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Monday, October 19, 2015

"Lady Cards"? No, they're just "Cardinals" -- A special report by Jeff McAdams


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:

Coach Walz
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.

"Lady Cards"

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 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 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.

Thank you.


  1. I'll admit to being one of the "Lady Cards" moniker-user here in the early days of CARDINAL COUPLE. The placing of "Lady" in front of a sports team's nickname is used by several southern schools to refer to women's sports squads....such as Lady Vols, Lady Bears and Lady Bulldogs. I'm not real sure if their intent is to demean these programs...thinking it may be more of a regional, cultural thing.

    Nevertheless, we don't use it here to refer to sports programs and use "women's" only when there are both male and female squads participating in the same sport (such as soccer, swimming, tennis...etc)...making sure we also use the term Men's Basketball or Men's Swimming and Diving.

    As far as Dozier's amounts to picking at a scab. Let this nonsense about terror on campus for women's go....those of ye fighting for popularity in the journalistic world. It's over, it's done....move on and let things heal.


  2. Thanks Jeff for writing this. As you noted, using the term Lady Cards does not invalidate the Dozier article but, instead, gives many people, and yes, some fans, the reminder that it is inappropriate. Perhaps we can print out a few copies and hand to some fans at the next volleyball game. First, there is no men's volleyball team and, second, if you are at a women's sporting event why would anyone feel the need to yell "Go Lady Cards?"

  3. People don't want to be who they are these days, as if there's something wrong or demeaning about being a lady.

    1. I don't think there is anything wrong with being a lady, and there are plenty of examples of UofL Athletics referring to groups of female student-athletes as "ladies". We hear, frequently, in post-game interviews, "These ladies really worked hard tonight..." or something along those lines. There is no issue in that.

      I think maybe as generations pass, more people are finding the term "lady" to be maybe a little bit old-fashioned, but I don't know of anyone that really feels the term is generally demeaning.

      The problem comes when referring to the teams using the supposed proper noun, "Lady Cards", vs the common, collective noun "ladies". It's the use of "Lady Cards" to separate the representation of the team from the direct association to the mascot that's the issue. That is the action that provides a sense of "otherness" that shapes thought processes in a way that ends up demeaning those teams.

      It would be kinda like saying that the Men's Basketball and Football teams were called the "Cards", while the Baseball, Men's Tennis, Men's Swimming & Diving, Men's Track and Field, and such were all called the "Carditos". ("-itos" being the Spanish suffix appromitely meaning "multiple young boys" of whatever the main term is). Except that this distinction only ever gets applied at schools in the division between men's and women's sports.

    2. Jeff, basically I agree and you know that I am big on manners which to many is what being a lady and gentleman refer to. Actually, many feminists from a few decades ago would say that the term "lady" when applied to a woman is demeaning. I won't go into the reasoning here but until we, as a society, use equal terms when referring to men and women, there will be inherent discrimination. When coaches/commentators/fans refer to the men's terms using equivalent language then this issue goes away. "The gentlemen worked hard tonight and pulled out the win." Alternatively, don't use adjectives for the women's teams unless you use the mirror term for the men's team. Getting off my soap box now.


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