Fireworks Ensue after D1 Field Hockey Forced to Yield the Field

Google Earth Pro image of Murphy-Mellis Field, home of Kent State Field Hockey

Disrespectful. Infuriating. Grossly unfair. Just plain wrong. The messages from my five daughters and former students poured in as news spread of an inconceivable happening at Kent State this weekend. Apparently, an extraordinarily hard-fought D1 women’s field hockey contest between Temple and the University of Maine was cut short – midway through the second overtime period – because of a fireworks display planned for the adjacent football field over an hour later.

The women field hockey players were livid, and took to social media to express their frustration and ire. The game was declared no contest and relegated to the level of a scrimmage by the NCAA, which was notably silent otherwise about this blatantly disrespectful act toward its female student-athletes. Kent State issued an explanation – not an apology – which further exacerbated the outrage of the field hockey players and shared by countless other women and girls across the country:

“We regret today’s game had to be stopped during overtime play per field guidelines as previously discussed. We recognize the hard work and dedication of all student-athletes. The safety of our community, including student-athletes and visitors is always our first consideration.”

This disregard for women and girls sports is nothing new. Title IX is nearly 50 years old, and while progress has been made, there continue to be far too many instances in which female athletes are treated as second class citizens. Think US Women’s Soccer and the US Women’s Ice Hockey Team, to name a few. Virtually every woman athlete has a story or, more likely, stories, about blatantly unfair treatment relative to her male counterparts.

The Kent State situation occurred because disrespect for women in sports continues to permeate all levels of competition. Until we stop tolerating the 6:00 am varsity ice hockey practices before school (while the boys get the 4 pm slot), the lesser fields, the older uniforms, etc., incidents like Kent State will happen. Is this a Title IX violation? Potentially, however an institution’s compliance with Title IX is assessed on a program-wide basis. While this one incident may be indicative of inequitable scheduling that would fall afoul of the 1979OCR Policy Interpretation, more importantly, this is an outrage that should galvanize us all to demand fair, respectful treatment for female athletes.

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Helen A. “Nellie” Drew is an expert in sports law, including professional and amateur sports issues ranging from NCAA compliance and Title IX matters to facility construction, discipline of professional athletes, collective bargaining and franchise issues. Drew formerly served as an officer and in-house counsel to the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League, after previously working as outside counsel to the Sabres and the NHL. Among her more interesting experiences were assisting former USSR superstar Alexander Mogilny in obtaining asylum status in the U.S. and working on multiple NHL expansions, including San Jose, Ottawa, Florida and Tampa Bay.
Drew teaches a variety of courses that incorporate topics such as drug testing in professional sports and professional player contract negotiation and arbitration. She is especially interested in the evolving research and litigation concerning concussions in both amateur and professional sports.

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