50 Years After Title IX, Programs Like H&R Block’s “A Fair Shot” Continue to Settle the Scoreboard
June 23, 2022, marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX’s passage.
This significant piece of civil rights legislation prohibits sex- and gender-based discrimination from all programs in federally funded education systems, from middle school to universities, to allow future generations of women greater access to athletic and educational opportunities.
But, unfortunately, Title IX didn’t solve for all future inequality. Even with the passing of the new NCAA rule July 1, 2021 that allowed college athletes to begin receiving compensation for selling their name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights, Division 1 female athletes were quickly left behind – making less than than Division 1 male athletes on these sponsorship deals.
As a supporter of women’s equity, H&R Block saw this as an opportunity to level the playing field. In March 2022, H&R Block partnered with 19 women’s athletes to launch a new program, A Fair Shot, committing $1 million in sponsorships, support, pertinent tax-prep information and consultations to female athlete partners across the country.
Now, timed with the celebration of a milestone Title IX anniversary, H&R Block is taking the month of June to highlight its talented “A Fair Shot” partners. Here’s a look at five of the women helping settle the scoreboard in their communities:
This June, Duke University’s track and field and cross-country athlete Emily Cole is participating in the NIL Summit, where she is a Hustle Award nominee. The Hustle Award recognizes the student athlete who combines determination with entrepreneurial savviness to excel in their name, image, and likeness endeavors off the field or court. During the NIL Summit, Cole will participate in a panel discussing Title IX, female empowerment, and her experience with NIL as she reflects on her partnership with H&R Block and the recent news that the U.S. men and women’s soccer teams will now receive equal pay. In order to keep closing the equality gap, Cole encourages other brands to continue supporting women athletes.
“Something I am super-excited about is how much change I know is going to happen in women’s sports over the next 10 years,” she said.
A four-time first-team All-American senior track and field star at the University of Kentucky, Masai Russell loves to connect with her fans and young female athletes, making time to meet in-person at her track meets or virtually via social media. Her message to her fans and followers is clear: women are capable of doing anything men can do. Russell aims to pave the way for the next generation of athletes, similar to how the passing of Title IX helped pave the way for athletes like her. On June 2, Masai visited a local high school, Grace M. James Center of Excellence in Louisville, Kentucky, to speak with their track team.
“We female college athletes put just as much work, time and effort into our craft as men do. My passion is deep for this topic,” she said.
Trinity Thomas is an accomplished gymnast at the University of Florida and the most decorated gymnast in the NCAA. She uses her platform to encourage women to pursue their aspirations even in the face of adversity. In line with her many achievements, Thomas was the first African American gymnast to achieve the “gym slam,” scoring a perfect 10 on each apparatus. As a continuation of her mission to inspire other women athletes, Thomas recently participated in Women’s Athletics 50th Anniversary Panel Discussion.
“I love encouraging female athletes to dream big, and that they can do or be whatever they want, no matter where they come from or what they look like,” she said.
Kansas State University basketball player Ayoka Lee strives to make a difference not only on the court for her team but also off the court for her community. As an active member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization (BBBS), Lee spends quality time mentoring her “little” each month. She also attended the Black Student Athlete Summit in May, where athletes like her are empowered to return to their universities with the mission of making positive changes for other Black student-athletes. Lee was eager to partner with H&R Block because it gave her the platform to talk about the issues that matter most to her.
“It is so important for brands to invest in female athletes, because we can’t take advantage of opportunities that are not there. In order for women’s sports to continue to grow, we need a platform to do so,” she said.
Lexi Rodriguez, University of Nebraska’s national champion volleyball player, has a passion for lifting up young women beginning their journey in sports. Rodriguez plans to lead mentorship opportunities with youth female athletes as well as coach women’s sports teams in the future. In the very gym where her athletic career began, Rodriguez recently had the opportunity to speak to her middle school’s new generation of athletes to help address the issue of sports inequality surrounding women’s sports teams.
“It is my goal to use my platform to inspire and motivate little girls across the country to follow their dreams,” she said.
The 19 women represent an accomplished group of student-athletes who care about their communities and the next generation. Each woman juggles their athletic commitments, family, friends, school – and now, through NIL sponsorship, these women have also become small business owners. As first-generation sponsored female athletes, their collective pride and commitment to using their voice gives back to communities and elevates possibilities for others.
Progress still to come
Despite 50 years of progress since Title IX became law – including the new NIL ruling – we still have a long way to go before achieving total equality for female college athletes and students. This anniversary presents an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come in support of women’s equity over the last 50 years, but also look critically at the gender divides still present today. Through “A Fair Shot,” these talented athletes are raising awareness of gender inequity, influencing brand and fan decision-making and advocating for athletes of the future. And H&R Block plans to be right there with them improving gender equity on campus, in communities, and beyond.
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