The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe V. Wade has left millions angry, saddened, joyful, and surprised. In the midst of potential vulnerability, athletes and companies have made attempts to help those affected by the reversal by offering assistance and awareness, while pondering how sports could be affected by the turn of events.
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling on overturning Roe V. Wade, a law that has given citizens the legal right to abortion for nearly 50 years, emotional tensions have run rampant.
For those that side with pro-life, the decision has been one long in the making. But others feel vementily opposite, expressing that the right not only puts women in danger and extremely difficult situations, but that the strict and sudden control goes against the democratic structure of the country.
In the midst of the decision, pro athletes have expressed their support for pro-choice in a variety of ways. Look no further than Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow, who, in an Instagram post, detailed the various scenarios that are now without a viable solution.
“I’m pro-Becky, who found at her 20-week anatomy scan that the infant she had been so excited to bring into this world had developed without life-sustaining organs,” Burrow said. “I’m pro-Susan, who was sexually assaulted on her way home from work, only to come to the horrific realization that her assailant planted his seed in her when she got a positive pregnancy test result a month later.” Burrow finished his statement explaining that he’s not pro-choice, he’s “pro-life.” “Their lives. Women’s lives.”
“I’m pro-Cathy, who had her innocence ripped away from her by someone she should have been able to trust and her 11 year old body isn’t mature enough to bear the consequence of that betrayal.”
Responses like Burrow have become frequent within the past week. “No one should be able to force their beliefs on anyone’s body, that is not right. Sending love to our women,” fellow NFL quarterback Kyler Murray tweeted. Meanwhile, NBA superstar Lebron James stated that it’s “absolutely about power and control” in regards to the SCOTUS ruling.
The pouring of athlete views comes during an age where they have often found themselves at the center of criticism and controversy for using their platforms to discuss politics and a wide-variety of divisive topics, such as racial injustice and social justice.
“Stick to sports” has since become one of the most widely-used retorts by those who feel that athletes don’t have the necessary knowledge and familiarity of the daily struggles most Americans face needed to make significant comments to audiences. However, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn urged fellow competitors to use “your world, your platform, for good” during her speech at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame. “And in the world we live in now, especially today, it’s so incredibly important.”
Indeed, Vonn’s call for responsible and productive platform use is important considering that many do pay attention to what athletes have to say, and are okay with them utilizing their standing for non-sports topics. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center study, six-in-10 U.S. adults (62%) say it’s acceptable for athletes to speak out about political issues.
“We are prepared to ensure that all of our teammates have consistent and safe access to the benefits we provide, regardless of the state in which they live.”
Of course, while voicing support is crucial for advocate awareness, there isn’t much athletes can do in terms of providing actual assistance for those most affected by the abortion ruling. However, the same doesn’t go for businesses with gigantic presences in the sports industry.
Understanding the values and situations at stake, Dick’s Sporting Goods has proceeded with offering up to $4,000 in travel expense reimbursement for employees on their medical plan who are seeking abortion access.
One of the largest sporting retail stores in the U.S., Dick’s posessess around 50,000 employees, meaning this kind of support could be put to use. “We recognize people feel passionately about this topic – and that there are teammates and athletes who will not agree with this decision,” Dick’s CEO and company president Lauren Hobart stated on LinkedIn, referring to their workers as “teammates.”
“However, we also recognize that decisions involving health and families are deeply personal and made with thoughtful consideration. We are making this decision so our teammates can access the same health care options, regardless of where they live, and choose what is best for them,” Hobart said.
Adidas and Nike, the two largest athletic apparel companies in the U.S., have followed Dick’s approach, while sports teams have taken similar actions. The Cleveland Cavaliers announced that they will provide travel expenses for their employees seeking abortions or reproductive care.
“We know that the lack of abortion does not stop people having abortions, it stops people from having safe abortions… I just can’t understate how sad and how cruel this is.”
Some athletes, like U.S. Women’s Soccer star Megan Rapinoe, have taken a more broader view of the situation as a whole and how it could affect other kinds of equality in the U.S.
“It will completely exacerbate so many of the existing inequalities that we have in our country,” Rapinoe said. “It doesn’t keep one single person safer, it doesn’t keep one single child safer, certainly, and it does not keep women safer.”
One potential law that could see its progress in crosshairs as an effect of Roe v. Wade is Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination in educational settings. Given that maternity can immensely impact a woman’s life and career, participating in sports at any level may be more difficult for a mother to do, as opposed to a male athlete who doesn’t have a potential physical toll that can affect their play and career trajectory. That could equal to less participation in women collegiate sports in states that ban abortions, meaning less funding.
That’s the kind of potential outcome that has led to U.S. water polo goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson describing the overturning as a “devastating” setback for women’s sports in an interview with TIME. She added that the future “looks bleak.”
“It’s just one more barrier. It’s really hard to consider sports this clear pathway for girls to find empowerment and for women to really pursue their dreams if they don’t have these protections,” Johnson said.
Andrew Rhoades is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. A Saint Joseph’s University graduate, Rhoades’ reporting includes sports, U.S., and entertainment. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.