Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX, a law which most notably prohibited educational institutions receiving federal financial aid from discriminating on the basis of sex. For athletics, this meant that women’s programs, which have historically been drastically underfunded and significantly undervalued, would be required to receive equal consideration as compared to men’s programs.
But while Title IX undeniably altered the course of athletics around the country and forged a path for significant and long overdue change, it was only the beginning of a new chapter in a book as old as time. For women, Title IX was simply the starting line of a marathon for which we had been training, planning, and preparing for hundreds of years. A marathon which we are still running today.
We have to imagine that the women of 1972 would be incredibly proud of the ripple effect their courage and confidence to fight discrimination in athletics has had over the last 50 years. The foundation they laid is like a heavy rain nourishing barren land after seasons of drought, enriching the soil, and giving life to seeds which would spur the growth of countless opportunities that exist for women in sports today. And now, as we build on those foundations, we look to the women taking it one step further. The women who are planting new seeds and confidently pushing the boundaries for the next generation.
Women like Megan Reyes, a sports branding and social marketing consultant, founder of the apparel brand More Diverse Voices in Sports, and host of AMPLIFIED, a podcast dedicated to amplifying the voices of a diverse range of pro athletes and sports professionals.
For Reyes, the plan was never to work in sports and much less so, sports media. But what started as an internship in her university’s athletic department has since led her to become one of the most impactful up-and-coming voices in sports. Through her twelve year career, Reyes has touched every corner of the industry, from ticket sales to social media and marketing, content creation, and most recently on-air talent and hosting, helping her to build a deep understanding of both the incredible benefits and historical flaws that come with working in sports.
“At times it would be difficult being at work and you’re looking at the top and not seeing people who look like you,” Reyes said, a first generation Filipino-American. “When I was younger, I don’t think I realized it as much, but as I got a little older I think at some point, whether consciously or subconsciously, it gets defeating seeing that maybe there’s not a path up for me.”
Noticing the lack of racial diversity and female representation in the industry, Reyes decided to take action by starting her popular apparel brand, More Diverse Voices in Sports, as a way to bring awareness to an issue that had largely been ignored.
“The t-shirt itself was just an idea that popped into my head,” Reyes said. “The meaning and the purpose behind it was absolutely twelve years of working in sports and not seeing enough people that looked like me. I wanted something that was kind of like a rallying cry for all the marginalized communities, not just women, but different races and ethnicities, and overlooked communities in sports.”
Since launching her brand in March of 2021, Reyes has raised thousands of dollars and has donated a portion of the proceeds to organizations like Athlete Ally, Black Women’s Player Collective, and Move United.
“It was never my intention to be selling products or have it turn into what it has,” Reyes said. “I just wanted to use my platform to do something good and create positive change in the industry.”
Using the leverage from the popularity of her apparel, Reyes expanded her reach even more by launching the podcast AMPLIFIED where she talks with guests about important and often overlooked issues in sports like navigating the first-generation experience, managing anxiety and negative self-talk, and the stigmas around mental health in the black community.
Although Reyes admits that she has struggled with stage fright and anxiety for years and that starting a podcast was the furthest thing from her mind just a year and a half ago, upon changing jobs she was handed a microphone and given a platform to host her own show, a turn of event that today could be seen as nothing short of serendipitous.
Listening to AMPLIFIED, it’s undeniable that Reyes has a gift for navigating difficult conversations, asking important questions, and providing a safe space for guests to open up and share their own struggles. Much of this, however, comes from her own experiences.
“A lot of it started with my own self-discovery and growth journey,” Reyes said. “It has to do with first-generation experiences; my need for perfection, my need to be a people pleaser. My anxiety also comes from cultural expectations and likely the childhood that I had and grew up in.”
As a vocal advocate for women in sports, Reyes is actively aware of the lack of growth opportunities afforded to marginalized communities, specifically women of color, in the space. Promoting gender equality and diversity is a start, but it’s far from enough.
“I feel like as women, we’re felt as replaceable,” Reyes said. “A lot of people get the diversity part but they forget about the inclusivity part. If there was actual, true inclusivity there would probably be less turnover and fewer people leaving the industry if they actually felt like they were safe and they were heard and they had a place to grow.”
As she works to bring awareness to the lack of diversity in sports, Reyes has also made the decision to transition from a full-time director level position to freelance work in hopes of being able to continue her own career growth outside of team or organizational constraints.
“In the last two years I realized, I can do things on my own and there are a lot of projects that I want to do and that I’m passionate about,” Reyes said. “I really found my voice and my confidence in the last year and a half to where I got to a point, between the beauty of social media and the audience I’ve grown, that I realized I can do this on my own.”
In the next stage of her career journey, Reyes is working to find ways in which she can continue to be a connector of communities. She’s clear that her identity is not wrapped in her sports career, but that she finds purpose bridging the gaps and telling stories that bring people together.
“I kind of want to exist on some of the margins in sports,” Reyes said. “ I just want to be a connector and use the platform that I have been given and created to do good and to tell stories. I really think my purpose in my career is to help people figure out who they are and to bring people together.”
If we imagine 50 years from now, what does the sports landscape look like? We can hope that diversity, inclusion, and equality are a given and that the industry is thriving with more women like Megan Reyes. Women who are not only advocates for their own growth, but the growth, prosperity, and advancement of all communities.
Photo credit:Shutterstock, Megan Reyes