How Title IX Shaped the Women’s World Cup

By Bryan Toporek — July 22, 2011 1 min read
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Kevin Riley of the LeaderTalk blog wrote yesterday that the success of the U.S. soccer team at the recent Women’s World Cup suggests that “we are all beneficiaries of Title IX.”

Title IX, which came to be law in 1972, forces schools that receive federal funding to provide equal athletic opportunities to both males and females. As Riley notes, Title IX was based on the equal protection clause of the Constitution—the same clause responsible for defining student rights in special education, bilingual education, and school desegregation.

Riley writes:

Title IX represented a vision of opportunity and equal treatment that has, forty years later, inspired our daughters to excel in every walk of life. And not just our daughters because many of those Japanese athletes grew up watching Mia Hamm and now play professional soccer here in the U.S. Engraved in the golden walls of the World Cup is (at least metaphorically) a kind of promise—that when you provide every person with legitimate opportunities to fully develop their natural gift, the boundless potential of the entire human family comes closer to fruition.

He quickly follows up by noting that Title IX hasn’t resulted in total educational equity, as many other subgroups—immigrant students, LGBT students, homeless students, and bullying victims, to name a few—remain unprotected by any federal law. Those subgroups of students deserve equal attention, Riley writes.

After all, as the U.S. women’s soccer team proved at the Women’s World Cup, we now know “what happens when we let all of our kids compete,” he says.

That is the legacy of Title IX which we all inherited—a promise to our children that they can play, too. As equals. That is what makes the quest for the World Cup worthy of your journey. And mine.

It’s worth noting that Title IX isn’t universally revered, even as we approach its 40th anniversary. The American Sports Council filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Dept. of Ed. regarding the use of Title IX’s three-part compliance test in high schools. The ASC argues that using the three-part test in high schools could sideline over 1 million male athletes, and violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Photo: Team USA players celebrate after scoring the opening goal during the final match between Japan and the United States at the Women’s Soccer World Cup in Frankfurt, Germany, on July 17. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.