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WSF Salutes Annual Title IX Milestone

Dawn Staley (Credit: Gamecock Central)

Last night, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) celebrated the extraordinary achievements of athletes and leaders in sports and the girls that they inspire, at its Annual Salute to Women in Sports. Recognized as the biggest night in women’s sports, the event, like the Foundation’s programming throughout this year, highlighted the 50th anniversary of Title IX while also calling attention to the vital need for more progress. Honored this evening with WSF’s signature Salute awards were history-making athletes – Sunisa Lee, Maggie Steffens, and Elana Meyers Taylor – one of the fiercest coaches in the SEC, Dawn Staley, and the lead founding investor in Angel City FC, Alexis Ohanian. The Salute was held at Pier Sixty on Manhattan’s waterfront, and was presented by WSF National Partners Athleta, ESPN, Delta Air Lines, Gatorade, Michelob ULTRA, NBC Sports, and TIAA with an exclusive reception partner DraftKings.

Throughout the night, the Foundation took time to commemorate Title IX’s 50th anniversary, reflect on the progress made and the work that still needs to be done to achieve a truly equitable future for all girls and women in sports. The Foundation’s research report, “50 Years of Title IX: We’re Not Done Yet” released earlier this year revealed that although girls’ participation in sports is nearly 12 times higher than it was at the time of the law’s passage in 1972, girls still have far fewer sports opportunities than boys had 50 years ago. Today, girls miss out on an estimated 1 million sports opportunities at the high school level compared to boys. This opportunity gap is widest among girls and women of color, LGBTQ+ youth and those with disabilities – who consistently have less opportunities than their peers. Tonight’s event was a reminder to all that there is a critical need for the Foundation’s essential work as they strive to build a future where every girl and woman can play, be active and realize her full potential.

“The Women’s Sports Foundation is a guardian angel and champion of Title IX, and fully understands and accepts its decades long mission to ensure true equity for girls and women,” said Billie Jean King, WSF Founder. “I am inspired by this remarkable group of honorees who are breaking records, eliminating barriers and blazing a path for a brighter future in and out of sports for girls and women.”

The coveted Foundation’s awards and this year’s honorees included:

Sportswoman of the Year Award – Team, presented by Clara Wu Tsai and Joe Tsai, and Sportswoman of the Year Award – Individual, presented by Delta Air Lines, – recognize athletes (in both team and individual sports) who exhibited exceptional athletic performance over the last 12 months.

●      Team Sport, Maggie Steffens (Water Polo) – Three-time Olympic gold medalist, 2012, 2016, 2020; four-time Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) World Championships gold medalist, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2022; three-time NCAA champion with Stanford University, 2014, 2015, 2017; three-time FINA World Player of the Year, 2012, 2014, 2021; all-time leading scorer in Olympic women’s water polo history with 56 goals.

●      Individual Sport, Sunisa Lee (Gymnastics) – Olympic all-around gold medalist, 2020; Olympic silver medalist (team), 2020; Olympic bronze medalist (uneven bars), 2020; three-time world championship medalist, 2019; NCAA balance beam champion, 2022; SEC Freshman of the Year, 2022; SEC uneven bars champion, 2022; Sports Illustrated Female Athlete of the Year, 2021.

Wilma Rudolph Courage Award, presented by Athleta, recognizes a female athlete or a team who exhibits extraordinary courage in their athletic performance, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity, makes significant contributions to sports and serves as a role model.

●      Elana Meyers Taylor – Five-time Olympic medalist in bobsled and flag bearer for 2022 Team USA; most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history; advocate for mom-athletes and disability inclusion.

In partnership with the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, the Billie Jean King Leadership Award presented by Y. Michele Kang recognizes an individual or group who demonstrates outstanding leadership and makes significant contributions to the advancement of women through achievements in sport and the workplace.

●      Dawn Staley – Head Coach of South Carolina Gamecocks; first Black woman to win two NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships as head coach; Naismith Hall of Fame basketball player and two-time National Coach of the Year; five-time WNBA all-star; advocate for gender and racial equality.

Champion for Equality Award, presented by TIAA acknowledges an individual or organization that shows unwavering commitment to gender equality and to the advancement of girls and women in sports.

●      Alexis Ohanian – Founder of Seven Seven Six; Co-Founder and Former Executive Chair of Reddit; lead founding investor in the professional women’s soccer team Angel City FC; outspoken advocate for paid family leave.

About Jerry Milani

Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 30 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for FAN EXPO, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.

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