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Introduction - On the Field: Women in Sports Law

Hello and welcome to On the Field: Women in Sports Law! I am really looking forward to learning more about this area together this next year. To all my sports fans, let me welcome you to this column in which we’ll investigate different sports organizations, their legal impact, and how women have shaped the sports arena.  

For those of you whose interests lie outside of sports, let me begin by saying I know that I may not be able to convince you of sports' merit. Besides the bloated budgets and expenditures on sports and related products that could go towards other needs, as well as the constant news cycle surrounding sports as opposed to other issues, sports have not been the most welcoming place for women’s participation and involvement.

In addition to the massive reach (nearly half of all people in the world could be a considered a fan of soccer), sports provide a critical venue not only for the law but for women’s rights. For instance, the passage of the Rooney Rule in the National Football League has led us to the Mansfield Rule (something we'll cover more in-depth later). Title IX sports cases have shaped conventions to inform other policies, such as sexual harassment.

Not to mention, sports provides a common language and shared understanding that promotes cross-cultural interpersonal connections. As my former professor Pamela Duffy, a sports and real estate law champion, described, sports provide a means to connect people who otherwise may not interact. 

Just the other day, after our team was dismally ousted from the playoffs, my dad was walking down the street with his Pittsburgh Steelers jacket. A younger man of a different race, riding passenger in a car driving down the road, made his driver pull over so that he could step out of the car and console my dad. They talked for a few minutes, shared a couple of better luck next years to each other, and the man went back on his way. This experience reflects many of the same that I’ve had wearing sports gear, in which a variety of people of every color, age, and gender have sought me out around the world, who likely would not have taken the time.

In short, sports provides connection, something that I hope to build as a Writer in Residence this year and a member of the Ms. JD community. I encourage you to reach out if you would like to share any insight, provide any commentary on the ways sports have affected you, or offer feedback on any topics you’d like to see covered. After all, there is no "i" in team.

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Tatum Wheeler is a fellow law aspirant based in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she’s not working, she spends her free time exploring new trails with her dogs, reading narratives, and cheering on her favorite sports teams, the Cal Bears, Oakland Athletics, and Pittsburgh Steelers. Please feel free to contact her with any questions, comments, or further advice.

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