Join our NCAA Women’s Tournament Bracket Challenge

It’s March Madness again!  For the third (!) year in a row, we are hosting a Bracket Challenge for the NCAA Women’s Tournament.  Join us by filling out a bracket today!

This year, TWO teams are undefeated.  UConn went 34-0 this season, while Notre Dame went 32-0, prompting the age old question:  “Who would win in a fight between a Huskie and a Fighting Irish?”  Both teams are seeded #1 in their region, setting them up for a potential match-up in the title game.  UConn, now in the American Athletic Conference, this season has beaten #2 seed Stanford, by 19; #3 seed Louisville, by 17, 20 and 20; and another #2 seed Baylor, by 11 (on the road).  Notre Dame, now in the ACC, has beaten #1 seed Tennessee, by 16 (on the road) and #2 seed Duke, by 21, 11 and 16.  South Dakota, North Dakota, Akron and Winthrop are new teams to the tourney.  Of course, it’s speculation to assume that UConn and Notre Dame will be in the title game, but having two undefeated teams in would be just so cool, wouldn’t it?

Personally, after Brittney Griner and Baylor got beat and destroyed my bracket, I’ll be looking to Odyssey Sims to redeem the Lady Bears in my eyes.  Sara is hellbent on cheering for UConn, “the closest school to my hometown of Worcester, MA, that has ever had a shot in either basketball tournament.”

Sims and Griner celebrate during a game last year against UConn. Via Newsday.

Sims and Griner celebrate during a game last year against UConn. Via Newsday.

Remember: you don’t need to know anything about women’s college basketball to enter and that’s part of the fun!

Sign up today to win our prize!  If you win and you are in the New York area, Sara and I will treat you and a guest to a Brooklyn Cyclones game OR a National Women’s Soccer League game this summer (date to be mutually agreed upon by all parties).  If you’re outside of the New York area, we’ll send you one of our favorite books about Title IX.

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Friday Afternoon Links Post

Because you’re ready for the weekend, here are a few stories we’ve been reading this week:

  • Canadian hockey goalie Suzanne Szabados has joined the Columbus Cottonmouths, a team that plays in the Southern Professional Hockey League.  This is notable because everyone else on the Cottonmouths, as well as everyone else in the SPHL, are men.  “There is no professional hockey league for women that pays a livable wage, so the best female players have limited options if they want to continue playing after college. They can squeeze in training around a job, train full time, and depend on outside financial assistance or find employment with a team in a men’s pro league like Szabados.”  Best of luck to her!
  • Via Title IX blog, a law professor from University of Pittsburgh, Deborah Brake, has published a scholarly article, available for free on SSRN, using female athletes’ apparent preference for male coaches as a case study to show how the U.S.’s discrimination laws are flawed.  From the Abstract: “The predominant legal model views discrimination as a top-down, inter-group phenomenon. In discrimination law, the paradigmatic case is intentional bias directed by an in-group superior toward an out-group subordinate. (E.g., a male boss discriminates against a female subordinate.) Shifting either one of these dimensions to involve within-group bias or contra-power bias complicates the discrimination claim, resulting in new doctrinal demands. Shifting them both creates space for productive theorizing about the complexity of discrimination and the adequacy of the law’s response to it.”
  • The Mets’ short-season A affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, are running a promotion called “Princess Night.”  Grumble grumble grumble.
  • A few weeks ago Lydia’s now-former favorite Knick, Raymond Felton, was arrested for illegal gun possession.  His wife (who has since filed for divorce) turned one of his guns over to the police, alleging that Felton had threatened her with it during an argument.  Not cool, Ray.  Of course, because the Knicks are a terrible organization, he was not suspended a single game, and continues to play.
  • A great piece from The Aerogram looks at the barriers to entry into the sports industry faced by South Asian women in particular. (h/t Aditi!)
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Mr. Met Joins Twitter, Mrs. Met Slut-Shaming Ensues

Back in November, I wrote jubilantly about the New York Mets’ decision to bring back Mrs. Met to cheer alongside with everyone’s favorite mascot, Mr. Met.  In that post I wrote I was happy to have her back in part because female mascots are so few and far between; indeed I was only able to name a handful.

Two days ago, Mr. Met joined Twitter.  He’s the best, so it was cute.

Mr. Met's first tweets

Mr. Met’s first tweets

Mrs. Met is not on Twitter, for now:

A fan asked about Mrs. Met!

But since joining, other mascots have tweeted at Mr. Met with various insinuations about affairs with Mrs. Met.  NJ.com has a round-up of screen shots of their tweets, which include pictures (I’m assuming they are from last summer’s All-Star Weekend at Citifield).

The thread goes as follows:

Ok, I’m sorry, WHAT?! Are the people running these Twitter feeds actually slut-shaming a mascot?!  What is wrong with these people?  These are mascots — goofy characters intended to rally fans and induce team success — and they are tweeting about how a female, married mascot is sleeping around (or something, I mean what even is Slider?) and cheating on her mascot-husband?  STOP THE MADNESS!!!

Or if you’re Jay Horwitz, the Mets’ own PR guy, I guess you’re going to play along:


I thought this was supposed to fun.  It’s been a long, cold, snowy, baseball-less winter.  So come on, keep it light, don’t be a bunch of pigs, and don’t make it harder for the Mets to have a female mascot.

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Jason Collins Signs with the Nets, Becomes First Openly Gay Player in a Major US Sport

After rumblings Thursday, the day of the NBA Trade Deadline, the Nets have signed Jason Collins to a 10-day contract.  And just like that, we have our first openly gay player in one of the four major professional sports.

Jason Kidd, now the Nets coach, and Jason Collins as teammates on the Nets in 2006

Jason Kidd, now the Nets coach, and Jason Collins as teammates on the Nets in 2006

Jason Collins is a good fit for the Nets, and vice versa.  The team has a ton of veterans who have played with and against Collins over the years.  Their starting center, Brook Lopez, is out for the season, they’re down a forward after trading Jason Terry and Reggie Evans for Marcus Thornton earlier this week, and their other center, Kevin Garnett, probably shouldn’t be playing every day.  The Nets tried to make a trade before the deadline and couldn’t, so to the free agent market they went.

New York is a good fit for Jason Collins.  We are a tolerant, gay-friendly place, at least relatively speaking.  And players who play here are used to our sports media hoopla, which turns every bit of news into a circus, big or small, important or inane.

Additionally, Collins was originally drafted by the Nets and has a great relationship with many current Nets.  ESPN reports:

Collins would be reunited with Nets coach Jason Kidd, who played alongside the defensive-minded big man in New Jersey from 2001-08, making two trips together to the NBA Finals. Collins also played with Nets guard Joe Johnson for three seasons in Atlanta and spent half of the 2012-13 season in Boston alongside Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett before being traded to the Washington Wizards. Collins is friends with injured Nets center Brook Lopez, who, like Collins, played alongside his twin brother at Stanford.

It remains to be seen what will happen next, but I’m not convinced the New York sports media will go all that crazy over it; the Nets are four games out of first place in the Atlantic Division and at this point are a playoff team.  They made moves because they want to contend, and maybe I’m being optimistic or naive or something, but I think the personal story will wane to the team story sooner rather than later.  (Are you watching this John Mara and Steve Tisch?)

As a Knicks fan and expatriated Manhattanite living near the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, I do not like the Nets.  I do not like the use of eminent domain and empty promises to build the arena, and I do not like their stupid poser fans (what basketball team did they like before last year?  Or do they just love the Brooklyn™ brand?).  But right now that’s neither here or there.  They were not afraid to make the right move for their team, and in doing so have made history.

I’m proud to live in a city that isn’t afraid to break barriers in sports and I know that, from the perspective of fans and media, we can seamlessly embrace an out player. Now go give em hell Jason Collins (except don’t actually, because that will hurt the Knicks, who need all the help they can get).

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Why I Have Been Half-Heartedly Watching the Sochi Olympics

If you haven’t read Lydia’s post on this subject, please read it first.  I agree with so much of what she’s written on the subject of the Sochi Olympics, and why their existence is problematic.  And yet, I have been casually watching the Winter Olympics this year, for a few reasons I’ll articulate.

First of all, even just committing to “casual” is a huge step for me.  There’s something I can’t reconcile in my head about being obsessed over these Olympics as I have been for Olympics past.  And obsessed I have been: during the 2008 Summer Olympics, I watched during the start of my 1L year of law school, staying up far into the night when I should have been reading about Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, cheering Michael Phelps in the relays and screaming about track stars.  But this Olympics doesn’t seem to warrant that prior obsession; despite the fact that my viewership has no bearing on Putin’s Russia, it somehow feels disingenuous to all of my LGBT friends to go haywire over some people skating against each other halfway across the world in the rich white people Winter Olympics.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t care at all.  And in fact, it is precisely because I do care that I have been watching.  It is not the fault of the 2014 Winter Olympians that they have happened to reach the peak of their sport during this Olympic year in this country.  Sochi was chosen as the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics long before any of them maybe even knew they had a shot.  Sochi was even chosen before Russia implemented its extremely terrible LGBT laws.  While I have little faith that the IOC would have done anything differently had they known these laws were coming, I think it is important to celebrate not only the U.S. athletes, but also athletes from around the world who made it to the Olympics despite the challenges (for many, those challenges are financial – it’s not like the Jamaican bobsledders or the Nepali luger really have a lot of access to government funding.  For that matter, neither does the U.S. Olympic Team, which is why they have to get sponsors in the first place.)

I also feel compelled to support the Olympics because for almost all women’s sports (perhaps only excluding women’s soccer, which has the World Cup), the Olympics are literally the pinnacle of the sport.  Right now is one of the only times that people actually pay attention to women in sports.  The NHL does not have a women’s league.  In fact, very few of the female athletes in these games have a professional league in which to compete – and get paid.  (Certainly, there are sports, such as skiing and ice skating, that are not lacking for events during the year.  Unfortunately, these are the exceptions to the rule.)  Most of the athletes compete in college, and then they have to find something else to do to support their sport in the four years between Olympics.  Some of them were even college athletes in one discipline who’ve been enticed to others, such as the track stars who join bobsleigh teams.  (This is also why I strongly support the return of softball to the Summer Olympics.  Whatever on baseball since MLB never lets the stars play anyway, but oh, softball, we need you back.)  There are some professional women’s sports leagues around the world, but their defining characteristic, other than say, the LGPA, WTA and WNBA, is that players must work elsewhere during the off-season to make ends meet.

USA Women’s Hockey, Silver Medalists 2014

So, I’ve been watching: for female athletes, for whom this is their only shot, for all Olympic athletes, for whom this is their only shot, and for those who are competing for the pride of countries that don’t muck with human rights.  And I’ll continue watching throughout the games, but don’t think I do it without pause.

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Lauryn Williams Becomes 5th Athlete Ever To Medal in Both Winter and Summer Olympics

Lauryn Williams is my new Olympic hero.

In the women’s two-man bobsleigh competition today, USA athletes Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams (USA-1) won the silver medal, beating the USA-2 team of Jamie Greubel, a former heptathlete at Cornell, and Aja Evans, a track star at Illinois, who took the bronze. USA-1 was unable to edge out Canada-1 due to a fourth run filled with problems.  Meyers and Williams had been in the first position before the fourth run.

Driver Elana Meyers and Brakeman Lauryn Williams

Lauryn Williams had previously taken gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics as the anchor leg of the USA women’s team in the 4×100 relay.  A hamstring injury sidelined her track career, but we think we’ll be seeing her in 2016 due to her excellent performance as brakeman here.

The USA-3 sleigh of Jazmine Fenlator and Lolo Jones came in 11th.

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Dear Bloomer Girls: Happy Valentine’s Day. Love, Baseball

We at Bloomer Girls have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.  Lydia says “It’s a fake holiday that encourages mass consumerism, but any excuse to recognize and spend time with people that you love is a good one.”  Sara says “I never liked it when I was single, so it’s not really fair for me to like it just because I have a boyfriend.”

But then, today, we got this email, and Lydia exclaimed “I know I’m such a homer, but this strikes me as a really good way to do it.  No pink.  Men buying women baseball tickets for v-day.  Not too shabby!”


Aww. The Mets love each other.


And then we got this email, causing Sara to cheer “Sox, too!”


LOVE this headline.

We’d both like to thank the baseball gods for making us fans of the teams that don’t market to women using only the color pink.  Happy Valentine’s Day – we suggest tickets to favorite sports team games as an excellent gift, if you’re the gift-buying type.

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Michael Sam, College Football Star, Comes Out Before the Draft

The New York Times posted an article this evening in which Michael Sam, former defensive lineman for the University of Missouri (Mizzou), a first-team all-American, defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, and Mizzou’s Most Valuable Player, came out of the closet as gay.   This is before the NFL draft, which takes place in May.  Sam has been projected to get drafted in the first few rounds, confronting NFL teams with an immediate issue.  They will have to decide if they are (finally) ready to let sexual orientation go the way of race as a limiting factor in professional sports.

Michael Sam, celebrating.

There’s a phenomenal article on the backstory of how the decision was made to come out on Outsports, which is well worth your time.  The amount of strategy and planning on this story is truly huge, but shows exactly how important this is to so many people.

As a former resident of the state of Missouri, I’m somewhat floored and also thrilled that a Mizzou player will likely be the first openly gay professional NFL player.  Missouri is not known as a hotbed of tolerance.  I’m worried about the level of intolerance that is going to come out of Missouri, and frankly, the rest of the country about this.  But by the way, Sam was out to his entire team and coaches for his senior year.  That team won the Cotton Bowl, so clearly his sexual orientation wasn’t a distraction. Even Senator Clare McCaskill, a huge Mizzou fan, is already on board:

Last year, when a rumor was circulating about a current NFL player coming out, I wrote this:

As encouragement to the unnamed player thinking about coming out, I would like to offer the following: if said unnamed gay player comes out, I hereby vow to a) buy this player’s jersey immediately, b) wear it on the first day of football season in 2013, c) cheer for their team for the first game, and d) DO ALL OF THIS EVEN IF THE PLAYER IS ON THE NEW YORK JETS.  As a Pats fan, I’m sure you can understand what a big offer this is.  So, please do it, unnamed player.  Please put yourself out there so that football fans who practice acceptance, tolerance and equality can show you our love.  We are ready for you.

I reiterate that promise now, for 2014.  The team that signs Michael Sam will have my support, even if it is the New York Jets (please don’t be the Jets) and I will purchase and wear his jersey on the first day of the football season in 2014.

We are ready for you, Michael Sam.  We are ready.

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Why I Will Not Be Watching the Sochi Olympics

The opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia is tonight.  I will not be watching.

I love the Winter Olympics.  I think I love them even more than I love the Summer Olympics.  I love downhill skiing, and ski jump (featuring, for the first time and in a way overdue move, WOMEN).  I love speed skating (Bonnie Blair, HELLO!).  I love figure skating.  There’s nothing like nailing a triple lutz.  Figure skating is just captivating.  So often in my life the female figure skating champion has been the face of the Winter Games.  When someone does the routine of their lives, you just know.  It is mesmerizing.  And CURLING!  I really, really like curling.  Ooh and bobsledding!

Some of my favorite Winter Olympians from my youth. Clockwise from top left: Michelle Kwan, Picabo Street, Kristi Yamaguchi, Bonnie Blair.

Some of my favorite Winter Olympians from my youth. Clockwise from top left: Michelle Kwan, Picabo Street, Kristi Yamaguchi, Bonnie Blair.

All of these things, and more which I will discuss, make my decision to boycott the Sochi Olympics an incredibly difficult one.

By now our readers probably have at least a cursory knowledge of the issue.  In June 2013 Russia passed a law prohibiting “gay propaganda,” punishible with jail time.  This term is meant to be construed broadly; examples include public displays of affection between members of the same sex, gay rights protests and demonstrations, public assertions of being gay or being a gay ally and of course any institutionalized equality for gay people.  The main impetus for the rule is to protect Russian minors (which I don’t need to tell you likens gay people to pedophiles and completely erases Russian minors who are themselves gay), but one can seemingly be jailed for being or being perceived as gay, or being openly supportive of gay people and gay rights whether or not minors are involved or not.

The IOC’s Charter lists 7 “Fundamental Principles of Olympism.”  This sixth states:

Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

Nevertheless, the Olympics are about to begin in a place where someone was arrested for holding a rainbow flag during the Olympic Torch relay; in a country where the President says that the gay visitors should “leave the children alone please“; in a town where the Mayor says “We do not have them in our city” (despite the fact that Sochi had been a resort town for gay Russians due to an archaic single-sex lodging law and has a gay nightclub that puts on drag shows); and most horrifyingly, in a place where there has been an incredible amount of violence directed at gay people.

It doesn’t matter to me that Russia was selected to host these games years before the law passed, in 2007.  Although the Olympics is supposed to be an apolitical event, it seems to me that the IOC (and other international sporting organizations like FIFA) very often picks countries that the Western world is contemporaneously trying to bring into its fold.  Well maybe the Committee should stop doing that. Or maybe it should, at the very very least, condone the host country for passing a horrible, bigoted law less than a year before hosting the Olympics.

But the IOC has not done that.  That IOC has done nothing.  Huge American corporate sponsors, such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa, GE and others, have done nothing.  No one in a position to influence the situation did anything.  To me this is utter cowardice.

But I can’t very well say that and then not practice responsible consumerism myself.  I will not watch the opening ceremony tonight, where Russia showcased its achievements to the world. And I will not watch any of the events.

It will be hard not to support the athletes, who are able to compete on a global stage so few times in their careers.  Harder still will be to turn away from the six openly gay athletes, who compete at a risk to themselves.  I can understand why people will watch even though they oppose Russia’s law; to me not supporting the athletes was a really hard part of this decision.

There are some things about America’s response of which I am very proud.  I love that the U.S. delegation does not include President Obama, or Michelle Obama, or anyone from the President’s or Vice-President’s staffs.  I love that it includes three openly-gay athletes, one of whom — Brian Boitano — came out after he was selected and because of the circumstances surrounding his selection.  I understand why the U.S. government can’t boycott the games (indeed, our Navy is in the Black Sea as I type…), but I think the people we are sending sends a strong message about our government and (the majority of) our people’s ideals.

I’m also happy that a few sponsors of the USOC have spoken out about Russia’s law.  This week, AT&T blogged:

On Friday night, many of us will be tuned in to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games opening ceremony.

It’s an event that symbolizes peace and unity amongst nations. It’s also a moment for us to express our pride in America and everything for which it stands.

AT&T has stood proudly with Team USA at every Olympic opening ceremony since 1984 in Los Angeles. As a Proud Partner of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team for the past 30 years, we’ve showcased American athletes and celebrated their diversity all around the world. For these games, we’re shining a light on some of the hard work and dedication that goes into training for the Olympics, and asking fans to showcase their American pride by uploading U-S-A chants through our free #ItsOurTime app.

The Olympic Games in Sochi also allow us to shine a light on a subject that’s important to all Americans: equality. As you may know, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community around the world is protesting a Russian anti-LGBT law that bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” To raise awareness of the issue, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has called on International Olympic Committee (IOC) sponsors to take action and stand up for LGBT equality.

AT&T is not an IOC sponsor, so we did not receive the HRC request. However, we are a long-standing sponsor of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), we support HRC’s principles and we stand against Russia’s anti-LGBT law.

AT&T has a long and proud history of support for the LGBT community in the United States and everywhere around the world where we do business. We support LGBT equality globally and we condemn violence, discrimination and harassment targeted against LGBT individuals everywhere. Russia’s law is harmful to LGBT individuals and families, and it’s harmful to a diverse society.

We celebrate the diversity of all Olympic athletes, their fans, Russian residents and all people the world over – including and, especially, our employees and their loved ones.

As the games begin, we’re here to support and inspire American athletes who’ve worked hard and sacrificed much to achieve their dreams. We also want to be on record with our support for the LGBT community, and we hope that others involved with the Olympic Games will do the same.

Go Team USA! #ItsOurTime.

Since then, Chobani and DeVry University also have released statements opposing the law and supporting LGBT equality.  I just wish there were more, and they’d done it earlier.

Google's homepage this week.  Clicking on the image takes you to an Olympic Charter search.

Google (not an Olympic sponsor)’s homepage this week. Clicking on the image takes you to an Olympic Charter search.

Many other athletes, from Greg Louganis to Martina Navratilova to Mikhail Baryshnikov have openly criticized Russia, the IOC, or have otherwise shown support for LGBT rights.

I hope that there are courageous people in Sochi who will use this as an opportunity to stand up for principles of equality, dignity and human rights.  The Olympics is a place for that after all.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists for civil rights at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists for civil rights at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  Read Carlos’s great Q&A with the Nation about Sochi here.

I want to say to the IOC and to America’s corporate sponsors: if you’re supporting this I’m not supporting you. I know I’m just one person, and I won’t drastically change the ratings that this Olympics gets.  But every vote counts, right?  Tonight, I’m voting with my thumb, and you should too.

[I would be remiss if I did not plug the blog Towleroad, whom I’ve linked to so many times in this post and where I’ve gotten nearly all — if not entirely all — of my news on the subject.  Thank you for your comprehensive coverage! -Lydia]

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Sox Sideline Reporter Jenny Dell Reassigned

Last week NESN announced they would be reassigning Red Sox sideline reporter and fan favorite Jenny Dell.  The news comes in the wake of, and is clearly a direct result of, Dell and Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks going public with their relationship via Twitter on New Year’s Eve.

Dell interviews Middlebrooks, via Boston Globe

Dell interviews Middlebrooks, via Boston Globe

It’s not clear whether there is actually a conflict of interest — sideline reporters are not independent journalists but are part of the in-game commentary and analysis which is clearly biased in favor of the team being covered — but it seems that NESN is taking a “better safe than sorry” approach to the situation.  Dell isn’t losing her job altogether; she will be moving to an in-studio role.

We don’t believe there is anything particularly objectionable about NESN’s decision because many employers have non-fraternization policies.  But of course that hasn’t stopped the Boston media from running headlines like “Jenny Dell trades Red Sox gig for Love” and “Love Stinks for Jenny Dell, Red Sox and NESN.”  And it hasn’t stopped some from wondering what, if anything, this does to female sports journalists’ reputations.  I’m not sure it is a blow to female journalists being seen as equals and being taken seriously (also, this would be a less gendered issue if baseball were actually a safe, welcoming place to be gay), but according to the Boston Herald article (first link above), some women in the industry felt strongly that they would never become involved with a player, a decision I can totally understand.  As Celtics sideline reporter Abby Chin is quoted as saying, “Women in this business don’t get three strikes, they get one.”  On the other hand, Dell still has a job with NESN, so maybe that’s not quite true.

What do you all think?