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Opinion: Senator Capito: Continue fighting for female college athletes

By West Virginia State Senator Amy Grady

The 2023-2024 year in college athletics was one that placed women’s sports squarely in the spotlight. It was a year of pioneering achievements and record-breaking performances unlike any in recent memory.

Fans were captivated by Iowa women’s basketball superstar Caitlin Clark, who broke the all-time record for most points scored by any men’s or women’s player in Division I basketball. The women’s basketball national championship was also the most watched basketball game for men or women – college or professional – since 2019, capping off a perfect season for South Carolina.

Nebraska women’s volleyball set a world record for the largest crowd to watch a women’s sporting event when over 92,000 fans packed into Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. The University of North Carolina won the women’s field hockey championship led by first-year head coach Erin Matson, who at just 22 years old led her alma mater to a national championship after becoming a four-time national champion as a player. By winning, she became the youngest head coach in a women’s sport to do so.

While women’s sports are thriving in an unprecedented way, they are also facing existential threats at the collegiate level.  

As the dynamics of college athletics shift rapidly, unintended consequences threaten the long-term viability of virtually all non-revenue-generating sports. This means women’s and Olympic sports could find themselves as unintended casualties.

Fortunately, Congress is in the process of taking action that will secure women’s and Olympic sports. Due to a patchwork of state laws and rulings from courts and agencies like the National Labor Relations Board, the situation in college sports will only continue deteriorating until women’s and Olympic sports are left in the dust. Without intervention in the form of federal legislation, we’re facing the possibility of athletic departments soon being unable to financially support their current volume and variety of sports. 

Senator Shelley Moore Capito knows the value women’s sports bring to not only young women, but to fans, parents, universities, and entire communities. These sports have given women the opportunity to compete at the highest level, while also helping shape the female leaders of tomorrow. Senator Capito has seen this firsthand through her daughter, who as a Duke University volleyball player was one of the thousands of young women who have benefited from college sports.

We need Senator Capito’s leadership to help push Congress across the finish line. While strides have been made in the Senate this Congress, women’s sports might not have the luxury of time. Her voice is respected and carries weight with colleagues from both sides of the aisle. By lending her support to the bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Cruz (R-TX), Booker (D-NJ), Blumenthal (D-CT), and Moran (R-KS), Senator Capito can help advance this bill and achieve a monumental win for female sports.

According to a Deloitte forecast, elite women’s sports will generate over $1.28 billion in 2024. That’s a 300% increase in just three years. The momentum behind female sports has never been greater than it is right now. But we are at a fork in the road. 

Without Congressional action, we risk undoing much of the progress made in advancing opportunities for female athletes. Congress – let’s act to ensure women’s sports not only survive but continue thriving beyond our wildest expectations.

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