Volume 76, Number 46 | April 11 - 17, 2007

Talking Point

Imus, Title IX and foul high school hoops memories

By Reverend Donna Schaper

I am so glad he just came right out and said it: “What a group of nappy-headed hos.” I am surprised he didn’t also call them dykes. We know that’s what he thinks. It’s so much better when people like Imus say what they think rather than acting like they don’t think what we know they do think. They leave us confused when inarticulate; when they say what they mean — that women basketball players are just a bunch of “nappy-headed hos” — our worlds come back together. We understand why our team has less network time than their teams. We understand why we get paid less, even when on the top of our game. And we learn how hard it is for men to accept that women are full human beings, rather than the warm-up team.

The Rutgers women’s basketball team may have lost the game to Tennessee but they are going to help us win the war on sexism. What war? The war of words and metaphors and true feelings. Women athletes have lots more on the legal page than we have in the bank.

Permit me one story as I write on the 35th anniversary of Title IX — 37 words that changed the world of athletics.

I played basketball in South Carolina in the ’60s. The Saluda High School women’s team was the warm-up team for the men. We would play first, they would play second. Our buses barely made it up the rolling Carolina hills; their buses whizzed by our buses on the road. Their teams had good uniforms, good buses and first billing in the act. We had ratty uniforms, few balls and a part-time coach. When our buses broke down, which they often did, and the women’s team had to push the bus up the next hill, so we could get it started again, their team would stop and laugh at us. Yup. Hey you nappy-headed hos — or whatever the current epithet was — what’s the matter with your bus? Ha, ha, ha.

Thanks, Mr. Imus, for the insult. You will help us get Title IX enforced. You have demonstrated what so many of us know, but have a hard time proving: that too many white boys (you hear me, Duke lacrosse players?) still enjoy a casual racism spiced with sex and sexism. You have “outed” yourself and we are grateful.

You may have hip-hop “ho” talk behind you. You may have the bullying power of clever insults behind you. Surely such behavior has made you successful. But you don’t have the American people behind you: Most of us believe in fair play, and you don’t play fair. You play mean. When people see who you really are, thanks to your frankness, those 37 little words will make a lot more sense: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Women athletes no longer need be on the bottom, the position “hos” know all too well. Someday in the near future, I see your team playing the warm-up game. If I’ve got some time on my hands, I’ll ride to it in a nice bus in time to catch the last half.

Schaper is senior minister, Judson Memorial Church

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