Hammon Should Exemplify Fight Against Sexism in Sports

As a girl who grew up playing sports and dreaming of one day becoming a sports journalist, I have always been supported and encouraged by the men in my life. However, many of the women I look up to have been victims of sexism at one point or another throughout their careers. Fox NFL Sportscaster Erin Andrews was labeled “Sideline Barbie” by sports blogs. Serena Williams, one of the best tennis players ever, was told by former tennis star John McEnroe that if she played the men’s circuit, she’d be “ranked 700th in the world.”

When the Oberlin College Athletic Department brought Justine Siegal to campus in November 2016, I made sure I was there. Siegal became the first female coach in Major League Baseball when the Oakland Athletics hired her as a guest instructor for their instructional league in 2015. Siegal’s knowledge and abilities have been doubted many times in her life because she is a woman, and she now fights to break down the gender barrier in sports.

“It is not about being the ‘first’ or the ‘only,” Siegal tweeted. “It’s about creating a pathway for the girls coming up.”

Becky Hammon’s name took over headlines this week after the Milwaukee Bucks announced her candidacy for the franchise’s head coaching position. Hammon, who will be the first woman to ever be interviewed for a head coaching position in the NBA, already made history in 2014 when legendary San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich hired her as the NBA’s first full-time female assistant coach.

The Bucks are interested in a number of other highly qualified coaches, including Monty Williams and Mike Budenholzer. However, it doesn’t matter if Hammon gets the job or not — she is already paving the way for other women in sports by showing them that anything is possible. She’s proving that it doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter if you wear makeup, high heels, or other accessories seen as “girly.” If you know the game, you know the game — and you deserve a chance.

Fans and commentators need to realize that Hammon is deserving of serious consideration and is qualified enough to become a head coach. She has the knowledge, the wisdom, and the leadership. A year after she joined the Spurs, she led the summer league team to a title.

Those who are unhappy with the prospect of Hammon becoming a head coach are simply ignorant. They argue that Hammon is skipping the line and that she would only be hired due to favoritism and the franchise’s desire to achieve “political correctness.” If Hammon isn’t hired, it will be because someone else is a better fit for the Bucks franchise. It won’t be because her resume isn’t impressive enough — it is.

Hammon was a star for the San Antonio Silver Stars in the Women’s National Basketball League, earning six All-Star nods in 15 seasons. She was inducted into the New York Liberty’s Ring of Honor in 2015, and a year later her jersey was retired.

Of course, she doesn’t have any NBA playing experience because she is a woman, but many other coaches have skipped steps along the path to becoming a head coach. Boston Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens never played in the NBA, and all of his coaching experience was at a mid-major college. Former Bucks Head Coach Jason Kidd became a head coach directly after retiring from the league. Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr was an analyst, president, and general manager before filling his current position.

ESPN sports journalist Bomani Jones argued that there is no one path that an aspiring head coach must take.

“In 2018, there’s no such thing as ‘qualified’ to be an NBA head coach,” Jones said. “They get people from everywhere and with a crazy range of experience.”

If people truly believe that Hammon isn’t qualified for the position, it isn’t because she’s never played in the NBA and has only been an assistant coach in the league for four years — it’s because she is a woman. If one of the greatest coaches of all time and many professional players support Hammon, why can’t everyone else?

Hammon has spent four years under the leadership of Popovich, who has said that he sees great things in his mentee.

“[Hiring a woman] is going to take somebody who has some guts, some imagination, and is not driven by old standards and old forms,” Popovich said in an interview in April. “If somebody is smart, it’s actually a pretty good marketing deal — but it’s not about that. It’s got to be that she’s competent — that she’s ready.”

In 1945, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues when Branch Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers signed him. He made his debut on April 15, 1947. Just three months later, Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the American League when he was signed by Cleveland’s Bill Veeck. Great things transpired in professional baseball because two innovative, brave executives took a risk. Each signed a talented and promising player because they foresaw a bright future in him.

Popovich took a chance on Hammon, and even if the Bucks are not the team and now is not the time, I hope that soon someone will give Hammon the opportunity to rise to the top of the coaching ladder — not just to make a statement, but to give a shot to someone who is deserving.

When — and it’s a matter of when, not if — Hammon is eventually hired as a head coach, it will start a domino effect. I want to see more non-male coaches in professional sports and collegiate sports. I want reporters to feel like they are on the sidelines because they’re intelligent and experienced, not because they look good in a skirt and have a pretty face. I want to live in a world where young people’s dreams are not limited — where they have role models like Becky Hammon.