In one of the most challenging times in our nation’s history, several superstars who’ve faced great challenges in their respective careers came together to share their inspiring stories. In association with Yahoo! Sports and The Women’s Sports Foundation, Katie Ledecky, Carli Lloyd, Katie Sowers, Scout Bassett, Chiney Ogwumike, Kendall Coyne Schofield, and tennis icon Billie Jean King, assembled on Saturday, April 11th, 2020. They talked about sports in society today and fielded questions from fans around the world during a live stream on a platform called #WeKeep Playing. Cari Champion, formerly of ESPN, hosted the discussion.
The star of the event was Billie Jean King, a tennis legend with 39 Grand Slam titles. She is the most well-known advocate for gender equality and has long been a pioneer for equality and social justice.
“Fifty years ago, there were three things that I wanted for women in sports. I wanted them to see they have an opportunity to compete. I wanted them to be appreciated. And I wanted women to be able to make a living from sports. We have made great strides, but we have a ways to go and we should be in this together to make it happen.”
Condoleezza Rice, the first African-American woman to serve as Secretary of State and a good friend of King’s, joined the discussion. She shared her thoughts on progress in sports through her own experiences.
“I think we need to keep playing. I have such a great deal of respect for athletes who play at the highest level. And going back to when I was named secretary of state, I thought about how far we’ve come as a country and we need to keep pushing so we can keep progressing.”
While sports were certainly the central theme of the event, Olympic icon Katie Ledecky encouraged others to not only look up to athletes for inspiration, but also the heroes in everyday life.
“I don’t want to be seen as a hero. The real heroes are the people who are on the frontlines in this global crisis. The doctors and nurses. They are the heroes who should get the respect they deserve.”
Leveling the playing field for women was the theme for the rest of the panel. Katie Sowers, who became the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers, talked about her role as a trailblazer.
“I would say there are many women out there creating avenues for others, too. This shouldn’t be like an aisle in the supermarket where there are barriers. You need to check yourself. Listen to the words you’re saying. ‘Are you being inclusive?’ We need to change the narrative.”
Scout Bassett, who lost a leg from a fire while growing up, is a Paralympic champion in track. She explained her decision to pose for ESPN the Magazine’s, “Body Issue.”
“When male adaptive athletes did it, people would say they are heroic. Society told us that women should hide their scars. I did it to show we are just as powerful as the men and that we can achieve anything we put our minds to.”
Kendall Coyne Schofield, who became the first woman to compete in an NHL All-Stars skills competition, holding her own in the fastest-skater portion of the event, said it’s the responsibility of the women in the game today to make it better for the ones tomorrow.
“When a little girl comes up to me and says, ‘I want to be just like you,’ I say, ‘No, you don’t. You should want to be better than me.'” she said. “And we need to leave the game better for the women coming up than it was for us.”
Others on the panel included Chiney Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks and Sabrina Ionescu of the New York Liberty.
Billie Jean King wrapped up the #WeKeepPlaying discussion with a poignant thought.
“We’re never going to have equality until every person can have the same dream, rights and opportunities. All of us have the chance to help push things forward for future generations.”
Photo Credit: Google Reuse, Instagram