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International Women’s Day needs actions, not just self-congratulatory tweets

Seattle men’s teams — for a dollar, name a woman.

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In a long-form piece today by Meg Linehan at The Athletic, she highlighted that Angel City FC enlisted the support of eight professional men’s teams in Los Angeles to challenge their own fan bases to support women’s soccer, urging them to make a deposit on an Angel City season ticket on International Women’s Day.

Linehan went on to note that men’s teams in several other NWSL markets are doing similar, including Houston, Kansas City, Louisville and Orlando, all challenging their fans to step up and support women’s sports in their region.

Notably absent from that list is Seattle. Seattle-area men’s teams have always been happy to tweet a pre-made graphic in support of specific events for the Reign and Storm, such as when the Storm were in the WNBA Finals last year, or when both teams unveiled updated logos in the past year. And the Storm and Reign regularly reciprocate for events like MLB Opening Day and the MLS Cup final, all in a show of #SeattleLove. But such efforts by the men’s teams have always fallen short of directly encouraging their fans to do the biggest thing to support these teams and buy tickets.

It shouldn’t require riding the coattails of men’s teams in a city like Seattle, which claims to be a bastion of progressive thought, to convince people to equally support and expect comparable media coverage for the women’s teams in the region. But decades of deliberate oppression, sexism and inherent bias have put women’s sports at a severe disadvantage both here and around the globe, and it requires active awareness of these biases to confront and combat them through intentional action. So what are Seattle-area pro men’s teams doing today to observe International Women’s Day and combat those biases, particularly in a year where women across the board have been hit significantly harder by the pandemic?

The Sounders have continued their partnership with Intentionalist and sent Brad Evans to Spice Bridge in Tukwila to highlight a variety of women-led restaurants and catering businesses in the food hall. The Sounders have made more effort in the past to support women’s sports — letting the Reign set up a tent in the concourse on some Sounders match days and helping to facilitate the Zulily sponsorship, most notably — and majority owner Adrian Hanauer also made a small individual investment in the club before OL’s purchase, but this year’s IWD efforts felt like an afterthought.

The Seahawks tweeted some animated text affirming that they celebrate strong and impactful women… in some unspecified manner. They also hosted a video discussion with six women from within the organization.

The Mariners just barely one-upped the Seahawks by including a video of player Braden Bishop in a generic WNBA t-shirt talking in broad strokes about how amazing and wonderful the women are in our lives. The flat statement is even more surprising considering how supportive Bishop has been for the Reign and Storm on Twitter.

The Kraken did a tiny bit better, choosing to highlight that their workplace is 41% women and should be even higher.

The Seawolves went so far as to actually include a photo collage of some women in the stands at their games, and at clinics and camps, although again the overall sentiment was generic and without any call to action.

As for the two Tacoma teams… the Defiance haven’t tweeted in a week, while the Rainiers’ lone tweet today was about taking a drive through Point Defiance Park.

Seven men’s teams, four generic shoutouts to the general idea of supporting women, one call to support a small group of women-owned businesses, and little actual action to combat the sexism and biases that have led to the need for such a day in the first place.

The Reign enjoyed their best-ever year for attendance in 2019, and all signs were pointing to a strong 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic ruined plans. Still, they drew an order of magnitude fewer fans than the Sounders in the same overall market, in stark contrast to their respective Portland rivals. The Sounders are uniquely positioned to help close that gap if they so choose, and International Women’s Day presented the perfect opportunity for such an effort.

The WNBA Champion Seattle Storm start their title defense later this summer and are taking season ticket deposits now. OL Reign kick off the NWSL Challenge Cup in one month, with the NWSL regular season to follow starting in mid-May, and are likewise currently offering season ticket memberships. Single-game ticket sales will follow for each team once schedules are announced and Covid protocols are confirmed with local health authorities.

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