Olympics Commentary 'Sets Female Athletes Back,' Agent Says

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Hungary's Katinka Hosszu competes in a semifinal of the women's 200-meter individual medley during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Matt Slocum/AP)
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Female Olympians put in years of practice before ultimately achieving gold, silver and bronze medals. But some are finding their accomplishments are being downgraded by commentators who have focused more on their personal lives.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young speaks with Dana Hooper, a sports agent who works with female Olympians.

Interview Highlights: Dana Hooper

On how media members and commentators talk about female athletes

“I think that with female athletics, it’s often compared to not only men, but also to their husbands if they are married or their spouses in some instances are also sometimes women themselves. It is unusual that in this kind of extremely well-covered era of social media, it is actually unusual to have this topic. But, it’s become popular because the Olympics and some of the commentary that’s been referenced about the Hungarian swimmer and the husband.

It’s something that I scratch my head about, only because as you mentioned the women are the ones getting up every morning and you know, every evening staying up late in their competitions.”

On why the issue is important

“I think it sets female athletes back. In the 1990s, the Olympic committees — both the international and individual countries — put a focus on getting more female athletes out there, giving more opportunities for female athletes. Since the 1990s, it’s grown quite significantly. In fact, for the United States, the athletes are 53 percent women this year, which is quite a feat considering years ago it was very imbalanced the other way.

The women work just as hard as the men and they both deserve the accolades that they’re getting. I’m not sure why there’s a constant comparison, other than the women — often in other countries in addition to the United States — are trying to catch up with salaries and media attention and ticket sales, and all of that. But, it’s important because if we continue to have the media make comments that are somewhat, in some cases, very derogatory towards women, we’re going back in history. We need to move forward.”

On how media representations affect female athletes financially

“When they sit down and sign a contract, presumably they are before a general manager or an owner that has taken interest in women’s sports. You would hope that they would be part of the catalyst for bringing equality to women’s sports. However, that’s not always the case. And the ownership in the folks that are going to be paying the salaries of these female athletes, in addition the sponsors, they have to look at the metrics. If they feel like there are not enough ticket sales, or jersey sales, or commercial interest in these individual athletes as women, then that’s a problem.

Is it the more beautiful women get the sponsorships? Absolutely. I would be disingenuous to sit here and say that, when I’m approached for sponsorship for the athletes I represent, they are oftentimes looking for people with a certain look. That is not the same for my male athletes. Is it something that is a factor in society.”

Guest

Dana Hooper, sports agent.

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