The difference between men’s basketball and women’s basketball is clear; one is played by men and one by women. In addition to that, many of the rules are different, such as the time on the shot clock, the distance of the three-point line and the 10-second backcourt rule. This is the case with a number of sports, yet despite these differences, teams differentiate more often by mascot than by sport.
The difference between the bears and the lady bears, whether in the forest or as a team mascot, is not as clear. Can a bear really be a lady? Why not the gentleman bears? Since all the teams play for and represent the same institution, shouldn’t they all have the same mascot? There are differences in the rules depending on gender and level of play, so doesn’t it make more sense to differentiate based on where those differences lie, which is with the sport itself? These are questions that are not often asked, but deserve to be answered.
Women fought hard for the right to vote and for equality in all aspects of life, and while much has been gained over the years, in many instances the fight for equality continues. This is exemplified in the playing arena where females have gone from not even having teams to being able to choose from a number of different sports, earning a full athletic scholarship for college and even playing professionally. As the playing field continues to level off and opportunities for females in athletics continue to grow, shouldn’t we include mascots in the mix and have all teams use the same nickname? After all, it’s the sports that are different and, just as T-shirts have a women’s cut and a men’s cut, so should sports; they are still T-shirts, they are just best suited for a particular gender. So, instead of using “lady (mascot)” use girls’ or women’s basketball; or in honor of equality start using “gentlemen (mascot)” too.
Dr. Wojnar is the Chair of Sports Management at the United States Sports Academy. She has worked in higher education for over 20 years holding positions such as athletic director, sports information director, head women’s basketball coach, assistant women’s volleyball coach, and compliance officer. She has also served on various NCAA committees.