Current Event April 1, 2021
Title IX is a civil rights law banning sex-based discrimination in school activities, including sports. In the decades since the law was passed, girls’ and women’s sports have grown tremendously, but there are still inequalities between how men’s and women’s teams are treated. A female basketball player in the March Madness tournament recently tweeted a video showing that the training spaces given to women’s teams were inferior to those of men’s teams. Listen to a sports writer explain why the tweet caused such a strong response and how language can reflect respect.
Current Event March 18, 2021
After being canceled during the pandemic, many high school sports are starting up again. This audio story focuses on a high school girls’ tennis team in California where athletes are both nervous and excited to resume play. Listen to learn how one school community is handling the reopening of school sports, and hear high school athletes describe what this moment means to them.
Current Event March 4, 2021
NFL coaching has become more diverse in recent years, but most top positions continue to be held by white men. Only five of the league’s 32 head coaches are minorities. While more people of color and women have become qualified for leadership positions, they are not being hired for the top jobs. Listen to a sports writer describe the problem of discrimination within the NFL, and learn whom he blames for the league’s failure to diversify its leadership.
Current Event March 2, 2021
In a landmark 2020 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that employers may not discriminate against gay and transgender workers. Soon after taking office, President Biden signed an executive order that broadened these protections beyond just the workplace. The order says discrimination in housing, healthcare, and other areas is also illegal, and the LGBTQ community is welcoming the news. Critics, though, say Biden’s order represents a misuse of executive power. Listen to hear why one attorney called Biden’s approach “transformational,” and learn about possible next steps to solidify protections.
Current Event February 26, 2021
The Tokyo Summer Olympics were originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, but the pandemic forced a year-long delay. Now, as the new date approaches, controversy is raging over whether to postpone this one too. Organizers insist they can manage the risks of COVID-19 outbreaks with a set of rules, outlined in a handbook, designed to keep athletes safe. The Japanese people overwhelmingly favor cancelling the event, though, saying the rules are inadequate and leave too many questions unanswered. Listen to hear more about the controversy over the upcoming Olympic Games and then debate: Should the Tokyo Summer Olympics be held in 2021?
Update: Since this story aired, Yoshiro Mori, the head of the Tokyo Games organizing committee, has resigned.
Current Event February 25, 2021
Between 1920 and 1948, Black baseball players were excluded from major league teams, so they formed their own group, the Negro League. While Major League Baseball (MLB) carefully charted the stats of its white players during this period, many top players in the Negro League went unacknowledged. Now, on the Negro League’s 100th anniversary, the MLB has welcomed its players into the majors retroactively. Its star players will assume their rightful place on the leaderboards, shifting and diversifying the names that appear there. Listen to hear a Negro League museum founder react to the long-overdue announcement, and learn about the painstaking process he used to compile stats on Black ballplayers.
Current Event February 5, 2021
Lawyers have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) saying its policies discriminate against Black athletes. The NCAA requires college sports teams to reach certain academic benchmarks and punishes teams that fall short. The program was designed to encourage student-athletes to focus on their studies and keep the demands of their sport in check. However, teams from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been disproportionately punished under NCAA rules, leading some to claim the program puts Black athletes at an unfair disadvantage. Listen to learn more about the NCAA’s Academic Performance Program (APP) and then debate: Are academic requirements for college athletes discriminatory?
Current Event January 20, 2021
As a successful college soccer player, Sarah Fuller knows how to kick. So when her university’s football team needed a kicker for an upcoming game, she stepped in, making history as the first female athlete to play in a Big Five NCAA football game. Before that, Fuller had spent years struggling to overcome injuries. Listen to hear a groundbreaking athlete explain how it felt to join the football team, why she was emotional on game day, and who most inspires her.
Current Event January 15, 2021
Breakdancing is the latest sport to be added to the Olympic games. Breaking is an athletic dance style incorporating acrobatics, dance moves, and freestyle footwork. It was first performed on New York City streets in the 1970s, typically to hip hop music. Some say becoming an Olympic sport could cause breaking to lose its character as it moves farther away from its urban roots. But it might also inspire a new generation of young breakers. Listen to hear a veteran breakdancer’s response and then debate: Should breakdancing become an Olympic sport?
Current Event January 7, 2021
Professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe is considered one of the world’s top athletes. Among her many accomplishments, she helped bring the U.S. women’s national soccer team to victory in several Women’s World Cup tournaments. Rapinoe is also an activist who champions causes she cares about, including gay rights, equal pay for female athletes, and racial equity. She speaks openly about her personal struggles, and many view her as a role model. Listen to hear Megan Rapinoe reflect on a range of topics, from the current state of youth soccer to how it felt to realize she was gay.
Current Event December 17, 2020
The cancellation of school sports during the pandemic has had a big impact on students. Without structured sports activities, many kids lose the opportunity to exercise, socialize, and develop teamwork skills. For some students, the loss of school sports may even dash their hopes of attending college. Listen to hear high school athletes explain the importance of sports in their lives, and learn why many students may not return to sports after the pandemic ends.
Current Event October 21, 2020
One of the best lacrosse teams in the world was left off the invitation list to the 2022 World Games. The Iroquois Nationals are considered the third best team worldwide. The Native American members of the team come from a generations-long tradition of playing lacrosse, a sport that originated with the Haudenosaunee people. When another team heard how the Nationals were snubbed, they took decisive action. Listen to learn why the Iroquois Nationals were excluded from play and how others responded to what they saw as an injustice.
Current Event October 14, 2020
When a recruiter invited Black high school students in Chicago to take up rowing, most initially declined. Crew was a predominantly white sport and seemed to have nothing to do with them. Those students who eventually joined, however, learned skills and gained insight that transformed their lives. Listen to an author reflecting on his experiences as a member of the first all-Black high school crew team, and hear how being on the team helped him succeed.
Current Event September 11, 2020
Two North Carolina colleges have recently shut down in-person classes and sent students home after a spike in COVID-19 cases. The schools are moving forward with their football programs, however, saying they can keep athletes safe on a largely empty campus, and are testing frequently for signs of virus. Critics say the move puts athletes at risk and wants the NCAA, the organization governing college athletics, to prioritize the students’ health and education over sports. Listen to a sports law professor explain more about the controversy then debate: Should college athletes play if students are not on campus?
Current Event September 6, 2020
Listen to hear about a young skateboarder setting a world record for landing a 1080-degree spin on a vertical ramp.
Vocabulary: uninspired, rotation, opportunity
Current Event August 31, 2020
Another police shooting of a Black man has provoked protests across the U.S., including among professional athletes. Jacob Blake was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and is paralyzed below the waist. The shooting, which was captured on video, has led to violence on the streets. Athletes have been refusing to play important games, such as NBA playoffs, risking their own professional legacies for the cause of racial justice. Listen to hear why a sports commentator believes these protests reflect an important shift in the relationship between athletes and the owners of the teams for which they play.
Current Event August 27, 2020
The 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo have been postponed until July 2021 due to the pandemic. The delay is forcing some elite American athletes to permanently give up on their Olympic dreams and seek new careers. This is not the first time America has unexpectedly withdrawn from Olympic competition, although the reasons for skipping the games, and their effect on the athletes, have varied. Listen to learn why America has missed Olympic games in the past and how the athletes scheduled to compete in those games coped when their plans suddenly changed.
Current Event August 20, 2020
The Washington Redskins football team is changing its name, which has been considered a racist slur against Native Americans for decades. The team’s owner recently took action in the midst of nationwide protests against racism and America’s reckoning with its treatment of minorities. Listen to hear a Native American activist react emotionally to the football team’s decision and learn which events she thinks created a “tipping point” for the team owner.