Institute Hosts Town Hall on Gender Equity and Sport

Townhall group photo

Photo: David Schmitz

[ISSSSC] San Jose State’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change hosted Words to Action: Gender, Sport and Society, a town hall at Hammer Theater Center in downtown San Jose.

Following remarks by ISSSSC Interim Director and SJSU Professor Ted Butryn and SJSU President Mary A. Papazian, renowned sport sociologist Harry Edwards, ’64 Sociology, ’16 Honorary Doctorate, gave a thought-provoking address framing the dialogue for the event.

“Women historically have proven their physical and mental strength. That is undeniable,” Edwards said. “It is time [for change] because women and girls’ lives matter.”

Marshall University Professor Kat Williams moderated the first panel, “Taking the Field—Trailblazers in Sport,” telling the panelists that “[women] need to understand that they have shoulders to stand on. One way to do that is for you to continue telling their stories.”

“Trailblazers in Sport” panelists included Olympic gold medalist swimmer and co-founder of the American Basketball League Anne Warner Cribbs, Basketball Hall of Famer and NBA/WNBA executive Ann Meyers Drysdale, Olympic fencer and President of Valencia College’s East and Winter Park campuses Stacy Johnson, ’80 Public Relations, and Marie Tuite, San Jose State’s director of intercollegiate athletics. They shared their perspectives on the impact of Title IX on their lives and on sport in general.

“Title IX is not a women’s sports law,” said Meyers Drysdale. “It has become the mantra for women in sports because the bottom line is opportunity.”

Olympic medalist swimmer, attorney and CEO of Champion Women Nancy Hogshead-Makar gave an informative keynote address on protecting and empowering athletes through the law, including Title IX. Following Hogshead-Makar’s keynote, she invited to the stage Brenda Tracy, founder of Set the Expectation, for a moving and deeply personal conversation in which both women were frank about the impact of their experiences as survivors of sexual violence.

Brenda Tracy at Townhall

Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Photojournalism

Through her Set the Expectation campaign, Tracy, who went public with her own story of sexual assault in 2014, works with coaches and educators to encourage proactive dialogue about sexual violence.

“We need to talk to men in positive terms and tell them men are the solution,” Tracy said. “If women could stop sexual violence, it would be done already.”

Spartans Football Head Coach Brent Brennan and players from SJSU’s football team attended the event, a day after Tracy spoke with them and players from SJSU’s men’s basketball team.

“This is such a powerful event,” said Brennan. “It’s important for our guys to hear the discussion. Treating people with respect is one of our team’s core values.”

San Francisco 49ers General Counsel Hannah Gordon moderated “Beyond the Field—Opportunity and Empowerment,” the event’s second panel that included two-time Olympic gold medalist, WNBA Hall of Famer and author Ruthie Bolton, Endeavor Executive Vice President Karen Brodkin, Olympic silver medalist and sideline reporter for the San José Earthquakes Danielle Slaton, and 49ers Assistant Coach and former pro football player Katie Sowers.

Townhall panel of guests

Photo: David Schmitz

The panelists discussed how women have moved from athletics to leadership positions in sport, sharing personal experiences and advice for current and future athletes and leaders.

“Our good stories and bad stories empower young girls,” said Bolton. “We need to remind these girls: you can turn your pain into power.”

There’s great power in student-athletes. They can come together and move mountains.

Stacey Johnson, who recently joined the ISSSSC advisory board, captured the heart of the event and a core goal of the institute: “There’s great power in student-athletes. They can come together and move mountains.”

By Rodney Knox | March 14, 2018