Responding to Title IX fear tactics

By Gary Abbott | Dec. 31, 2002, 12 a.m. (ET)
As predicted in this column three weeks ago, the women's sports leadership has started screaming and crying and attacking the efforts of the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, the federal panel that is reviewing Title IX. Shortly after the Commission meeting in Philadelphia, Pa., a group of women's organizations held a media teleconference blasting the Commission, its staff and the Department of Education for bias in the process. Complaining about anything and everything, the group also resorted to a favorite tactic - attempting to scare female athletes and their families that the Commission was seeking to eliminate their opportunities. It is one thing to refuse to budge an inch from the position that there is nothing wrong with the current Title IX enforcement. This is expected, considering their constituent groups and past activities. The current temper tantrum that these individuals are throwing should not be surprising. They have had things their way for so long that they truly believe that whining, attacking people and stomping their feet is an effective way to participate in public debate. They have let loose their dogs, asking their supporters to send in letters and emails and phone calls to the Commission, the White House, the Congress and anybody else who might listen. Things are going badly, so it's time for them to squawk. It is a much different thing to cook up some new statistics that supposedly "prove" that millions of high school girls and college women will have their balls and bats taken from their hands if the Commission completes its work by requesting change. This kind of manipulation, in my opinion, is reprehensible. Right now, those in the sports community who have asked for a reasonable approach to Title IX have a decision to make. They can choose to take on this new public relations program of fear tactics and name-calling, by challenging the opponents point-for-point on each and every one of their allegations. Another option would be to try to keep the high ground, letting these women wail on and on unchecked. This strategy might make those who are complaining turn off everybody who wishes to be objective and fair-minded. Leave them be, and let them be exposed as radicals who are way out there. We can either mud-sling, like they are doing, or do nothing and hope that their behavior turns people against them. If I had a vote, I would say we should take them on. First of all, many in the media are buying into their bull and putting it in print. This can be explained many ways. The media tends to be a bit liberal, to start. Some press members are either biased themselves or too lazy to seek out the truth on this complicated issue. Others who attempt to be balanced are still reporting what is being said, and then trying to offset it with something from our side. In any case, this stuff is getting into newspapers and on television, and those that are not educated are only hearing one side of the Title IX debate. I believe that if you tell a lie enough times, people start to believe it. Perception can become reality, especially when a distortion is allowed to go on without challenge. Even worse, the people telling the lie will start to believe it themselves, as if their warped viewpoint is a fact. The easiest way to address this is to question their motive. We must remind people that these special-interest groups only care about half of the population. Their goal is to push as hard as they can to get as much as they can for women, no matter what the cost. In spite of their lip-service saying they want to be fair for everybody, they really don't care if men lose opportunity, as long as they get what they want. I work for a national governing body of sport. Our job is to care about our entire sport, boys and girls, men and women. When I testified before the Commission in Colorado Springs, I was on a panel of national governing body and Olympic leaders. Each and every one of these panelists requested changes to Title IX because of its negative effect on men's opportunities. We had two men and two women who shared this perception. We had a leader from gymnastics, a sport made up mostly of females, who stood up for the rights of the males in their sport. We had a leader from swimming, who is watching her sport move from one that was once balanced by gender but is now becoming mostly female. We had the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, a woman with a soccer background. The entire panel wanted to protect their men while standing strong for their women. In most cases, sports parents are like these national governing body leaders. They care about both their sons and their daughters. If they understand the damage that the Title IX quota is causing for their sons, it is very reasonable to seek change while continuing to be advocates for their daughters. They want a fair system for all of their kids. However, if all that these parents hear is how any change to Title IX will wipe out 30 years of progress for women, they will naturally stand up for daughters. Without hearing the entire story, they will agree to keep the current system in place. They will leave their sons out to dry, without even knowing it. Think about it. A year ago, Title IX was not a hot public issue. Many things went right in 2002. First there was the NWCA lawsuit against the government. Then came the 30th anniversary of Title IX, a media blitz that covered both sides of the debate. Then came the six-month period of Commission hearings, another opportunity for the truth to come out. It is our job to tell people the truth about Title IX. If that means yelling and screaming and carrying on like our opponents, then we may need to do some of that. It is like a wrestling match. Sometimes you have to face somebody who uses dirty tactics. It may be distasteful, but if you are not tough against these kind of athletes, they believe that they can get away with it. Sometimes doing nothing allows them to win, even if they are not the better wrestler. If you are not going to fight back, you might just as well give up the match by forfeit. Now everybody who reads this column is probably more educated about Title IX that the common American citizen. We need your help in disputing the claims of the women's sports leaders. There are two outright falsehoods that need to be refuted completely and immediately. First is the claim by the women's groups that men athletes have gained opportunity. These people are using only the information that helps their viewpoint. They point to raw NCAA statistics, which do not account for the gain of almost 300 programs since the early 1980's. When you account for those schools from the NAIA and NJCAA and others that transfered into the NCAA, you show a marked loss of "men per campus," the truly telling statistic. Time and time again, this claim of gained men's opportunity was refuted in the Commission hearings, including my testimony, and their position does not hold up to scrutiny. They also point to the most recent GAO study which looks at both NCAA and NAIA programs and shows a razor-thin gain for men. You have to tell people that even within that study, which we believe is flawed, you can show a loss of "men per campus." In addition, you need to remind people that there have been three GAO studies, and the first two clearly show a loss of men's opportunity. They have no answer to this, except for saying that they believe their GAO study and not the others. And to clinch the deal, if you provide a list of dropped programs by sport, literally thousands of teams, there is not much they can say about that, either. How about all those lost girls opportunities? If you read the propoganda released by these zealots, you might become Chicken Little and run around saying that the world in in danger and the sky is falling. Think of it. These people claim that there will be up to 1.4 million fewer high school female athletes and 78,000 less women college athletes. And where did all of this come from? It is fair to say that there is absolutely no basis to the idea that girls will lo