Mo’ne Davis may be only 14, but she’s already become a bona fide sports star, landing the cover of Sports Illustrated and an ESPY award for her performance in the Little League World Series last summer. While she’s likely pleased with her success so far, she’s not pleased with how the broadcast world treats women’s sports. In particular, Davis has a problem with the lack of women’s sports coverage on television, which she says inhibits young girls from pursuing athletics.
“Women’s basketball is more fun to watch. You don’t usually see a man score 40-plus points in three or more games [like WNBA star Elena Delle Donne]. You don’t see a lot of men doing that, and they don’t give women recognition for it,” Davis told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview published on Thursday. “I mean, they show WNBA games on TV, but not as much. They just started paying attention to the Women’s World Cup, and some people didn’t know what it was until, like, the final game. They have to start showing more women’s sports on TV so that more girls will join.”
Davis may be on to something. According to a study that came out in June, while women’s sports and female athletes are gaining in notoriety (the Women’s World Cup final, for example, became the most-watched soccer match in U.S. television history earlier this month), women are getting less airtime than they did 25 years ago on local and national sports news shows.
Researchers out of the University of Southern California compared the presence of female athletes on three Los Angeles local news broadcasts, as well as ESPN’s “SportsCenter” today to what they were in 1989 and said the results today were “dismally low.”
In 1989, L.A.’s network affiliates KCBS, KNBC and KABC dedicated roughly 5 percent of their coverage to women’s sports. Last year, that number dipped to 3.2 percent.
“It really demonstrates the unevenness of social change,” the study’s co-author Michael Messner said in a statement. “What’s puzzling to us is that the increased interest … in women’s sports has not at all been reflected in news and highlights shows.”
Without adequate coverage participation in sports among females has risen anyway in the past 25 years, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. That’s a great sign, but girls’ participation still lags behind that of boys.
It’s unclear whether more television coverage would lead to more young girls participating in sports, as Davis argues, but it seems worth the gamble and not just to find the next Mo’ne. But also, as Davis notes, women’s sports are just plain entertaining. Here are just a few examples.