Article Preview: Why Is Your Grass Greener than Mine?: The Need for Legal Reform to Combat Gender Discrimination in Professional Sports

Sports arose in the primitive era as activities used to train warriors for battle. They continue to this day, though for different purposes: as a form of recreation, as a profession, and as a form of relaxation for spectators watching them. While women who play sports have gradually gained some acceptance in society, they experience gender discrimination and inequality compared to their male counterparts, in the form of lower wages, fewer endorsements, and less media coverage. This is especially true in professional sports. Tanya Dennis, the author of Why Is Your Grass Greener than Mine?: The Need for Legal Reform to Combat Gender Discrimination in Professional Sports, proposes a new statute (the “Professional Sports Act of 2015”), which provides women protection against gender discrimination in professional sports, and explains why the current state of the law is not adequate.

For example, Title IX prevents gender discrimination in federally funded educational institutions, and this protection includes prohibition of gender discrimination in school athletics within those educational institutions. As a result of this protection from gender discrimination in school sports, women’s sports have become more popular and received more media attention. Nevertheless, Title IX does not apply to professional sports and therefore cannot protect women from gender discrimination in professional sports.

Titles II, VI, and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 similarly do not protect women from gender discrimination in professional sports. Title II prohibits discrimination in a public accommodation, but even if a stadium were classified as a public accommodation, sex is not a protected class under Title II. Title VI requires the receipt of federal funds by an athletic facility in order to invoke a claim of gender discrimination. Finally, the remedies available in a Title VII action are narrow and unlikely to have a wide-spread effect on gender discrimination.

Another statute which fails to protect women from gender discrimination in professional sports is the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This statute requires that substantially similar jobs performed by men and women receive equal pay. However, the factors considered in measuring job similarity are numerous, include many exceptions, and often fail to account for past gender discrimination in sports.

The solution according to Tanya Dennis is The Professional Sports Act of 2015, which applies to professional athletes, and ensures gender equality in all aspects of professional sports. The Act includes protection based on a person’s sex and offers protection against gender discrimination in sports where the Civil Rights Act cannot. Claims arising under this Act would be disposed of in the “Court of Equity in Professional Sports.” Remedies will vary depending on the circumstances, but include injunctions and other forms of relief determined by the court. The Professional Sports Act of 2015 will ensure that professional female athletes are treated equally and are adequately protected from gender discrimination.

 

Contributing Author: John Kulevich

 

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