Monday, October 19, 2015
"Lady Cards"? No, they're just "Cardinals" -- A special report by Jeff McAdams
CARELESS JOURNALISM ON DISPLAY
Tabnie Dozier wrote a couple of pieces for WHAS news in the Sports section. They basically consist of a couple of interviews with Women's Basketball figures concerning the Sports Illustrated article about the UofL Athletic department that so many people have been talking about of late.
Go ahead and go read them, I'll be waiting back here when you're done:
Courtnee Walton and Myisha Hines-Allen
Done reading them? Great. What did you notice about those articles? Quite possibly a number of things, but let me tell you what I noticed.
Both articles used the moniker "Lady Cards" to refer to the UofL Women's Basketball team.
How would one go about creating an unsafe environment for women, as the Sports Illustrated article suggested happens at UofL? Step one would be to refer to women as something "other"...something "lesser"...than men. How would one do that? Well, how about by referring to the men's teams as the "Cardinals" or "Cards", while adding an extra qualification for the women, such as "Lady". That would suggest that the men's teams are the real representatives of the University through direct association with the school mascot, while the women's teams would be something other, or something lesser...merely the "Lady Cards", not the real ones.
The University of Louisville, at least to a rounding error, never refers to their women's teams as the "Lady Cards". I think I can probably count on my fingers the number of times I've heard an official representative of the athletic department utter the phrase "Lady Cards". I don't think I need any fingers to count the number of times I've heard an individual repeat that at a later date.
This is, to my understanding, the official policy of the University of Louisville athletics department. You will not find any officially licensed apparel with the phrase "Lady Cards" on it. Coach Jeff Walz used the phrase at his introductory press conference when he was first hired...and never again. My mother (a true feminist, I can say) was gently corrected on this point when she asked about "Lady Cards" apparel at a table selling t-shirts in the lobby of Bellarmine's Knight's Hall before a UofL game...Knight's Hall...so that dates the incident to approximately a decade ago.
Why do I bring this up? Because it suggests just how deeply ingrained into the DNA of the UofL athletic department is the idea that the women's programs are every bit the equal of the men. This was ten years ago, long before Katina Powell popped onto the scene, or even into Billy Minardi Hall.
I ruffled a few feathers within the Volleyball program a little over a week ago when I tweeted that I was surprised that the Volleyball team had charter flights for the weekend's road trip to Georgia Tech and Clemson. It was suggested to me that, of course they got charter flights, because comparable men's programs at UofL got charter flights, and how gauche of me to suggest otherwise. My only defense is that, while I'm totally on board with the women's teams getting charters, I was surprised because I was only thinking about the first leg, to Atlanta...the team does use commercial flights for some trips and it's hard not to end up in Atlanta if you're flying commercial in the southeastern part of the US...I hadn't thought through how difficult it would be to get into Clemson on commercial flights for the second part of the weekend. So let me go on record as apologizing for suggesting, even inadvertently, that the volleyball team isn't fully deserving of using charter flights where commercial airlines would cause logistical challenges.
Again, why bring this up now? Because I suspect some D1 college teams would've probably handled the weekend by flying commercial to Atlanta, and busing from there to Clemson, and then back to Atlanta to fly back home (or perhaps some other city where commercial flights are more practical). Honestly, some D1 college teams would've probably been on buses for the whole weekend. The volleyball team booked a charter because that's what made sense for the destinations, and whether it was for a men's or women's team wasn't even a consideration is the decision making process...and this is as it should be.
So, to circle back to the WHAS articles by Tabnie Dozier. Clearly they were well meaning. They were intended to get the internal pulse of the UofL athletic department with respect to how they treat the women's programs, and more generally women overall. They clearly were intended to point out that the UofL athletic department is, as so many of us have talked about over the past couple of weeks, one of the most progressive athletics programs in the country when it comes to women's issues. They intended to do so by actually talking to people within the department, something that the SI writer very notably failed to do. So it's not without some irony that, a pair of articles, one of which has the phrase "careless journalism" in its very title, so very carelessly refers to the "Lady Cards", not once, but six times.
To Ms. Dozier, thank you, truly, for making an effort to actually get info from real and relevant sources as SI did not. Thank you, also, and again truly, for a noble intent. However, just as the intent behind my tweet last week was positive and supportive, the execution was poor; so it is with your articles referring to the "Lady Cards". You clearly set out to do a pair of pieces about how supportive of women UofL, and specifically the athletic department, is...but I think you, inadvertently, mis-stepped, just as my mother did a decade ago when asking about "Lady Cards" apparel. Similarly, just as asking about apparel, and my miscued tweet, were learning experiences...so let's also learn from this and remember that referring to Cardinals women's teams as "Lady Cards" is a way to separate women from men...a way to make them "other" or "lesser", which is a major part of making a dangerous environment for any group.