Positive momentum for women’s sports is the story of January 2024

Photo Credit: Akiem Bailum

One of the 12 months of the new year that is 2024 is close to completion – and there already have been several indications that the momentum we have seen in recent years for women’s sports is continuing into this year. 

A key bit of evidence to that relates to the PWHL – the new women’s professional hockey organization that was founded last year and began its season on New Year’s Day. Despite the fact that these teams are devoid of nicknames, the season debuted at several of its arenas to sell-out crowds. 

The PWHL began play in six cities – the “Original Six” philosophy that is so prevalent throughout hockey circles. Those cities were New York, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Boston, Ottawa, Toronto and Montréal. Three United States cities and three Canadian cities. Massive. Crowds. 

Women’s Basketball is seeing this as well – even if the media is mistakenly once again attributing these massive crowds at women’s basketball events solely to one player. Let us mention that one player – and her team – for a bit. 

It was not that long ago that the Iowa Hawkeyes – aka the fighting Caitlin Clarks – traveled to Ohio State for a Big Ten conference clash with the Buckeyes. Iowa entered the matchup as the No. 2 team in the country only behind South Carolina (more on them in a moment).

Clark is on the verge of becoming the all-time leading scorer in the history of women’s college basketball. As of this writing, she has 3,351 career points. Next to pass for Clark is the 3,393 points of Jackie Stiles. We recently saw Tara VanDerveer becoming the all-time winningest college basketball coach (women’s or men’s) when Stanford defeated Oregon State. The record she broke previously belonged to Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Another college record is on the verge of falling. 

While Clark did tally 45 points to lead Iowa, the real story of the game was the coming out party of sophomore Cotie McMahon. In front of a raucous crowd of over 18,000 at the Schottenstein Center, McMahon led the Buckeyes to an overtime victory (100-92) with 33 points and 12 rebounds. 

And while a court-storming frenzy resulted in a fan making an accidental collision with Clark, she mentioned how she was okay even after the incident. 

But – once again – the media is making the massive mistake in attributing this rise in attention to women’s college hoops only to the Iowa superstar. If these high attendance figures were only an Iowa thing, how is South Carolina still drawing massive crowds to Colonial Life Arena? 

And when considers how much of a home-court advantage Colonial Life Arena is for the Gamecocks, it only underscores that rising interest in women’s sports is not merely a thing confined to Iowa City and where the team from Iowa City plays.

It is a FAMs thing too.

Oh…what is that over there, down yonder…could it be another women’s sports media deal?

Ion Television…hmmmm…that name looks familiar. 

The same network that became of interest to WNBA fans last season because of its own deal for a Friday night W package has recently added the NWSL to its overall sports portfolio. The deal was one element of a new agreement that saw the league announce ESPN and Prime Video as partners along with Scripps and CBS Sports.

Given in a previous life it was Pax TV – a more right-of-center alternative to ABC, CBS and NBC – something like this would have been unfathomable for this channel back in the day. 

Ion also previously aired this year’s NWSL Draft earlier this month. It is very obvious that the E.W. Scripps Company – which owns and operates Ion – sees the value in investing big money into women’s sports coverage. 

We are only in the beginning stages of the year 2024 – and the vibe around women’s sports continues to go in the right direction. Demand for women’s sports content is the rise. Fan interest is on the rise. Even media coverage is steadily on the rise. 

At this point, any major media outlet that continues to look at women’s sports as if it is not a worthwhile investment for said media outlet is making a decision that is not based in good business. There are media personalities – mostly white males along with one notable Black male – who look at even covering women’s sports as “woke.” 

They believe in the “Go Woke, Go Broke” philosophy. The numbers are actually displaying that a way to go “broke” is to go racist, sexist, misogynistic and misogynoir as opposed to “woke.”