As part of their initiative to diversify and expand its viewership, the National Football League (NFL) reported in March 2020 that women now account for 47 percent of all football fans in the United States. The release of this data on March 8, International Women’s Day, gives the impression that it marks the start of a new era. According to a statement published on Thefootballgirl.com, a news website that covered the NFL earlier this year, “more women watched Super Bowl LIV than the Grammys, Oscars, and Emmys combined.”
The question is how the league ensures that its female fans are treated fairly and are not subjected to the stereotypical “locker room” stereotypes or harassment. According to the findings, many of these women are subjected to sexism as a result of their favorite hobby. The National Football League, the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association all have issues with sexism directed at female fans.
Favorite Female Fans
Ciara became a part-owner of the Seattle Sounders in 2019, serving as an inspiration to women and young girls everywhere. Ciara announced one of her social media platforms with great pride, stating that she is now one of only a few women who own sports teams. Who are some of the other individuals involved? The four women who play professional football in the National Football League are Virginia Halas McCaskey (Chicago Bears), Patricia Rooney (Pittsburgh Steelers), Norma Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs), and Martha Ford (Detroit Lions).
While Major League Soccer (MLS) has recently grown in popularity, our analysis found that approximately 52 percent of the female fans who participated in the study followed the NFL. Approximately 10% of respondents identified as hockey fans, 17.8% supported the NBA, and one in every five fans supported Major League Baseball.
The Women’s World Cup set a new attendance record, but according to our data, this should not be considered the norm. Only 12% of female sports fans consider themselves to be fans of women’s sports leagues. According to the results of our poll, the top two players chosen by female respondents were Tom Brady and LeBron James, while the top five players were all men (Aaron Rodgers, Stephen Curry, and Drew Brees).
While the action on the field is bound to be tense, the spectators in the stands may also be agitated at times. Twenty-three percent of female fans have reported being harassed at sporting events, with female football fans experiencing more harassment than female fans in any other league.
To harass someone is to act in a way that either threatens or offends them. According to our findings, rude comments were made to female fans more frequently than any other type of unwanted behavior (78.4 percent), with MLB fans being the most frequently targeted victims. Sexist remarks, on the other hand, were heard by approximately 58 percent of female NBA fans.
Women were more likely than men to be harassed in stadiums (68.2 percent), bars (59.2 percent), and social media (50.2 percent) (34.3 percent ). 36% of NFL fans have experienced social media harassment, while 81.4 percent of female MLB fans have had to deal with inappropriate behavior at the stadium.
Do Male Fans Have Respect for Female Fans?
Respect, honor, affection for one’s home state and betting are all examples of what it means to be a sports fan. The vast majority of female fans, according to our findings, had a sense of respect; however, many of them were questioned about their level of familiarity with the club and the game, and 20% of women were labeled “fake fans.”
Female NHL fans were the most likely to be tested on their team knowledge (37.7 percent), while only 40.4 percent of MLB fans were tested on their game comprehension. The subject of naming the players on their favorite team was asked of roughly 70% of the women polled, making it the most frequently asked question. Following the naming game, female fans were polled about the positions played by their favorite players (57.4 percent) as well as their current season statistics (54.9 percent ).
Women Who Back Their Male Rivals
For many years, men have had a significant advantage in sports, but our research shows that women are becoming more interested in the industry. Women enjoy attending sporting events to support their favorite teams and can be found socializing with other fans in stadiums, clubs, and on social media. However, a sizable proportion of women say they feel safer supporting their teams from the comfort of their own homes because they are afraid of being harassed. When the major sports leagues discuss the possibility of incorporating women into various aspects of the game, they may also discuss the possibility of providing women with safe environments in which they can enjoy watching or playing the game.
Spending money on initiatives like Breast Cancer Awareness, celebrity apparel lines, and other accessories (as the NFL has done) may not be enough if the growth in the number of female fans seen in recent years continues. As Jane Goodell, the wife of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stated in 2017, it makes good business sense for professional leagues to better understand the culture of pervasive sexism and to take a stand against it.
According to Jane Goodell’s interview with USA Today at the time, “if you think about it, 45 percent of the NFL fan base is women, and that’s expanding, so that kind of makes sense to me.” It provides an opportunity for the league to listen to its fans and place a greater emphasis on women.