Janet Evans, Courtney Mathewson Discuss Future of Women’s Sports Through Title IX

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Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

The groundbreaking Title IX decision 50 years ago changed sports in America forever, allowing women like Janet Evans  and Courtney Mathewson to be able to earn a college athletic scholarship.

It finally allowed generations of women to have extended careers in sport and allowed athletes like Evans to become one of the greatest swimmers in the world.

While the Title IX decision was not just about sports — it was about so much more — generation of female athletes flocked to sports like never before with new opportunities, especially at the high school and college levels, growing by more than 100 percent every year for the first six years, and continues to grow to this day.

“It is important to know what is next. What do we do now?” Evans said. “It intentionally creating spaces for girls to play sports. We just want kids to play and learn sportsmanship and how to learn to lose and learn to win. We need to create more spaces for girls to play.”

Janet Evans was part of a Title IX panel that included Olympic Water Polo player Courtney Mathewson, Olympic champion beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Barbara Franklin on Thursday at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in California, put on by the Richard Nixon Foundation. Nixon was the president to sign the Education Amendment Acts of 1972, which included Title IX. The Library unveiled a new exhibit “Evening the Odds: Women Leading the Way.”

According to current statistics released by the foundation, 3.4 million girls play high school sports across the country and 44 percent of college athletes are women.

“I never thought that I wouldn’t play sports,” Mathewson said. “We are so far past that point where girls are expected to do other things. It is a testament to all the hard work that the female fighters have put in. We can further that for the next generation. I am so grateful that the path was paved for myself and my kids. We have to continue to support the movement.”

That includes transgender women, though Evans said she wasn’t sure what that will look like in the future. But she said the opportunities need to be there.

“I think every girl needs the opportunity to play sports. Whether they transition young or not, everyone has the right to play sports and I want to see avenues open to them. I am not talking about FINA or the NCAA or whatever, but everyone has the right to play sports,” Janet Evans said.

Evans won four Olympic gold medals during her career that burst on to the scene in 1987 when she broke world records in the 400, 800 and 1500 freestyle events at age 15. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, she won the 400 IM, 400 free and 800 free, dominating the pool.

Four years later in Barcelona, she defended her 800 freestyle gold medal and took silver in the 400 freestyle. She qualified for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and competed in two events but did not medal, though her time in Atlanta is well remembered by her country as she was the second-to-last Olympic torch carrier, handing the flame off to Muhammad Ali in a moment for the ages.

“I got up this ramp and Ali was standing there and shaking. He was really nervous. The athletes and stadium chanting his name … For Ali to stand there in the South, not who he used to be. Everyone talks about what that meant to them,” Janet Evans said. “I would trade my medals to have that moment again.”

Evans has remained an outspoken advocate for her sport and beyond. She has been a key official in bringing the 2028 Summer Olympics to Los Angeles, including joining the International Olympic and Paralympic Committee to invest $160 million to make sports accessible to youth across Los Angeles at no cost.

“Look around the pool, look around the playing field, and look around the front office. Take note of who’s in the room and who’s not. Then find a way to invite them in,” Janet Evans wrote in a recent Newsweek Op-Ed. “Progress is continuous. There’s always the next race to win.”

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Janice McIntosh
1 day ago

Thanks To: President Nixon and Secretary Barbara Franklin

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