Women are still making new forays into the world of sports. Participation in the most prestigious events have long been undertaken by females and some of the best athletes in the world right now happen to be women. However, they’re becoming more prominent as coaches, referees and broadcasters, as well as voices who speak out against many of the ills plaguing society today.
Just this past Wednesday, history was made in the NBA after an all-female broadcast crew took charge of TSN’s presentation of a game between the Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets. With women in assistant coaching positions within pro basketball organizations, we could soon see one become a full-time coach. San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon became the first woman to ever take charge of an NBA game when she replaced Gregg Popovich on the team’s bench after he was ejected from a game late last year; there aren’t many who would argue against her becoming an NBA head coach at some point.
This list seeks to highlight some of the most influential women in sports. Some of the individuals mentioned below are still very much involved in their particular disciplines while some are long retired yet still actively fighting for change and equality.
Billie Jean King
Photo via: flickr.com
The 77-year-old tennis legend, a former world No.1, is one of the most decorated players in history, having won a remarkable 39 Grand Slam titles (12 singles, 16 women’s doubles, 11 mixed doubles). King is the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association and Women’s Sports Foundation.
A longtime advocate for women’s equality, King kept up her work as an activist after retiring. She is the first female to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as the first to have a major sporting venue named after her (the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York).
King continues to fight for equal pay for female athletes and is considered a model for up-and-coming women looking to take on the charge.
Naomi Osaka is one of the biggest names in tennis at the moment. The reigning U.S. and Australian Open winner, also the first Asian player to be a top-ranked tennis player, is currently world No.2, having spent 25 weeks as No.1.
Osaka wore a different mask bearing the names of black victims of police brutality and racial injustice in each of the seven games she played at the 2020 U.S. Open. She has been using her platform to bring added awareness to the race issues going on in the United States. “All the people that were telling me to ‘keep politics out of sports’ (which it wasn’t political at all), really inspired me to win. You better believe I’m gonna try to be on your tv for as long as possible,” she tweeted after her impressive victory in New York.
Serena Williams will go down as one of the most successful women to ever grace the realms of sports. Whether or not she decides to keep chasing what would be a record-tying 24th Grand Slam win is left to be seen, however.
A heartbreaking semi-final loss to Osaka in the Australian Open last month prompted speculation over her future but, whatever she decides, Serena has already cemented her place as both a sporting and cultural icon.
ESPN broadcaster Doris Burke is one of the best in the business, having displayed her ability to call basketball games on an almost nightly basis for as long as most fans can remember. Burke is the first woman to receive the Curt Gowdy Media Award by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and, as of four years ago, became the first full-time female NBA analyst on ESPN and ABC.
Burke’s voice is one of the most respected in basketball broadcasting and, with the best bets for today being offered on the biggest games in the NBA, her expert opinion is certainly of value.
Photo via: flickr.com
The American soccer star was just the fourth woman to be named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year when she received the honor in 2019. Captain of OL Reign and the United States national team, the 35-year-old led the U.S. to victory at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, also winning the Ballon d’Or Feminin and the Best FIFA Women’s Player Award that year.
Rapinoe is also an advocate for racial and gender equality, as well as LGBTQ rights. She famously knelt during the national anthem prior to an international game to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick in 2016.