A 10-year-old stood in line to collect the first of what was sure be a collection of Little League hats, the mandatory stepping stone that would inevitably set the stage for a lucrative pitching career for the New York Yankees.
It was then, standing in that very line, that those dreams were crushed. After being shown a page in the Little League rule book, Donna Lopiano was told she couldn’t play; Donna Lopiano was a girl.
“No child should ever be told they’re not allowed to pursue their dreams,” Lopiano said, a Southern alumna who spoke to a group of Southern students and patrons about gender equity in sports at the Adanti Student Center theater this past Friday.
“I remember crying and being disappointed, but I didn’t get angry until I was older,” said Lopiano, who would go on to be an All-American in softball for the Owls.
The lecture was centered on gender equality and was prompted by the 40th anniversary of Title IX, a federal law that has been the subject of much debate over the course of its existence.
The law, which Lopiano referred to as “an accident of history,” was initially meant to level the playing field when it came to the admission of women to graduate schools, hiring and employment in the US. Any organization that received federal aid throughout the country was required to adhere to Title IX regulations, and when it was ruled that the legislation would also be applied to athletics, “all hell broke loose,” Lopiano said.
As the current president and founder of Sports Management Resources, theformer CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation and recently named one of the 10-most influential women in sports by Fox Sports, Lopiano’s experience and knowledge of Title IX is matched by few. She has testified in several gender equity court cases, including a recent trial involving Quinnipiac University and gender equality violations.
“I never say no to [an opportunity to inform about gender equality]. I’ll talk to an elementary school. You just don’t say no when you’re into advocacy. There’s always someone you can convince to see something differently,” Lopiano said.
In her lecture, titled “40 years of Title IX: Is There Equity Yet—Looking back and going forward” Lopiano touches on several false ideas about Title IX and women’s sports. A pervasive misnomer Lopiano found important to dispel was the concept of sports being looked at as a “zero sum game” meaning that more women’s sports will only take away from men’s sports.
“It’s an absolute fallacy,” Lopiano said, describing the idea as “fear mongering” while noting the growth of men’s sports occurring simultaneously with that of women’s sports.
Southern’s Dr. Joseph Panza of the Sports Management department organized the “Spring Event” as the second in an ongoing series of established speakers he hopes will continue to come to Southern. Last year’s event centered on sportsmanship and featured Bobby Valentine, the current head coach of the Boston Red Sox.
“I thought it went really well. [Lopiano] really knows her stuff.
What I was really impressed with was how Southern stacks up [in regard to gender equity],” Panza said.
“As [Lopiano] pointed out, it’s a generational thing. The more we talk about this and educate generations, the better.”