Debate Over Removal of “Lady” from Women’s Sports Teams

Two universities have been in the news for recent decisions about their women’s sports teams. The University of Delaware has announced that they are removing the term “Lady” when discussing their women’s athletics. However, the University of Tennessee is fighting to keep the term.

While Manhattan College does not call their women athletes the Lady Jaspers, it is still a questionable topic. Is it really discriminatory? What about honoring team history?

Delaware’s change comes after an alumnus wrote a letter to the editor of their student newspaper. James Wiles, a class of 2012 graduate, called the use of the term Lady Hens “inherently sexist.” He states in the letter that men teams are simply named Hens and not something like Mister Hens. He continued by saying, “The men’s teams are somehow solely entitled to the general term, without a gender specific qualifier.”

The student newspaper agreed and quickly responded. “Though this change is long overdue, we are proud to announce we are disposing of a discriminatory term,” the editors wrote.

On the other hand, the University of Tennessee had some opposing arguments. While the school made the change, it is not viewed well among the students and fans. It was seen as ruining the tradition of their women’s sports. A former female athlete was very upset by the school’s removal and started a petition, asking for the “Lady” to be reinstated.

More than 3,000 people signed the petition in the first two days. It reached about 5,000 so far. “Being a Lady Vol is something that I will cherish forever,” she said in a statement. “The Lady Vol T is more than a symbol. The T served as a fountain of inspiration during my tenure as a student-athlete. It is heartbreaking to realize that no future athlete will have the opportunity to be apart of the Lady Vol tradition.”

Tennessee fans argue that the “Lady” is a major part of their history and they don’t see it as discriminatory. Sally Jenkins, a sportswriter from the Washington Post, said that it was a term of civility and respect, a natural counterpart to gentleman. A lady is someone who commands courtesy and gives it in return. People have also gone as far as comparing it to the description of the First Lady.

“It is a self-selected term that represents a history of hard-won greatness, the seizure of athletic power and identity for women via Title IX,” Jenkins wrote, describing the all-female athletic department added to Tennessee in the 1970’s.

At Tennessee, the one team to keep the “Lady” is women’s basketball. It is a nod to retired head coach Pat Summitt. She had opposed this change in her time with the team. Summitt was one of the women in 1976 to push for a women’s athletic department. They named themselves as the “Lady Vols.”

The argument about the school’s history is understandable. However, isn’t there always room for change? Especially when it is something that can be viewed as discriminatory. Why is the extra term needed when naming women’s sports? Men’s teams are referred to simply as the school mascot, nothing more. If people are worried about branding or inferiority for the women’s teams, they could even go as far as changing to independent team names, such as the New York Knicks and Liberty.

Another statement from the University of Delaware newspaper after announcing the change said, “Referring to our women’s sports teams as the Lady Hens while we refer to our men’s teams as the Hens suggests that men’s teams claim to true Hen-ship and to the true embodiment of athleticism.” This is an important statement because it shows that women represent the “true embodiment of athleticism” as well.

In this era, it is time for everyone to move past gender inequality and make some needed changes. It can be seen clearly when it is a women’s team or a men’s and the women do not need a further explanation. There is no reason for the term “lady” when referring to women’s athletics.