Who we are:
This statement is a product of a collaboration among leaders from the following men’s, women’s, and mixed teams: Johnny Bravo, Ironside, Machine, Revolver, Sockeye, Truck Stop, Brute Squad, Fury, Molly Brown, Nightlock, Riot, Scandal, Amp, Drag’n Thrust, Mixtape, Polar Bears, and Slow White. At the time of this document’s publishing, some full teams are ready to back this statement while others are still working towards getting consensus from all team members. Therefore, in the attached statement of support, some teams have chosen to use their team name to indicate program support while other teams have listed individual team members in full support.
Through this letter, and other public actions, we intend to encourage USA Ultimate to require a policy of gender equity over equality in all future broadcasting partnerships, and to generate increased consciousness regarding gender related issues in our community. Currently, USA Ultimate’s policy of gender equality states that coverage of the men’s and women’s division is equal in number of games streamed. However, coverage is not equitable. These games are not equal in terms of accessibility or timing. Moreover, the current policy omits the mixed division entirely. In order to bolster female involvement in the sport (Female athletes make up only 30% of USA Ultimate membership), additional efforts must be made to promote divisions in which women play. To achieve true equity, media coverage and USA Ultimate policies must prioritize visibility of female athletes over male athletes to compensate for the ways in which women have been historically and socially disadvantaged.
We understand that USA Ultimate’s membership1This statement is based on the strategic plan and surveys used to determine the goals for 2013-2018, number one being visibility: http://www.usaultimate.org/strategic_plan/ has actively prioritized the goal of increasing visibility of the sport of ultimate. However, in pursuit of this goal, the organization has regressed in its approach to gender equity by preferencing coverage of the men’s division over both the mixed and women’s divisions. The strategy must be revisited so that we do not drift from USA Ultimate’s Core Values of Respect, Integrity, Responsibility, Leadership, and Teamwork. To clarify our stance on this matter, our group has developed a list of beliefs that we all stand behind.
- No athlete is inherently less valuable based on gender and that, historically, female athletes have not been equally valued.
- Equitable coverage symbolizes a commitment to eliminating institutionalized sexism pervasive in sport culture, and that a shift towards true equity in coverage will shift the conversation surrounding the value of women in our sport and inspire more women to participate in ultimate.
- USA Ultimate, as an organization that represents its members’ values and shapes the future of ultimate, has a duty to act equitably in an aim to reverse gender-biases in our sport.
- By investing in equitable coverage of female athletes, our sport will find a new path towards growth that does not inherently favor male athletes.
- USA Ultimate’s recent media agreements lack the transparency and equitable coverage necessary to elevate our sport toward its highest potential.
- Success of USA Ultimate’s vision for the sport depends on the wide support of its membership base, support which we believe is dwindling as trust has diminished in USA Ultimate’s commitment to gender equity and lack of transparency.
- Visibility should not come at the expense of equity and no broadcast partner is worth compromising our values.
USA Ultimate supports female athletes through a policy which ensures equal coverage of the women’s and men’s divisions, by encouraging outside partners to achieve gender equity in their coverage, and by implementing programs, like the Girls Ultimate Movement, to increase participation of female players.
As recently as August 25th, this policy has resulted in positive changes such as the first Women’s Club Division Final in a primetime slot with ESPN3 coverage. We applaud USA Ultimate’s efforts to encourage these changes from its partners, and believe that USA Ultimate should demand them going forward.
In the pursuit of gender equity we would like USA Ultimate’s Gender Equity Policy to read:
“In an attempt to strengthen the ultimate community and ensure that the sport of ultimate remains an inclusive and welcoming sport for female athletes, USA Ultimate endorses a policy of gender equity. USA Ultimate will ensure equitable coverage and promotion of women’s divisions of play (women’s and mixed) to that of the corresponding men’s division, and require outside partners and vendors to achieve gender equity in their coverage of and marketing to ultimate. As long as the number of female players lags behind the number of male players, USA Ultimate will implement targeted outreach programs that strive to increase the number of female players and ensure equitable coverage of female players.”
We understand that negotiations with ESPN and other media providers for future USA Ultimate college and club seasons are currently underway. It is our goal to begin a conversation with USA Ultimate before these negotiations are complete to ensure that future contracts better address current inequities in our sport. We request a response to our statement by a USA Ultimate representative [one week from submission] and for a group of representatives from USA Ultimate to speak with selected representatives from the Women’s, Mixed and Men’s Club divisions [one week after that] about our list of concerns, specific guidelines for equitable allocation of coverage for all three divisions, and other possible actions moving forward.
Based on the resulting discussions with USA Ultimate, leaders from all three club divisions will continue to collaborate to establish a concrete list of asks and proposed revisions to the current policies which will be presented to USA Ultimate and to the general public before Nationals. We hope to work as allies with USA Ultimate to amend the current gender equity policy and remedy, what we see as, inequities in current coverage. However, unless future broadcasting agreements adhere to the set of beliefs listed above which we believe establish a more equitable approach to the growth of not only women’s ultimate specifically, but also ultimate in general we will continue to use our voices, as showcased athletes, to speak out on these issues.
As the players most frequently showcased in broadcasted events, past and current contract agreements have been in opposition to our values and beliefs regarding gender equity in sport. It is our understanding that some of the above beliefs are incongruent with the requests of some broadcast partners. However, the above values should be non-negotiable in all current and future partnerships with broadcasters and vendors. USA Ultimate has the potential to propel our sport forward as a pioneer in equity in athletics, just as it has in sportsmanship and fair-play. By advancing its stance on gender equity through a revised gender equity policy, USA Ultimate would show a greater commitment to ending gender-bias and elevate the status of ultimate as a sport that challenges historic boundaries of exclusion. We hope to work with USA Ultimate towards achieving this goal.
Gender Equity Statement of Beliefs Statement of Support:
Below is a list of individual players and teams who stand behind the “Gender Equity Statement of Beliefs” letter. You can join this group of athletes by signing our online petition.
Johnny Bravo (Complete Roster)
Ironside (Complete Roster)
Antoine Davis (Practice player)
Molica Anderson (trainer)
Sockeye (Complete Roster)
Matthew “Rowan” McDonnell
Brute Squad (Complete Roster)
Idris Nolan (Coach)
Molly Brown (Complete Roster)
Nightlock (Complete Roster)
Riot (Complete Roster)
Scandal (Complete Roster)
AMP (Complete Roster)
Drag’n Thrust (Complete Roster)
Seattle Mixtape (Complete Roster)
Slow White (Complete Roster)
We invite you to show your support of our statement of beliefs, and of the spirit of amending gender inequity in the sport of ultimate, by signing our petition! Please join us in continuing the conversation as fellow players (or community members) advocating for gender equity!