or give leeway to the board to alter the current policy.

Following its annual meeting, the USAU board did reaffirm its intention to uphold gender equity, which Kurshan thinks “strengthens their commitment to the policy.” USAU CEO Tom Crawford told Ultiworld in January that the organization is “fully committed to the gender equity policy 150%.”

However, the board also made clear that if a television broadcast deal was struck, the media company would not be beholden to the policy. While the board would encourage said partner to cover all divisions, the choice would be at the production company’s discretion.

“That’s all very vague to me,” said Hack, noting that it seems to “leave a lot of loopholes.”

Ensuring those loopholes don’t get taken advantage of will require vigilance, said Kurshan.

“Once the promotion of one division over another starts to impact not only the promotional material, but the playing experience, that’s a line I wouldn’t want to cross,” she said.

The concern is that if ESPN, in their new multiyear deal with USA Ultimate, features the Men’s division more than the Women’s division, it will impact more than just TV time. The teams being televised will be playing on the best fields, at the best times, relegating the Women’s teams to suboptimal playing fields and schedules.

“That’s definitely one of the concerns,” Kurshan said, “and it’s been voiced to the USAU as one of the reasons that, even if we would be okay with less promotion by an outside organization, it can be a slippery slope toward being treated like a second class citizen.”

However, she said, under the gender equity policy, it would fall on the USAU to ensure that promotion of the sport by outside organizations did not end up impacting players’ experience of the sport.

Another issue is how unequal coverage of the divisions could impact the growth of those divisions. The USAU argues that the promotion of Men’s ultimate will benefit all divisions — more visibility to attract future players, more money to support growth and development opportunities, for instance — but another argument can be made that unequal coverage of the divisions now will lead to further disparities in the future.

“If we just accept some extra money and support to build up youth and college women’s ultimate now — by the time [those youth] get into club women’s, they will have a bigger uphill battle to get equal or similar footing as the open division,” said New York Bent’s Cara Brown. “Focusing on building women’s, girls, and college women’s ultimate should always be a focus, rather than just our take from the broadcasting deal for [Men's].”

“It’s important to showcase the sport if you want to get girls to play and continue playing the sport,” said Leslie.

And, who’s to say that women’s ultimate doesn’t deserve equal broadcast time? “I feel like there is a market for high-level women’s frisbee,” said Leslie, citing the women’s national soccer team as an example of a women’s sport that appealed to men and women both and of all ages. “Women’s frisbee has worlds champions, too, that win world tournaments, and that definitely has appeal.”

Going forward, Brown said it would be important for women players to be loud and vocal about what they want, and for the USAU board to remember that its responsibility is to be an advocate for all divisions, not just Men’s.

“In general, I think the fact that USAU had to actually take another stand on the issue is a positive step,” added Brown. “It’s easy to forget about a policy if there is never any continued discussion about or review of the policy.”

The group of women ultimate players continues to discuss among themselves and with the USAU about their role going forward, said Leslie, and how they can continue working with the organization to ensure that as the sport advances, the desires of all its players are met.


  1. The current USA Ultimate gender equity policy reads: “In an attempt to strengthen the Ultimate community and ensure that the sport of Ultimate remains an inclusive and welcoming sport for female athletes, USA Ultimate endorses a policy of gender equity. USA Ultimate will ensure that USA Ultimate coverage and promotion of women’s divisions is equal to that of the corresponding men’s division, and encourage outside partners and vendors to achieve gender equity in their coverage of and marketing to Ultimate. As long as the number of female players lags behind the number of male players, USA Ultimate will implement targeted outreach programs that strive to increase the number of female players. USA Ultimate, in order to promote and encourage the growth of female play in USA Ultimate competition, recommends the creation of comparable teams of each gender. In situations of unequal opportunity, reasonable accommodations should be made to include female participants.” []

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About Monica Heger

Monica Heger is a journalist and ultimate player based in Brooklyn. She plays for New York's Women's team Bent and coaches the NYU Violet Femmes.

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  • Aki

    Great article, Monica!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/martin.gottschalk Martin Gottschalk

    great article! Definitely something that should be talked about.

  • Andrew

    Is there anything we can do as fans to push for more balanced coverage?

    I’m excited about increased exposure, but increased exposure for women’s ultimate seems like a bigger piece of growing the sport.

    • http://www.facebook.com/nick.judson Nick Judson

      an easy first step is us actually watching women’s ultimate when the streams or on demand videos are available we haven’t done this well enough in the past

    • Chase

      How can the coverage be any more balanced that it already is?

    • Ben Slade

      Yes! Tune in to the women’s games, and get your friends to do the same!

      ESPN will look at viewership as the primary driver for investment. Broadcasting needs to generate views or it will get dropped by for-profit organizations.

      NexGen is a great example of this- Kevin would LOVE to cover more women’s games, but if he can only sell 1/3 the amount of subscriptions as a men’s game at the same site, his decision about which game to cover can make the difference between profit and loss.

      USAU has view-counts on you tube for all divisions, where there is identical coverage of the 2012 club men’s, women’s, and mixed finals. This is visible to external investors when they make decisions about what to buy. Their primary goal is to maximize current and potential viewership and advertising sales for their media channels.

      http://www.youtube.com/user/usaultimate/videos?view=0

      You can also advocate directly to your BoD representatives (including myself). USA Ultimate has and will continue to see the big picture when it comes to women’s involvement in the sport and are not bound by the same constraints as a for-profit endeavor. However, there are many viewpoints about the best way to implement fair and effective treatment of male and female athletes and teams.

      The policy statement from the women’s teams was tremendously helpful and provided excellent context in discussing possible avenues for media exposure and gender equity during the January board meeting. Without that policy statement, there would have been less certainty about the attitudes and beliefs of a critical constituent group.

  • Guest

    This media equality argument is premised on the alleged fact that the women’s and open division games are equal.

    @Lindey Hack: if you believe your skills and abilities are just as good as anyone else’s, try out for Ring of Fire. Women are eligible to play in the open division.

    Note: this is not to say women are somehow less valuable or deserve less attention. I am pointing out that this article does not address the fundamental inequality of the two divisions.

    • Kristina

      “premised on the alleged fact that the women’s and open division game are equal”

      “this is not to say women are somehow less valuable or deserve less attention”

      Funny. Because that is exactly what you are saying. Unequal inherently ends up meaning less valuable.

      This article isn’t saying that women are currently playing at the same level as men. It is simply saying that there is a market for women’s ultimate on TV as well, as proven by women’s soccer, and should therefore be given the same coverage so as to encourage the growth of women’s ultimate. As women’s ultimate grows, the playing quality WILL increase.

      It is highly concerning to me how many men are happy to defend and promote gender inequality because “we play better”. The fact of the matter is, if women were encouraged to play sports in our society to the same extent as men, the discrepancy would not be nearly as big. USA Ultimate is doing a wonderful thing for standing up for women and having this gender equal policy, and the men in our community should be supporting that.

      • http://www.facebook.com/cory.casella Cory August Casella

        While I do agree with you that the original poster on this thread contradicted himself a bit, I have to disagree with your point that solely encouraging women to play sports, and specifically playing Ultimate, will bridge the gap between the women’s and men’s games. If you look at TOP athletes, women’s soccer for instance, these women were encouraged, cared for and brought up in a culture of being nothing but EXCELLENT at their sport. But despite that, if you put them in a tryout with the US Men’s National Team, probably none of them make the team. Look at World Records for high jumping, sprinting, pole vaulting, marathons, triathlons, etc… The women’s numbers are lower and slower than the men’s numbers. And these are women who have already trained their entire lives for their sport.

        As I said in my post, I enjoy watching women’s ultimate. But that’s as a fan of the sport already. People new to the sport won’t be as wow’d be women’s Ultimate. Which is why I say, focus on growing the sport, legitimizing it in the way of public opinion, and then you can put more of a focus on growing the women’s side because you will have so many more resources at hand.

        I think the most important thing right now is the sport. Focus on growing that, shifting public opinion about it being a hippie sport, to it being a legitimate, competitive sport on the world stage, and then we continue the hard work that’s already been put in place for women’s Ultimate.

        • Becky

          The fact that a woman might not make it on an “Open” team does not mean that the women’s game is inherently less interesting.

          I actually think Ultimate is in a position to take the lead amongst all sports on this issue, and show the world that maybe they can watch women’s sports. Otherwise the “no one watches women’s” argument is a perpetually self-fulfilling prophecy. Someone has to take the leap, broadcast women’s, and say “I DARE YOU to recognize how awesome this game is.”

          • http://www.facebook.com/cory.casella Cory August Casella

            I agree that Ultimate is in a position to take the lead on Women’s Equality in sports. I think it already leads in that respect, maybe behind soccer, though. But Ultimate and the way it treats it’s women’s division currently is definitely a great case study on how to treat women in sports: like they matter and are important to the game overall. No argument from me there.

            Where I must respectfully disagree with you is that the athleticism of the players does not drive the interest in the sport. This is why no one sticks around for the End of Summer League Tournaments in cities all around the country. Because the athleticism and chance to see something amazing just isn’t there. That’s why people watch sports. To see the BIG plays. To see something amazing. And with women’s Ultimate, while those are more present than in the aforementioned Summer League tournament, they are undeniably less present than in the top tier men’s games. It’s there FOR SURE. But it’s just not as prevalent. And the reason for the lack of big plays like on the men’s side is a big reason why people aren’t tuning in.

          • Akina Younge

            I think there are also other things that make people watch games — that’s why college basketball is so big! Otherwise, why would anyone watch college basketball if there’s an NBA league.

            I think the other reasons people watch sports could be great starting points for ESPN and USAU to think about how to market all the different divisions well. Perhaps they can help bring people in as fans of their home city teams, or remind people that the unexpected can happen at any time (I mean those come back games that go to universe point are AMAZING to watch especially at the highest level regardless of gender division).

          • Cori

            There are already a lot of great points for arguments on all sides in these comments, but I wanted to reemphasize what Becky pointed out: that many times, arguments highlighting “inherent” or evident inequalities are often self-fulfilling. In Cory’s example, a top female athlete supported, coached, and given all of the same resources as top male athletes still needs to battle against insidious biases that are engrained in our culture, particularly sports culture.

          • Roeland

            The thing is, people have “DARED” and the numbers don’t work out. It has been referenced before, but look at the Youtube numbers alone. Also, Nexgen guys have stated they make a loss when posting woman’s videos.

            Either way, I think we should be all about equality for Ultimate! but in regards to media exposure where we try to get new/random viewers interested, lets not worry about the politics of keeping things even. Once we have the exposure out there, maybe we can try to bring focus more to woman’s ultimate.

            I just don’t want ultimate exposure to fail/not work effectively just on the idea that we should be the “lead amongst all sports on this issue”.

          • FullFieldHammer

            I just couldn’t agree with this more.

        • Kristina

          I think you make valid points and agree with a lot of the things you say, but I still completely disagree with your solution

          Starting out unequal with the goal of eventually making it equal is the exact way the gap is going to increase, and things are going to stay unequal.

          I think history has shown us that without specific policies towards equality (i.e. USA Ultimates policy….or…Brown vs. Board of Education) things inherently stay or become unequal.

          Is keeping womens and mens ultimate equal less convenient? Absolutely! But that is exactly one of the reasons it is necessary.

          • http://www.facebook.com/cory.casella Cory August Casella

            I just want to be clear that I’m not advocating dropping women’s Ultimate in any way. All I’m saying is that there should be some initial sacrifices made, like in this TV deal. If the coverage is not equal by ESPN in terms of TV time between women’s and men’s, I think that’s OK for a while until the sport builds it’s foundation and viewer base and shifts public opinion. Women’s Ultimate and the number of players who play it is much smaller than the Open side. The number of teams in the country is a great indicator of that. I just don’t think that right now is the time to make the stand and say “women’s Ultimate deserves similar coverage and treatment as the men’s side” because there’s a reason for the discrepancy in the sheer number of teams that compete each year.

      • Guest

        Unequal does not necessarily mean less valuable. Value is subjective. Who is to say that more media coverage makes something more valuable? I think it is good that USAU promises to support each division equally, each member pays the same amount of dues after all (though one could argue the larger percentage of male players justifies more resources to the open and mixed divisions).
        We live in a world with limited resources. USAU is in the difficult position of trying to promote the growth of ultimate for everyone, while still trying to be even handed to each member. Technically, the women’s division is the only division that excludes people based on gender alone. Why is that? And if more resources were devoted towards the open and mixed divisions, how would that violate USAU’s gender equality policy? Does the existence of the women’s division as it is written violate the gender equality policy? I’d like to see those questions addressed.
        Let me be clear about what I am arguing for. I am arguing for promoting ultimate at the most competitive level possible. If someone (like say, ESPN) wants to broadcast our sport which we all share, why shouldn’t they focus on the players that represent the most skill and athletic ability? In my view, competition is gender blind.

        • Guest

          Value is subjective, but coverage definitely makes something more valuable. If something is better covered, they get more legitimacy than what is NOT being covered. I would like BOTH men and women’s ultimate to be legitimate.

          A lot of your follow up questions are about the idea of a protected class, or a marginalized group. Since we live in a world that unfortunately even in the states has sexist tendencies and stereotypes, women Ultimate needs the extra support to make sure it doesn’t get squashed by those forces. Also since women’s ultimate is behind in terms when it started and its growth, I think we all want to see it “catch up” in a way to the speed of growth men’s ultimate is seeing, In order to do that and to combat some of the unfortunate underlying forces of sexism, we need to put extra resources into our efforts to help women’s ultimate grow at a faster rater.

          I like that you’re arguing to promote ultimate and the most competitive level possible, but I think that women’s ultimate is just as competitive as men’s ultimate! And my bias is that I like watching women’s ultimate more! I think that men and women have different athletic abilities, but there are many viewers who only see value in the “how high can you jump” “how fast can you run” athletic abilities instead of approaching it in a more gender neutral way (ex: proportional to your size what’s your jumping height percentage) or instead of seeing women as having special strong athletic skills that the mean’s game is weaker on (ex: as Cory said before maybe that’s disc movement, break throws, decision making, etc).

        • Akina Younge

          Value is subjective, but coverage definitely makes something more valuable. If something is better covered, they get more legitimacy than what is NOT being covered. It’s also problematic that value is subjective because if there are fans or viewers who are biased (and maybe even sexist) then they will value the men’s game more, further taking legitimacy away from the women’s game. I would like BOTH men and women’s ultimate to be legitimate.

          A lot of your follow up questions are about the idea of a protected class, or a marginalized group. Since we live in a world that unfortunately (even in the states) has sexist tendencies and stereotypes, women’s Ultimate needs the extra support and protection to make sure it doesn’t get squashed by those negative forces. Also since women’s ultimate is “behind” men’s ultimate in terms of when it started and its growth, I think we all want to see it “catch up” in a way to the speed of growth men’s ultimate is seeing. In order to do that and to combat some of the unfortunate underlying forces of sexism, we need to put extra resources into our efforts to help women’s ultimate grow at a faster rate.

          I like that you’re arguing to promote ultimate and the most competitive level possible, but I think that women’s ultimate is just as competitive as men’s ultimate. And my bias is that I like watching women’s ultimate more. I think that men and women have different athletic abilities, but there are many viewers who only put their subjective value in the “how high can you jump” “how fast can you run” athletic abilities instead of approaching it in a more gender neutral way (ex: proportional to your size what’s your jumping height percentage) or instead of seeing women as having special strong athletic skills that the mean’s game is weaker on (ex: as Cory said before maybe that’s disc movement, break throws, decision making, etc).

      • Ben Slade

        Kristina,

        I completely agree- because USAU is not constrained to choose the most profitable route, we are given much more freedom in exercising and expressing a policy of gender equity.

        I also believe that ESPN (or other broadcasting companies) will gladly broadcast anything that will sell, and in fact would love to put more women’s sports on TV. But their motives will be driven by viewership. If and when Women’s Ultimate generates more views than Men’s Ultimate (as I believe has happened with US National Team Soccer), the broadcasting companies will change accordingly and possibly stray into inequity in coverage in the other direction.

    • Kristina

      “premised on the alleged fact that the women’s and open division game are equal”

      “this is not to say women are somehow less valuable or deserve less attention”

      Funny. Because that is exactly what you are saying. Unequal inherently ends up meaning less valuable.

      This article isn’t saying that women are currently playing at the same level as men. It is simply saying that there is a market for women’s ultimate on TV as well, as proven by women’s soccer, and should therefore be given the same coverage so as to encourage the growth of women’s ultimate. As women’s ultimate grows, the playing quality WILL increase.

      It is highly concerning to me how many men are happy to defend and promote gender inequality because “we play better”. The fact of the matter is, if women were encouraged to play sports in our society to the same extent as men, the discrepancy would not be nearly as big. USA Ultimate is doing a wonderful thing for standing up for women and having this gender equal policy, and the men in our community should be supporting that.

  • CA

    Is there something we all (women) can do? how can we be ” loud and vocal about what we want”?

    • Akina Younge

      Writing on comment boards is a start! We could also use more articles on women’s ultimate, so if you want to write like Monica did — either opinion pieces or recaps of tournaments that’s a good place to make yourself hear too!

    • Keg

      1 – Email ESPN and inquire about how much women’s coverage there will be
      2 – Watch only women’s events. While this will pull an audience away from the men’s games, it will show that there are people who are strongly interested in the women’s game and not just ultimate in general.

      • http://www.facebook.com/cory.casella Cory August Casella

        Aggghhhh. That’s terrible to hear. The SPORT is what’s important. If you boycott the men’s games for the sake of women’s Ultimate, you are doing the sport a disservice. Buy what you want to buy and let the market decide what is important. If women’s Ultimate is not selling, it’s not bc people don’t like WOMEN or their isn’t gender equality. It’s bc they don’t want to watch the women PLAY ULTIMATE as much as they want to see the men play Ultimate.

        Think about it like this: go back to the days of Negro League baseball when the black players started playing for the white teams. It wasn’t for the sake of equality that Jackie Robinson came over and started playing in the MLB. It was because the owners of the teams knew that the black players were able to offer a more exciting product and they wanted to increase the value of the product they were selling. If the players in the Negro Leagues weren’t as good at baseball, they would have stayed segregated for a LOT longer. As it was, they just offered a better product.

        So if you translate that into men vs. women, until the women can offer a product that is just as exciting as the men’s game, you probably aren’t going to see huge numbers from their views on YouTube or the viewer ratings on ESPN. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.

        I feel like if we focus on the sport, legitimize it, then we can refocus on the Women’s game once people are hooked on the sport. Personally, I enjoy watching top tier women’s Ultimate. But that’s as an avid fan of the sport already. The sell to the people who are new to the game is going to be much more difficult.

        This is why women’s soccer is so popular and women’s field hockey is not. The sport is huge, worldwide, in the Olympics, etc. The women’s game flourishes as a result of the strong foundation the sport is already built upon.

        • Guest

          But I think, as someone else said, value is subjective! If we have audiences that are biased (and maybe even sexist) driving the market, then we will constantly have an under-appreciation of women’s sports, and a constant description of women athletes as “less athletic!” The Negro Leagues always had people that were as good as (and better than) some of the players in the Major Leagues, but it was a biased audience that kept players like Satchel Paige (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satchel_Paige) out of the league…not an lack of skill!

          They were separate because the audience was biased and didn’t want to watch Black people playing ball. It wasn’t like all of sudden Jackie Robinson was the best Black baseball player to come around.

          So, I understand your point that people shouldn’t boycott men’s games just for the sake of it, but I find your follow up argument flawed. Women are offering a great product ALREADY, but it seems to be the biased audiences and the biased fans driving what’s recorded and broadcasted. Like Becky said in a post above, let’s CHALLENGE the conception that women’s ultimate is “subpar” to men’s ultimate.

          • KP

            I don’t think audiences watching open vs women’s frisbee is a bias like the racial bias against black people… I think it’s just a matter of taste. People forced segregation of baseball because they felt that black people were inferior. More people watch open frisbee because they just like it more, not because of anything to do with women.

            I play frisbee and at tournaments I watch a pretty even split between open, mixed and women’s. I like them all for different reasons. But even online, I find myself watching more videos of open (and maybe mixed) because the highlight reels tend to be way more exciting. During nationals I’ll try to watch some of both, but the fact of the matter is some people will just like open more for the way it’s played, and some will like women’s better. If right now women and men have equal media representation from USAU (which it doesn’t sound like anyone is contesting) but all of their men’s youtube videos have more watches, that’s a pretty good barometer. If the few companies struggling to remain profitable can make profit selling men’s but incur a loss selling women’s, that’s also a pretty good barometer. Stopping buying open DVDs or watching open games won’t help the women’s frisbee cause, it will only hurt the frisbee cause in general. Women’s frisbee’s biggest competition isn’t open frisbee… it’s every single other sport that is currently nationally televised. What WILL help the women’s frisbee cause is if every time you see a game or DVD go up for sale, buy it, and get everyone you know to buy it. Find some awesome youtube videos of women’s frisbee, and next time someone sends out a highlight reel, reply all and show them a women’s only highlight reel that’s just as awesome.

            I like watching women’s frisbee, and even more I love playing a sport that has a women’s league, an open league, AND a mixed league. But the fact of the matter is, USAU is non-profit and can afford to spend the money on a product that is equally important but less monetarily profitable. ESPN is for profit, and so will only protect its own interest to make a profit and is in no way legally compelled to protect the equality of women’s and open frisbee. So the only thing you can do to change this direction is to make women’s frisbee more profitable or to change the laws and make them make ESPN protect the equal broadcast time of women’s and open.

          • Akina Younge

            Here’s a great highlight reel!

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fguRqolq9-I

            As I mentioned before, sometimes I wonder if part of the reason why there are less compelling highlight reels for women’s ultimate is that there’s just less coverage of games in general. If more games were covered, maybe we’d be able to make more great mini marketing highlight reels for women’s ultimate!

        • Akina Younge

          But I think, as someone else said, value is subjective! If we have audiences that are biased (and maybe even sexist) driving the market, if we have those viewers determining what’s “valuable,” then we will constantly have an under-appreciation of women’s sports, and a constant description of women athletes as “less athletic!” The Negro Leagues always had people that were as good as (and better than) some of the players in the Major Leagues, but it was a biased audience that kept players like Satchel Paige (
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satchel_Paige) out of the league…not an lack of skill!

          The Leagues were separate because the audience was biased and didn’t want to watch Black people playing ball. And now, the women’s league is under-represented perhaps because viewers have a limited conception of their definition of athleticism or an exciting game.

          So, I understand your point that people shouldn’t boycott men’s games just for the sake of it, but I find your follow up argument flawed. Women are offering a great product ALREADY, but it seems to be the biased audiences and the biased fans driving what’s recorded and broadcasted. Like Becky said in a post above, let’s CHALLENGE the conception that women’s ultimate is “subpar” to men’s ultimate. Let’s market this sport as a beautiful game that has flow and great plays all around.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cory.casella Cory August Casella

    The whole point of this deal with ESPN is to gain visibility of the sport of Ultimate. Like it or not, the most athletic plays come from the men’s side. And that’s not saying that the women don’t have skills to rival men’s. It’s just that on an average game, there are more layouts, more sky’s more full field throws, etc. in the men’s games and those are the things that are going to put eyes on the TV and people in the stands.

    Look at other sports, basketball in particular. You have a product with the NBA. Then you have a similar product with the WNBA with a lot less viewership. It’s not because women don’t play the game the right way; it’s because there are just more dynamic plays on the men’s side.

    I think that the USAU is doing what is best for the sport of Ultimate and ESPN is doing what they need to do to make sure there are viewers on their channel.

    Personally, i like watching women’s Ultimate because the women focus a lot more on strategy and execution rather than the big plays. They have the big plays too, but they tend to work the disc more and for longer on points. Same for basketball. And from someone trying to be better at the game and see it how it’s meant to be played, learn some strategy on how to work the disc around the field, watching women’s Ultimate is a great place to look for that. But for the unknowing fan, the person who’s just flipping channels and pops by Ultimate… I don’t think the women’s game is going to give the same WOW factor that watching a men’s game will.

    I think we need to up the visibility and credibility of the sport, first. Make it legitimate in the eyes of the public. Then, we can put even more focus on the women’s side rather than trying to do both at once and failing at both. The sport is greater than the Open and Women’s division.

    • Aki

      There are different qualities in the men and women’s game to be sure, but I would pause and say that there are AMAZINGLY athletic plays in women’s ultimate. I sometimes think that because women’s ultimate is covered less, it seems like there are less dynamic plays because there’s just less footage to pull from. I know you’re not arguing that women’s ultimate lacks athletic plays, but I just wanted to add the idea that lack of footage could add to a perception of lack of plays.

      Also, I agree that USAU should be trying to increase viewership, but I think there are some great creative ways that they could do that while promoting women’s ultimate equally. Perhaps they could take some of your advice, Cory, and note how great the disc movement is in women’s ultimate, note the strengths of the game. I also think that USAU could try to appeal to a broader base of fans by really showcasing how great all the divisions are. Maybe we could get a fan base that doesn’t have some of the negative biases of sports fan if USAU and ESPN do the marketing right.

      I think that having extremely talented, athletic mens AND women’s frisbee will legitimize ultimate very well. I think it might even do it faster than just focusing on one division! I mean, just imagine a viewer seeing athletic plays in several different games and being wowed by the depth of talent across the board in the sport. I think that would be convincing to me as a viewer that the sport was a real athletic endeavor.

      • http://www.facebook.com/cory.casella Cory August Casella

        Well said. I just think that for the average fan, using my example of the WNBA vs. the NBA, you see the ball move around the perimeter more in the WNBA, they perform set plays better and by the book, but the reason people aren’t watching is bc there are fewer dunks, fewer 3′s, fewer fouls and fewer hotly contested plays in the women’s game. Not saying that those don’t happen in the WNBA, but it can’t be argued that they happen less in any given game. And trying to market the WNBA “because they play the game more ‘purely’” is going to be a PR nightmare and I don’t think it gets fans in the seats or eyes on the TV. I think the same can be said for women’s Ultimate right now. :-/

  • The truth

    no one watches womens ultimate

    • Boomer

      I went down to Sarasota as a spectator. And while I did watch more Men’s than Women’s, I enjoyed the women’s games just as much.

      On Friday morning, I was standing between two games:
      Revolver v Bravo
      Showdown v Molly Brown

      I bounced back and forth, but found myself watching more of the Women’s game. It was a lot more interesting for me to watch at the time. I think people are quick to discount Women’s and don’t watch it because they don’t give it a chance. The plays aren’t as big and it is a little slower than Men’s, but to me that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.weisbrod Kyle Weisbrod

      Last year I went to College Nationals purely as a spectator. I spent 95% of my time watching the women’s division which was far more interesting (to me) than the men’s division. More close games, more compelling match-ups, way deeper field.

  • guest

    What we need to be doing is buying all the live streams, tournament packages, DVDs, etc, that are being produced for the women’s division. Kevin and Nexgen now and Rob and Ultivillage before said they’d be happy to film more of their games but there was no money in it. Men’s content consistently outsold women’s. If we want increased exposure, we need to start by voting with out money.

    • Etamitlu

      I agree, in the comments many people are saying there is a market for women’s ultimate, but since we are new to major broadcasting, if we en up having 50/50 men’s women’s, do you think espn willrecognize they aren’t making enough airing women’s games and decide to air more men’s games to make up for it?

  • Aki

    Woah there are a lot of people named ‘Aki’, commenting here.. a metaphorical reflection on the equality of all ultimate players and their rights to equal broadcast perhaps?

    • Guest

      Hah! Who is this?!? I am the person who originally posted as Aki (and have posted on a lot of other Skyd and Ultiworld aritcles) as Aki. But I just found out I could log in via Google+

      I played for Bent (2011) and Brute Squad (2012).

  • Aki

    I notice that Ultiworld itself has recently picked out some highlights from finals in England, Germany, New Zealand, Japan etc. I each case they have been Open matches, any reason why, does Ultiworld have a policy on this? I’m not accusing anyone here of intentional discrimination, but the debate and reporting here generally seems more even handed.. so this seems an interesting phenomena. Does Ultiworld have or keep data on people viewing content, that has led them to focusing more on Open matches in terms of highlights, or has this simply been a random string/oversight. Would be interested to hear if they do have data, as once commercial interests do become involved, market forces are usually a primary consideration. Stats could be interesting in terms of the increasing/coming commercialization of Ultimate in general.

  • Male Supremacist

    sometimes women are so dumb

  • David

    The WNBA loses money every year and is wholly subsidized by the NBA. Womens professional soccer leagues have all fizzled and died due to lack of viewership. The only time womens soccer registered with US fans was when Brandi Chastain took her jersey off. Womens tennis and beach volleyball are semi-popular for obvious reasons. Ultimate frisbee is not different from these sports. Men watch far more sports than women, and men do not want to watch sports played by women. Holding ESPN’s feet to the fire on a gender equity policy will only serve to piss off and alienate viewers. Every ultimate broadcaster has already said that people don’t watch live streams or purchase DVDs of womens games. In order to prove us wrong, you have to put your money where your mouth is.

    • Drew

      “The only time womens soccer registered with US fans was when Brandi Chastain took her jersey off.” Dave, you’re an ass. This is just an ignorant statement that completely underscores the need for gender equity. You for some reason feel that it’s ok to belitte the accomplishments of the US Womens soccer team that won Olympic gold, and the enthusiasm and excitement and interest that the team generated (all of which existed prior to the one moment that mattered most to you apparently), based on some irrelevant celebration that is commonly done on a daily basis in every men’s game. Bravo.

    • Hanna

      Yeah, dude, maybe you just weren’t paying attention during the women’s world cup in 2011 and the Olympics in 2012? They were all over the news, and no one took their shirt off. They did produce some of the most exciting soccer games I’ve ever seen, men or women’s side, though.

      And a new women’s soccer league is starting this spring, with promising models of sustainability and ticket sales (interesting to watch the soccer league and the MLU form up at the same time and to compare the two, but I digress). There IS a market for women’s sports. It’s smaller at present, but some women’s soccer games in this league are already selling more preseason tickets than some MLS teams. And there are definitely men attending women’s games.

      I don’t think some of what you’re saying is wrong, necessarily, but as a big women’s soccer fan I thought I’d let you know what was up with domestic women’s soccer at present. Other countries have figured out ways to have sustainable women’s pro leagues, too. It’s not on the same level as the equivalent men’s leagues, but saying there’s no market for women’s sports is wrong. It’s also tough to come into the sports world at least 41 years behind where men are (thanks, Title IX). It’s a bit self-perpetuating, though, no? If ESPN thinks there’s no market and doesn’t cover women’s games, then will there ever be?

      • anon

        Interesting article here regarding the new women’s pro soccer league:

        http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/11/29/1258111/us-soccer-announces-formation-of-new-womens-professional-soccer-league/?mobile=nc

        Its a shame the governing body of ultimate in this country didn’t try to somehow leverage the pro leagues and the money that investors are obviously willing to put into it. Instead we have three “leagues” all barking up the same tree.

        As to women’s pro sports I’m not really sure what happened to the surge of popularity that happened after Brandi and company won the world cup. Women’s soccer was going to be the next big thing, and then it wasn’t. Sponsors want to make money, though. And so do investors. What does it say that all these women’s leagues keep folding? Maybe they’re just being marketed wrong. I don’t know. However, it doesn’t seem to say “there’s a market for women’s pro sports” like a lot of people here have commented. Maybe there IS a market, but its just too small to sustain the expenses of a pro league.

        I think that people who are saying that USAU should feel obligated to give women’s games equal coverage are correct. USAU is funded largely though player dues and a great many of those players are women.

        As far as a professional league for women’s ultimate goes… stop complaining that nobody is stepping up to start a league for women and start your own league! Draw up a plan, shop it around to investors, hit sports sponsors that cater to women’s products, find a wealthy patron who will front some money and get it off the ground. Two different leagues were started with nothing but vision and hard work.

  • judy

    thanks for this article!! so sick of the sub-par coverage women’s ultimate has been getting in the conversations about USA Ultimate’s changes and the dawn of pro teams–we ultimate women work just as hard and care as much about our sport as the men out there getting all of the mic and camera time. keep these articles coming ultiworld!

    • FullFieldHammer

      But, as has been said multiple times, all the numbers show more interest in the Open Division. I coach women’s Ultimate and write a blog that has posted far more women’s content then open content. Yet any time I post open content, it gets more hits and faster than women’s.

      Nobody (well, few people) are arguing women don’t work hard, aren’t athletic, aren’t skilled, and don’t care about Ultimate. People are arguing that numbers and anecdotal evidence indicate audiences prefer Open Ultimate to Women’s Ultimate, as spectators. While I’m sure there are cultural biases inherent to sports culture and even the design of sports that create some of this, it is undeniable that the physical differences between men and women make the open division’s play different than women’s division play. The former has proven to be more profitable.

      If Women’s Ultimate receives the respect and resources it deserves – which the USAU does a great job with – why is it SO important to be have the same amount of broadcasts? I want this experiment with ESPN to work as best as it can, and we want to plant our feet on the ground as spectator sport before we start making demands, I think that would be best.

      • Akina Younge

        I thought Monica did a very good job at pointing out one major concern about giving preference to covering open over women’s:

        “The concern is that if ESPN, in their new multiyear deal with USA Ultimate, features the Men’s division more than the Women’s division, it will impact more than just TV time. The teams being televised will be playing on the best fields, at the best times, relegating the Women’s teams to suboptimal playing fields and schedules.”

        There are also more philosophical/sociological arguments about what covering open more than women’s could be a problem, many of which have been addressed in this comment thread already.

    • Billy Bob

      Sorry Judy, but women’s ultimate sucks.

  • Firzbeee

    This always confuses me because Ultimate doesn’t have a men’s division, it has Open… If it was Men’s getting coverage and Women’s and Mixed getting ignored, get angry, but if you want more coverage and play at the same elite level, try to make an Open squad.

    • byron

      Not anymore. The Open Division is now the Men’s Division.

  • My opinion

    Women’s ultimate will become an NCAA sport before Men’s does. Title IX. That will counteract the supposed “viewership inequalities”.

    Regarding the marketability of Men’s vs. Women’s. Literally the proof is in the pudding. More people watch Men’s Ultimate videos than Women’s videos. And these include ultimate fans. Why do more people show up to the Men’s finals than Women’s? Women enjoy watching Men’s ultimate more. If this wasn’t the case, than the viewership of these videos and games would be equal or at least comparable in size.

    Ultimate, as a sport, for both men and women will increase if there is a surge of Ultimate viewership. What gender will attract the most viewers? Men’s.

    When was the last time you watched a WNBA game?

  • DanO

    As several folks have already noted the better comparison for Ultimate, when comparing the men’s and women’s game and their potential for commercial success, is soccer not basketball. Wanted to add a few observations that I hadn’t seen elsewhere (apologies if I missed them).

    Also a quick warning that I am about to make broad generalizations. I recognize that there are exceptions to these statements, but I believe them to generally be true based on my observations. Proceed at your own risk.

    1. The generally higher level of sportsmanship in women’s soccer/Ultimate leads to a game that has fewer infractions and therefore is less choppy and more spectator friendly.

    2. Less absolute athleticism (in terms of absolute speed and strength) has a few impacts on the game for both women’s soccer and Ultimate: more relative space to work with on the field, greater precision needed on passes, at times more complex strategy to advance the ball/disc into scoring position (as opposed to huck/boot and pray). In both cases, the result is a game that has different aspects/complexities than the men’s game, which some spectators find more enjoyable to watch.

    3. The lack of parity in women’s soccer/Ultimate results in fewer competitive games at the top levels of the sport. I think this is something that may hurt the popularity of the women’s game for both sports. Fans of any sport would much rather watch a barnburner than a blowout. Unfortunately a lot of games at the highest levels of women’s soccer/Ultimate are blowouts as there is a larger gap in skill and athleticism between teams competing at this level than there currently is in the men’s game. The good news for fans of both women’s games is that this gap seems to be narrowing in recent years as more teams step up to the level of the perennial superpowers.

    Those are my thoughts. I am excited to see the direction of both the men’s and women’s game, as well as the sport in general over the next few years. As someone whose reached the end of his competitive playing days, it’s a good time to be a fan of the game.

    • David

      1. Womens ultimate has fewer infractions, but far more turnovers. I’m not sure which is more or less spectator friendly. A strong observer/referee system can mitigate excessive stoppages of play, but nothing can be done to cut down on turnovers.

      2. This is your typical “the fundamentals are so strong in the WNBA” argument. Open ultimate is not less spaced, less precise, or less complex strategically than womens. Every team is different, and just as many open teams choose to play small-ball or conservative compared to huck and pray.

      3. Agreed. It’s boring to watch Fury and Riot blow out teams year after year.

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