The Harvard men’s soccer team was en route to an Ivy League Championship run, but its hopes of winning the league quickly vanished — not after a rash of injuries or a run of bad luck, but because of the team’s off-field actions.
The problem began in 2012, when the team rated the incoming members of the women’s soccer team on their appearances and made lewd comments.The Harvard Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper broke the story, but it didn’t gain traction until it was revealed that the team had continued the tradition into this year.
Harvard then made the appropriate decision to cancel the rest of the team’s season.
Entitled culture in sports isn’t a new narrative. In fact, it has probably been overplayed.
Blatant sexism in sports is nothing new, either. Women’s athletics are often taken less seriously than its male counterparts. This, however, was not the case of a men’s team simply getting more attention. This was a men’s team belittling and degrading its female counterparts.
Not only is this rating system sexist and inappropriate, but it also fails to recognize the women as athletes, and more importantly, as people. Female collegiate athletes are there for the same reason as the men: because they are good at what they do.
Harvard’s women’s soccer players had an appropriate response, though.
“We do not pity ourselves, nor do we ache most because of the personal nature of this attack,” members of the team wrote in an op-ed to The Crimson. “More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives. … We are appalled that female athletes who are told to feel empowered and proud of their abilities are so regularly reduced to a physical appearance.”
While this case is extreme and is eliciting a strong response, it’s not the only way women in sports are discriminated against. Too often, female athletes are treated as a novelty and not equal to men.
At the New York City Marathon’s media day, a journalist asked the defending women’s champion who watches her daughter during training.
That same day, the Chicago Cubs celebrated their first World Series in 108 years. Imagine if a media member had asked David Ross or Jon Lester the same question? There’s a double standard.
The Lady Crimson players said it best.
“To the men of Harvard soccer and to the men of the world, we invite you to join us, because ultimately we are all members of the same team,” they said in the op-ed. “We are human beings and we should be treated with dignity. We want your help in combatting this. We need your help in preventing this. We cannot change the past, but we are asking you to help us now and in the future.”
Once the expectation is set that this type of behavior is not “normal,” athletes — regardless of gender — will be viewed equally. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope that day comes soon.