Muscle Sport Magazine

espnW: Women + Sports Summit

Courtesy of ESPN Images


  • An important and timely conversation about race in sports was held during “Unapologetic: The Undefeated Panel on the Black Female Athlete,”featuring Michelle Carter, A’ja Wilson, and ESPN’s Sharon Matthews, and was moderated by Maria Taylor. The women discussed the adversity they face as women and athletes of color, and how their diverse backgrounds affect their sponsorships, marketing and career path.
    • Carter spoke candidly about her reaction when being asked to participate on this panel, “I honestly thought ‘How black do you want me to be? Do you want to do a fluffy piece on being black or a real piece on being black?’” She continued, “Sometimes I don’t speak out because I know I’m not in the right emotional state. For example, when Hurricane Katrina happened, I watched on as people who looked like me weredying and I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t put into words that people could actually feel my pain and know where I came from.” Carter continued sharing her personal experience about discrimination and racism in America, “If I walked down the street without my gold medal on, I could die.” Wilson chimed in, “I often have to bite my tongue. Not sure if you’ve seen [the Netflix show] When They See Us,  but I decided to wear a shirt and it was my first time showing that we can bring attention to something just by being us. I actually formed a friendship with Raymond Santana after that.”
    • Wilson discussed the invisible struggles of being black, and the biases they experience with showing their natural hair,  “People always comment on my hair when I change it; and it’s hard to explain to you what I have to go through. I’m like ‘wow, people don’t really notice me when I switch up my hair.’” Matthews joined into the conversation, “When your hair is natural, it’s a spiritual process. It’s intertwined between sexism and racism. Now it’s okay for us to be natural, and when I meet someone who does it, I applaud them because it’s a process and a spiritual journey.” Carter added, “You have to really decide ‘Am I beautiful enough for this?’ and when I was at the Olympic Games, I wore my hair curly because it was going to rain, but the very next day I made my hair straight because I thought it would be more appealing to sponsors and the people would be more inclined to interview me.” Taylor opened up, “All I wear are wigs. Every day. Literally before every season I think to myself, ‘If I just had my natural hair this season, would I have a job?’”
  • During the “Voices of the Future” panel, Jordyn Barratt, Azzi Fudd, Bubba Nickles and moderator Julie Foudy discussed the road of young athletes to the Olympic Games, how parents can support their children’s dreams, and advice on how to pursue your dreams. Highlights from the panel include:
    • Fudd was joined by her mom on stage when ESPN presented her with the espnW High School Player of the Year Award. Fudd spoke about her passion for the sport, “Both of my parents are coaches and I grew up in the gym with them. I saw how they coached; they’re hard and tough and so at first I didn’t want to play because I didn’t want to get yelled at. But they eventually had me play. It wasn’t the sport that I fell in love with, it was the social aspect [I enjoyed], but as I got older it was the full game that I loved.” Later, Fudd gave advice to parents of athletes, “Find a happy medium for coaching your kids and being a parent. It’s a fine line.”
    • Nickles spoke about playing for the good of the team, “Do it for others, don’t be selfish; don’t do it for the back of your jersey, do it for the front.” Being unselfish proved to pay off — Nickles, now heading to the 2020 Olympic Games, showed her excitement, “Softball hasn’t been in the Olympics in 12 years, so it’s pretty legendary; I’m playing with girls that I’ve watched in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.”
    • Barratt spoke about qualifying for the first-ever skateboarding Olympic competition and confirmed that she’s 100% back from her shoulder injury but will be ready to skate in two weeks, “It’s something that women before me have been working for years. It’s going to be great bringing this to the world on a larger scale, and with skating there’s equal pay so big steps in the game.”


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