Tag Archives: female

Canada’s 1st female in-game dunker ready to make mark on March Madness

Coming off the weak side, Laeticia Amihere leaped to deflect her opponent’s pass, batting it toward halfcourt.

The six-foot-three Canadian chased after the ball, retrieved it with no one around her near the timeline, dribbled once, took two strides and made history.

Amihere, then 15, became the first Canadian woman to dunk in a game.

“A lot of people would tell me that’s not typical for girls to do that. And I don’t know how many other Canadians have been able just to do it, even in practice. So I knew that when I did it, it was something remarkable,” Amihere, now 19, told CBC Sports.

The dunk, which came in a 2017 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournament game, left the rim rattling and college scouts turning their heads.

“It was crazy. Like none of my teammates expected it. The coaches didn’t expect it. But I think it was really just the momentum that carried me,” Amihere said.

Amihere, of Mississauga, Ont., now plays collegiately for the South Carolina Gamecocks, a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. South Carolina’s first game is Sunday against No. 16 Mercer at 6 p.m. ET.

She’s one of four Canadians representing each of the top seeds among 27 total competing.

Amihere typically serves as a versatile sparkplug off the bench for the Gamecocks. She averaged 6.2 points and five rebounds over 17.4 minutes per game in her 2020-21 sophomore season — both improvements over her freshman campaign when a serious knee injury zapped some athleticism and left her in a bulky knee brace.

“It kind of held me back, but just being able to be more explosive this year, definitely, I feel like is a big [improvement on] last year,” Amihere said.

In the next five months, she’ll try to win a college national championship and follow it up with Olympic gold in Tokyo.

“I really hope this can be a breakout tournament for me. I feel it. And I’ve been putting in the work,” Amihere said.

Amihere, one of four NCAA players invited to the Canadian women’s basketball virtual training camp in February, says she’ll play in Tokyo if asked.

“Making an Olympic team and competing for my country has always been my one of my biggest dreams. [My ultimate goals in basketball are] competing in the Olympics and making the WNBA,” she said.

Amihere said she envisions herself fitting right into coach Lisa Thomaidis’ high-pace system with Team Canada as a disruptive forward who is agile and can run the fast break.

She was part of the team representing Canada at the Olympic qualifying tournament in February 2020.

“She just looks comfortable — confident scoring around the basket, handling the ball a little bit away from the basket [and] just seems to fit in. Great rebounder. She’s such a presence around the hoop as well,” Thomaidis said.

At South Carolina, Amihere plays for head coach Dawn Staley, who doubles as the American national team coach. While they may have the book on each other as opponents in Tokyo, Amihere says Staley has been a massive influence on her burgeoning basketball career.

“She’s on me every single play and telling me what I need to do better. And I think that’s helped me so much, and especially in games, letting me work through what I need to work through in order to be who she thinks I can be. She instills a lot of confidence in me so I definitely don’t take that lightly,” Amihere said.

Thomaidis, meanwhile, sees no issues in having one of her national-team players develop under an opposing coach.

“Laeticia during the recruiting process was very open, but her goal was to get to the Olympics, play for the national team. So Dawn really respects those wishes and is doing everything she can to prepare Laeticia for that,” Thomaidis said.

Canadian content

But first, Amihere may have to go through some Canadian teammates in the NCAA tournament.

The only time she could meet UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards, with whom she said she shares a friendly rivalry, is in the championship game.

She could also see Canada training camp invitees Merissah Russell of No. 2 Louisville and Shaina Pellington of No. 3 Arizona in the Final Four.

“Even last year at training camp, we would talk about when our teams would meet, but it’s awesome. I love those guys and it’s just awesome to be able to compete with them,” Amihere said.

Connecticut’s Aaliyah Edwards, right, could face off against Amihere in the NCAA national championship game. (Jessica Hill/The Associated Press)

A freshman with the Huskies, Edwards averaged over 10 points and five rebounds per game, earning her conference’s sixth woman of the year award. She finished the season shooting 68 per cent from the field.

Alongside American phenom Paige Bueckers, Edwards represents the next wave of talent at traditional powerhouse UConn.

“She sure hasn’t disappointed. She’s had some very impressive games and I think probably the most impressive, aside from her rebounding prowess, is her efficiency from the floor. … She’s really perfected her role this year,” Thomaidis said.

Pellington, meanwhile, came off the bench for the Canadian qualifying team last February. The explosive guard is playing the same role with the Wildcats.

“An exceptional talent and has done well with us. And it’s been fun to watch her for sure,” Thomaidis said.

Russell was a late addition to training camp when the roster expanded to 20 players. Though she may not wind up in Tokyo, the 19-year-old shooting guard is firmly on the radar.

“She’s pretty versatile. She can play a number of different positions and we like what we’ve seen from her. She definitely competes. She knows the game, just young, inexperienced and is just going to continue to get better and better,” Thomaidis said.

The NCAA tournament begins Sunday, and a national champion will be crowned April 4. The Canadian women’s team is planning on holding training camp in May ahead of the FIBA AmeriCup tournament in June, which is followed by the Olympics.

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Activist, champion: Naomi Osaka named AP Female Athlete of Year

With tennis, like so much of the world, shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Naomi Osaka found herself with time to read and think.

And while she won the U.S. Open for her third Grand Slam title, she also stood out for speaking out about racial injustice and police brutality.

As noteworthy in 2020 for her activism away from the tennis court as her success on it, Osaka was selected by The Associated Press as the Female Athlete of the Year in results revealed Sunday after a vote by AP member sports editors and AP beat writers.

 WATCH | CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux on the year that was:

Athletes around the world raised a collective voice in an unprecedented show of power. 5:03

“It was difficult to be isolated from my family for large parts of the year, but that’s nothing compared to others. It was sad to watch and read the news of people suffering from COVID-19, and the economic and social effect on so many — losing jobs, mental health. It was such a tough year for so many people,” Osaka wrote in an email interview. “And then watching the police injustices like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake [to name just a few] in the summer broke my heart. I am proud of my U.S. Open victory, but more so that I got people talking about the real issues.”

Osaka collected 18 of 35 first-place votes and a total of 71 points.

WNBA Finals MVP Breanna Stewart was next with nine first-place votes and 60 points, followed by Sarah Fuller, the Vanderbilt soccer player who kicked for the school’s football team, with one first-place vote and 24 points.

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Stephanie Frappart to make Champions League history as 1st female to referee match

France’s Stephanie Frappart will become the first female official to take charge of a men’s Champions League game when Juventus host Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday.

Frappart, who turns 37 next month, was the first female referee to officiate in a major UEFA competition match when Liverpool played Chelsea in the Super Cup in Istanbul last year.

She also officiated the 2019 Women’s World Cup final between the United States and Netherlands and became the first female referee to take charge of a French Ligue 1 match when Amiens played Strasbourg in April last year.

She oversaw her first Europa League game in October when Leicester City hosted Zorya Luhansk.

Switzerland’s Nicole Petignat was the first female referee to officiate in UEFA matches when she was put in charge of three UEFA Cup qualifying round games between 2004 and 2009.

Juventus, who has already qualified for the last 16, are second in Group G with nine points from four games, eight points clear of Dynamo Kyiv and three behind Barcelona, who face Ferencvaros on Wednesday.

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CBC | Sports News

New FIFA rules to protect female players’ maternity rights

Female soccer players should soon get their maternity rights protected under new employment rules announced Thursday by FIFA.

The governing body of soccer is preparing to mandate clubs to allow at least 14 weeks of maternity leave paid at a minimum two-thirds of a player’s full salary. National soccer bodies can insist on more generous terms.

“Her club will be under an obligation to reintegrate her into football activity and provide adequate ongoing medical support,” FIFA said.

Any club that ended a player’s contract for becoming pregnant faces having to pay compensation and a fine, and being banned from the transfer market for one year.

“The idea is to protect female players before, during and after childbirth,” FIFA chief legal officer Emilio Garcia said on a conference call.

The move is seen as a key step in professionalizing women’s soccer — and respecting players’ family lives — after a successful 2019 World Cup and more investment by elite clubs in having a women’s team.

United States forward Alex Morgan, a World Cup winner last year, signed with Tottenham in September, four months after giving birth to her first child. She played her first game this month.

The rules are expected to be approved by the FIFA Council next month and would take effect on Jan. 1.

Although FIFA’s judicial bodies have not been presented with contract disputes over maternity rights, Garcia targeted getting ahead of potential problems in the fast-growing women’s game.

“We think these rules are part of common sense,” he said of the move, which follow International Labor Organization standards on compensating maternity leave.

At least eight weeks of the 14-week minimum maternity leave must be after the player gives birth.

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CBC | Soccer News

Miami Marlins make Kim Ng the 1st female GM in MLB history

Kim Ng became the highest-ranking woman in baseball operations in the major leagues when she was hired Friday as general manager of the Miami Marlins.

Though the Marlins said Friday that they believed Ng was the first female general manager for a men’s team in a major professional sport in North America, Jo-Anne Polak served as the GM of the Ottawa Rough Riders in the CFL from 1989-1991.

“I think this is the most noteworthy day for baseball since Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier in 1947,” said Richard Lapchick, an expert on race and gender in sports at the University of Central Florida.

Ng (pronounced Ang) won three World Series rings while spending 21 years in the front offices of the Chicago White Sox (1990-96), the New York Yankees (1998-2001) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2002-11). She spent the past nine years with MLB as a senior vice-president.

“After decades of determination, it is the honour of my career to lead the Miami Marlins,” Ng said in a statement.

“When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a major league team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals. My goal is now to bring championship baseball to Miami.”

Marlins CEO Jeter has history with Ng

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter played for the Yankees when Ng worked for them.

“We look forward to Kim bringing a wealth of knowledge and championship-level experience to the Miami Marlins,” Jeter said in a statement.

“Her leadership of our baseball operations team will play a major role on our path toward sustained success. Additionally, her extensive work in expanding youth baseball and softball initiatives will enhance our efforts to grow the game among our local youth as we continue to make a positive impact on the South Florida community.” 

Jeter became baseball’s first Black CEO after his group bought the Marlins in 2017. He then hired Caroline O’Connor, who as senior vice-president is one of the highest ranking women in professional sports.

Ng, 51, is also a groundbreaking Asian American at the top ranks of her profession, joining Farhan Zaidi, the San Francisco Giants’ president of baseball operations. She is the fifth person to hold the Marlins’ top position in baseball operations and succeeds Michael Hill, who was not retained after the 2020 season.

A virtual news conference with Ng is planned for Monday.

Congratulations pour in from sporting world

“All of us at Major League Baseball are thrilled for Kim and the opportunity she has earned with the Marlins,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

“Kim’s appointment makes history in all of professional sports and sets a significant example for the millions of women and girls who love baseball and softball. The hard work, leadership and record of achievement throughout her long career in the national pastime led to this outcome.”

The Miami Dolphins’ Brian Flores, one of four head coaches of colour in the NFL, was among those to applaud Ng’s hiring.

“It’s phenomenal,” Flores said. “Anyone who thinks a woman can’t manage or coach or lead, I think, is silly. Kudos to the Marlins.”

Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas offered Ng a virtual fist bump on Twitter.

“I am proud of the Marlins for this hiring,” Rojas said in a statement. “It is a special day.”

Ng joins a long-suffering franchise that achieved surprising progress in 2020, year 3 of Jeter’s rebuilding effort, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the wild-card round. The Marlins were swept by Atlanta in the National League Division Series.

Tracking Ng’s career through MLB

Ng started her baseball career as a White Sox intern and rose to become assistant director of baseball operations.

She worked for the American League for one year and then joined the Yankees, becoming the youngest assistant general manager in MLB at 29, and only the second woman to attain that position with a major league club.

She was the Dodgers’ vice-president and assistant general manager.

“It is wonderful seeing people accomplish their stated goals, and this has been a dream of hers for as long as I’ve known her,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in a statement.

“She will provide the Marlins with vast experience and institutional knowledge, along with a calm demeanour and an amazing ability to connect with others.”

In Ng’s most recent job with Major League Baseball, she directed international baseball operations, working with the front offices of the major league clubs and many other baseball leagues and entities around the world.

She led a team that set policy for and enforced international signing rules, established MLB’s first system for registering international players for signing, managed protocols for signing international players and negotiated agreements with international winter leagues.

Ng graduated from the University of Chicago, where she played softball and earned a degree in public policy.

Jean Afterman, who has been the Yankees’ assistant GM since succeeding Ng nearly 20 years ago, said her predecessor possesses talents that are gender-blind.

“It is a tremendous achievement to be the first female GM in Major League Baseball, and I hope young girls (and boys) take notice of this and further understand that there are no limits to their dreams,” Afterman said in a written statement.

“I congratulate the Marlins — that after a remarkable season, during extraordinary times — they have broken a barrier that needed shattering.”

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Pro female soccer players being overlooked, left behind during pandemic, survey reveals

Women’s professional soccer players have seen wages cut or suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic in 47 per cent of the nations surveyed by international players’ union FIFPro.

FIFPro collected data from players’ associations from 62 countries. In the survey released Wednesday, 69 per cent of the women said that communication about the virus was poor or very poor, and 40 per cent reported that they had received no physical or mental health support during the outbreak.

In April, FIFPro released a report warning of COVID-19’s impact, saying it is “likely to present an almost existential threat to the women’s game if no specific considerations are given to protect the women’s football industry.”

And indeed there were setbacks, in part because federations experienced dramatic financial consequences from cancelled matches and tournaments, as well as restrictions on attendance.

FIFA said at the height of the pandemic all but four of its 211 member federations had ceased play. The global impact of the virus on the game was estimated to be $ 14 billion US.

In June, the FIFA Council approved a $ 1.5 billion relief effort, portions of which were dedicated to women’s soccer. FIFA also introduced eight new development programs for member associations in September, designed to further grow the women’s game.

Women in 52% of the countries FIFPro surveyed said their federations hadn’t reached out to national team players during the pandemic. The period covered in the survey was July-October.

FIFPro’s survey involved 62 players’ associations, or about 95 per cent of the union’s membership. Only 16 of the top women’s leagues is amateur. Based in the Netherlands, FIFPro represents about 65,000 pro soccer players.

The report did note some positive developments, including the National Women’s Soccer League vow to pay salaries for players regardless of whether they took part in the league’s Challenge Cup tournament or fall series in local markets.

It also pointed to the Netherlands, where players lobbied to allow the women’s league to return to play with the men’s league.

“Like most industries, women’s football is being severely affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the findings of this survey highlight what we have said from the outset, that both players and the game itself need strategic support to get them through these tough times,” FIFPro chief women’s football officer Amanda Vandervort said in a statement. “To that end, we also identified great cases of innovation and advancement in which new solutions are showcasing the unique potential of women’s football to thrive today and in the future.”

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From pay gap to ill-fitting PPE, female workers highlight challenges in U.K. health care

When Dr. Amun Sandhu moved to the United Kingdom a decade ago to study medicine, her superiors predicted her career advancement would be limited.

“You don’t tend to see very many female surgeons,” she said she was told. “You’ll end up being a GP, anyway.”

While Sandhu is now a doctor of acute medicine in East London, the Vancouver native still feels a gender bias. 

She recounted times when she has approached patients’ bedsides, flanked by a male nurse or junior colleague, and the patient will speak over her entirely, assuming the man is the doctor.

“You feel like you’ve done all the hard work and earned this, and you’re still being referred to as either a nurse or not even being referred to at all,” Sandhu said.

Lorraine Sunduza, a chief nurse in East London, said women are often charged with representing their gender when working in a sphere dominated by men. (Submitted by NHS East London Trust)

Lorraine Sunduza, the chief nurse for the East London Trust, has had similar experiences. Originally from Zimbabwe, Zunduza said there have been times when she has assigned tasks to her staff, only to have them question her authority. 

She said these “subtle” yet frequent occurrences have left her wondering, “If I was a man, would they do that? And if I was white, would they do that?”

Of the people who work for the National Health Service in Britain, 77 per cent are women. But while they make up more than three-quarters of the NHS workforce, women account for less than half of its most senior members, on average, according to a study published last month by the University of Exeter.

This lack of representation makes things more difficult for female health-care workers, said Sandhu — from commanding the respect they deserve to earning reasonable pay to being given the proper equipment to do their jobs.

Medical careers based on ’20th-century model’

The Exeter study, led by professor Ruth Sealy of the university’s business school, included an analysis of more than 3,000 directors across the NHS in England, as well as more than 70 in-depth interviews with board chairs, directors and aspiring executives.

The senior female NHS employees Sealy interviewed reported having overcome workplace inequality and domestic pressures to secure a leadership role. “Women who get to senior positions in leadership have been clinging on with their nails,” she said.

Ruth Sealy, a professor at the University of Exeter’s business school, said there are still some hospital alliance boards in the U.K.’s National Health Service that have little to no female representation. (Submitted by Ruth Sealy)

A major factor in determining whether someone in health care can advance to the next rung of the ladder is their ability to get experience in several different areas of medicine, says Sealy.

However, a lack of flexibility from senior decision-makers or an alliance board makes it difficult for women to advance, she adds.

“Medical careers are still based on a … 20th-century model,” said Sealy.

Sandhu said that in her experience, female consultants tend to be more aware of the work-life balance many women in health still navigate today.

When asked to comment on the support available for female staff, a spokesperson for the NHS provided the CBC with an email response, saying the NHS is “offering greater options for flexible working, modern and inclusive recruitment practices and a continued focus on staff health and well-being as set out in the NHS People Plan.”

Poorly equipped

A gender bias can also be seen in pay. According to a review by the U.K. government this year, the overall NHS gender pay gap is 23 per cent.

Similar numbers can be seen in Canada. In Ontario and British Columbia, female doctors earn 30 per cent and 36 per cent less, respectively, than their male counterparts, according to a report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in August.

The gap is slightly smaller in the United States, according to a 2019 report published by medical news site Medscape. The average U.S. male doctor earns 25 per cent more than his female equivalent.

Sandhu, centre, poses with female colleagues in their oversized personal protective equipment earlier this year. (Submitted by Amun Sandhu)

Another way the lack of female leadership affects women in the NHS is that they aren’t always provided appropriate equipment.

In the early stages of the pandemic, Sandhu and fellow health-care workers were “fit-tested” to ensure their personal protective equipment (PPE) was sufficient. The test involved having a fine spray, meant to mimic the virus, misted over their masked faces. 

If the PPE was reliable, the wearer wouldn’t be able to smell or taste the spray. But Sandhu and many other female colleagues reported an orange smell and a bitter taste in the back of their throats. In other words, the mask didn’t fit properly.

Sandhu said this demonstrates that female health-care workers weren’t “taken into consideration” with regards to proper PPE, including masks, scrubs and gowns.

Most PPE is based on the sizes and characteristics of male populations from certain countries in Europe and the United States, according to a 2017 report from the U.K.’s Trades Union Congress. That means only three in 10 women in the U.K. have PPE that’s designed for their bodies, the report states.

Sandhu said many of her female colleagues had to use tape to adjust their XXL scrubs, and when surgical caps were in short supply, they re-purposed excess gown material for handkerchiefs to tie around their heads.

“We were told, basically, ‘This is what we have, this is what you’ll need to use,'” said Sandhu.

The quality of supplies has improved greatly since the number of coronavirus cases dropped, Sandhu said, but earlier in the pandemic, the lack of proper PPE left her feeling unprotected.

Sealy said that “when you are in less than a powerful position, it’s much harder to question the way that things are being done, and to question why you don’t have the PPE … and to push when you don’t get what you should be given.”

Women the ‘shock absorbers’ of society

Dr. Roopa Dhatt, a doctor of internal medicine in Washington, D.C., who also serves as the executive director of Women in Global Health, said “there are superhuman expectations on women.”

Dr. Roopa Dhatt is the executive director of Women in Global Health, an organization working towards gender equality in global health leadership. (Peter Braverman)

She calls women the “shock absorbers” of society, saying they continue to work long hours for less pay than men in order to keep their communities moving forward.

Women in Global Health collaborated with the World Health Organization on a 2019 report on female leadership in health, which found that women make up more than 70 per cent of the global health workforce, but only hold one in four leadership positions. 

“If we want to really actually make headway in creating not only stronger, more resilient health systems … women need to be in leadership roles. They’ve demonstrated it. They have the expertise. They have the power,” said Dhatt.

But those who have power also know they can be subject to abuse. 

British Columbia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Bonnie Henry, spoke recently about the importance of addressing gender bias in order to ensure better treatment for the next generation of leaders.

In a panel presentation at the Union of B.C. Municipalities last week, Henry opened up about death threats and other negative comments she has received since the start of the pandemic. 

“I sense that people find that [kind of abuse is] OK for a woman who is up-front, more so than some of our male leaders,” Henry said.

WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about receiving abuse:

B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer talks about concerns over her safety as she handles the COVID-19 pandemic. 1:31

Despite the challenges for women in health care, Sandhu said she takes inspiration from female medical leaders like Henry and Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam.

“The way that they’re conveying their messages is beneficial to female physicians and nurses and women in health care in general,” Sandhu said.

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Kiki Layne on the Importance of Playing a ‘Black, Female Hero’ in ‘The Old Guard’ (Exclusive)

‘The Old Guard’: Kiki Layne and Charlize Theron on Importance of Diversity | Entertainment Tonight

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Meghan McPeak has better grasp on role of trailblazer as female Black broadcaster

When Meghan McPeak considers where she is in her broadcasting career, against the backdrop of racial unrest and the bleak employment numbers of Black people in her business, she says she feels like Tom Hanks’ character in the movie “Castaway.”

Alone on an island.

The 33-year-old from Hamilton calls games for both the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the Capital City Gogo, the G League affiliate of the Washington Wizards.

While the NBA, WNBA and G League are among the most racially diverse leagues on the planet, McPeak, who is biracial, is the lone play-by-play broadcaster who’s both female and a person of colour.

“I’ve never really had a Black woman that does play-by-play that I can honestly say I look up to because I didn’t grow up with one,” McPeak said. “And now it’s kind of me in a weird way. And I don’t mean that in an ego way or a conceited way. It’s just realizing that I’m doing something that in men’s sports that is not known.

“In women’s sports it’s acceptable to be a woman that does play-by-play, because for whatever reason in society, that’s where we are accepted in sports — and even then, we’re kind of not accepted in a weird way.”

McPeak is one of less than six play-by-play announcers of colour in North America’s biggest pro basketball leagues, including fellow Canadians and brothers Mark and Paul Jones. Mark works for ABC and ESPN, while Paul calls Toronto Raptors games part-time for TSN and is an analyst for Sportsnet 590 The Fan.

It’s disappointing there isn’t more of us, male or female, especially when you think about the fact the NBA is like 70 to 75 per cent Black.— Canada’s Meghan McPeak on Black play-by-play announcers

Eric Collins is the voice of the Charlotte Hornets for their TV broadcasts, while Adam Amin is a Pakistani Muslim who got his start at ESPN and was recently hired as the voice of the Chicago Bulls.

“I feel like we’re now on an island by ourselves. And trying to get more people to join us on our island,” McPeak said. “I’ve gone from ‘Castaway’ to now being part of the cast of ‘Lost,’ where at least I’m not by myself, but we’re still trying to figure out how to live and how to maintain a civilization with just the [few] of us.”

“It’s disappointing that there isn’t more of us, male or female, especially when you think about the fact that the NBA is like 70 to 75 per cent Black, and the people who cover the league, whether it’s writers, analysts, play-by-play, doesn’t reflect that.”

Called NBA game in 2018

McPeak chose broadcasting over interior design while at Toronto’s Humber College. Her athletic director Doug Fox nudged her in that direction, good-naturedly pointing out she never stopped talking. As a former point guard, doing play-by-play fits, as she likes to control the direction of the broadcast.

McPeak played point guard for Humber’s women’s team, and after games would take a quick shower before sliding into the broadcast seat to call the men’s games.

She became the only female play-by-play announcer in the G League when she was hired by Raptors 905 in 2015. She was hired by Washington in 2018 and that same year became the first woman in more than 30 years to call an NBA game when the Wizards played Detroit in the pre-season.

Female Black role models in broadcasting were virtually non-existent when McPeak started out. She knew of veteran female broadcasters Hannah Storm and Doris Burke, who are white.

“They didn’t look like me,” McPeak said. “I knew Robin Roberts [who’s Black] existed, but didn’t see her a lot we never really we never got ‘SportsCenter’ in Canada on ESPN. But I knew she existed.

“For me, I only partially had someone to look up to, and funny enough that was Paul Jones because he was the only Black voice of the Raptors after the late great John Saunders left. … And I say ‘partially’ because Jonesy is a man. But I can look at him and see the resemblance because of the complexion. So that at least resonates.”

Jones’s early days in the business ran parallel to his education career. The three-time Ontario university basketball champion with the York Lions became a teacher and then school principal before leaving in 2004 to focus on his broadcast career.

‘Never had a Black teacher’ in school

He credits his Jamaican dad Hugh (Vern) Jones, who died last June at 94, days after the Raptors captured the Larry O’Brien Trophy — for his persistence.

“They always say that the pioneers get the hardships, the settlers get the land,” Jones said. “I went through all of school and never even had a Black teacher. Our dad, though, he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and a Jackie Robinson fan, and his thing was: don’t look at the obstacles, just be better.

“No matter how much we did that, we always found there were things that made it tough. And he would say ‘No, I don’t want to hear about it. Don’t tell me how rough the water is, just bring the ship in.’ So, that’s kind of the environment that we grew up in.”

The NBA and WNBA are considered the most progressive leagues in North American pro sports. The league commissioners have encouraged their players to use their platform for social and racial justice. Players like LeBron James are among the world’s most vocal on such issues. And when both leagues tip-off later this month after the lengthy delay caused by COVID-19, racial justice will be a major theme.

Still, considering the diversity among pro basketball players, Jones says the NBA has plenty of work left to do.

“If the whole thing is a marathon, and a marathon 26 miles 385 yards, the NBA has run about 10 miles,” Jones said. “They still have a long way to go.

Daily protests across U.S.

“But they’re further ahead than hockey, who’s run around the block, and Major League Baseball and NFL football, who have run a mile-and-a-half. As much as they’re in front, there’s still a really, really long way to go.”

The past few weeks have seen daily protests across the U.S., erupting after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer, just the latest in an agonizingly long list of Black people killed by police.

The Black Lives Matter movement has since shone a spotlight on the lack of diversity across businesses, including the media.

It’s made McPeak better grasp her role as a trailblazer.

“I’m kind of realizing that I am becoming someone’s Doris, someone’s Hannah, someone’s Robin Roberts [former ESPN sportscaster who’s now an anchor of ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’]. And hopefully one day I get to meet that little Black girl who might look like me and sees me on TV and says to her parents ‘I want to do what she does,”‘ McPeak said.

“Hopefully I have a chance to meet that little girl one day. But with what’s going on in the country right now, it’s starting to hit me that I’m a castaway on an island by myself right now as a woman.”

According to a recent report from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, just 18 per cent of NBA players and 17 per cent of WNBA players are white, while 85 per cent of sports editors, 82 per cent of sports reporters and 80 per cent of sports columnists are white.

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Female hockey players asked ‘for peanuts’ compared to bailout request from men’s leagues

Female athletes, particularly hockey players, will be interested to see if the federal government provides pandemic bailout money to the Canadian Football League.

A men’s professional league that pays an average salary of $ 80,000 asking for as much as $ 150 million in taxpayer money has those from the defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) contemplating the disparity.

A pandemic didn’t shutter the CWHL last year, but the sheer size of CFL’s financial ask is mind boggling to former goaltender Liz Knox.

“We’re asking for peanuts compared to a $ 150-million ask,” Knox told The Canadian Press on Thursday.

“When the CWHL was folding, we were talking in the hundreds of thousands [of dollars] to get us in the clear so the league didn’t have to fold.

“We’re talking two or three CFL salaries. That would [have] made the difference of us literally surviving or not.”

Ex-CWHL commissioner Jayna Hefford told The Canadian Press in an email “there were conversations” with the federal government about financial aid to save the league before it went under in spring 2019.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie says the CFL’s long-term future would be in peril if the 2020 season was wiped out by COVID-19.

WATCH | Feds considering CFL’s request for financial assistance:

Canadian Football League is requesting up to $ 150 million in assistance. 3:38

After operating for one season, the men’s pro soccer Canadian Premier League is asking the feds for $ 15 million in “short-term” financing to survive the pandemic.

The CWHL, which ran for 12 seasons, began paying players between $ 2,000 and $ 10,000 in its penultimate season.

The withdrawal of one of two Chinese teams, China wanting to renegotiate licensing fees, mediocre ticket sales and the lack of a broadcast presence all contributed to the CWHL’s demise.

The CWHL’s budget in its final season was $ 3.7 million.

The optics of men’s pro sports leagues with more lucrative television deals and more gate revenue lobbying for millions of dollars in public money makes Knox uncomfortable.

“Women’s sport is often seen as a charity, but certainly that’s not the narrative that we’re hearing about the CFL and their situation right now,” she said.

Hefford and Knox are now involved with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA) that rose from the CWHL’s wreckage.

The union of roughly 200 players is working towards a financially sustainable league providing regular ice times and competitive supports for its players.

‘A very valid ask’

Ex-CWHL goalie and Toronto Furies general manager Sami Jo Small doesn’t criticize the CFL asking for financial aid.

“The first thing that every body within women’s sport or non-CFL sport thinks is ‘Well, why not me? Why not us?”‘ Small said.

“I think what the CFL is doing, they are a business going through a pandemic that has employees that are out of a job. I feel that is a very valid ask of its government.”

If the football and soccer leagues receive financial aid from the feds, Small believes a women’s pro hockey league should leverage that in the future.

“When we’re back to normal, our memories will serve us well,” she said.

WATCH | Marie-Philip Poulin sounds off on NWHL expansion:

Team Canada captain believes little girls should dream of playing in a league that the PWHPA envisions. 2:15

Canadian speed skater Ivanie Blondin says she and a couple of her teammates were stunned by the CFL’s request when they compared their own financial situations as amateur high-performance athletes.

“It was a little bit of a slap in the face when I saw this,” Blondin said. “These athletes are paid way better than we ever will be in our careers.”

Blondin raised $ 5,000 of her own money to compete in this year’s world all-around championships and World Cup finale, so $ 150 million for the CFL startles her.

“That is a lot of money,” Blondin said. “If our federation got a fraction of that, we’d be set.”

Pandemic could widen gender gap

The chief executive officer of Canadian Women & Sport is concerned the pandemic will widen gender gaps that already exist in sport.

“We really believe that the progress we’ve been seeing for women’s sport could be in jeopardy if there isn’t a real intention at this moment in time behind making the return to sport as inclusive as possible,” Allison Sandmeyer-Graves said.

“It is not our place to question whether the CFL should make an ask, or the CPL should make an ask, but I think for the decision-makers, whether they’re in government or in companies, who determine how support is provided . . . we need to have that gender lens there.”

The chair of Egale-Action, Quebec’s association for advancing women in sport, told The Canadian Press in an email it “would be improper [not to say indecent] to give money to the professional sport business.”

“The day pro sports will support women sport, then maybe, giving them money during major crisis could be an option,” Laval University professor Guylaine Demers wrote.

ICYMI | Calgary Inferno win inaugural CWHL title:

The Calgary Inferno upset Montreal’s Les Canadiennes 8-3 on Sunday afternoon in Ottawa to win their first ever Clarkson Cup, the championship of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. 0:52

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