8% of the World Fame

ESPN does not ignore women. We do.


I want to preface this blog article with the fact that this is not the post I wanted to write this week. In fact, this is nowhere close to that article. But that article needed a bit more time and research, and another article came out on Tuesday that forced me to take notice and respond – the release of ESPN‘s “World Fame 100.”

Essentially, the World Fame 100 is the compiling of the 100 most famous athletes in the world. It was created by looking at a lot of different sources, starting with the Forbes‘ list of highest paid athletes. The study then looked at numerous domestic and international resources, including social media, and ESPN journalists from around the world gave their input. The data that was collected on each athlete was then put through an algorithm created by ESPN’s Director of Sports Analytics, Ben Alamar. Salary was not a factor in compiling this list, and retired players are not included.

So where does that leave us?

With a lot of men. 92 to be exact. Yes, that’s right. There were only eight female athletes that made the list. And of those eight, none of them even cracked the top 10. In fact, they couldn’t even crack the top 15. That glass ceiling just proved a bit too hard in regards to world stardom.

But, without further ado, here are the eight female athletes that seem to hold some weight and represent women around the world:



It’s sad, right? Women only represent 8% of the 100 most famous athletes around the world. But whose fault is that? Newsweek seems to think it’s ESPN‘s. After the list was released, they wrote an article that was entitled “Why ESPN Loves Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron, but Ignores Women.” But this one isn’t on ESPN. They just compiled the list. And I must say, the way they came about doing it was rather fair – they took a worldwide approach, sought out social media presences, and even had an analytical formula. Could it have been done a little better? Yeah, maybe. Maybe get journalists that aren’t just from ESPN. But other than that, not bad. So despite what Newsweek may think, ESPN does not ignore women. We do.

Just ask yourself the question, ‘When was the last time I watched a women’s sporting event?’ Was it the World Cup or the Olympics? Because if it is, then you too are part of the problem.

We can’t only love women’s sports every other year. We can’t say we love Serena, but refuse to know the names of any of the other top 5 women’s tennis players. We can’t only care when they are playing for America. And we certainly cannot only care when there is a scandal around.

Look at that list. I could make the argument that every single one of those women are famous for reasons other than their athletic ability. Serena – her current absence from the sport. Ronda – her complete demise from it. Masha – her PED scandal (read last week’s article). Simone Biles – her recent stint on DWTS where she was told to smile and then amazingly told the judges that smiling doesn’t win you gold medals. Hope Solo – getting kicked off the USWNT after a stretch of embarrassments. Caroline Wozniacki – getting dumped by Rory McElroy after their wedding invitations went out (it’s even referenced in the ESPN article). Eugenie Bouchard – opening her mouth with regards to the Masha PED scandal. And Aly Raisman – looking amazing for Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition and then telling off a TSA agent.

Do any of these sound familiar? Sure they do. But can anyone tell me who Hope Solo’s club soccer team is currently? Probably not.

Because let’s face it, being an amazing athlete is not enough for a woman. Maybe for the select few it is (I am betting that if Serena wasn’t pregnant she would still be on this list), but that is certainly not the norm. Our issue is that a woman has to be more – she has to be pretty, and spunky, or scandalous, or have a temper…oh, and of course she has to be the best at what she does. It’s not enough that she just be good at a sport. If she is to be known, she has to be the best. It’s why we can always remember Mia Hamm’s name, but Julie Foudy’s might be harder to come up with. And we do that to these women. We praise the select few into stardom and then let the rest fight it out at the bottom of the heap for their measly paychecks and their local endorsement deals.

But, oh, who could forget endorsement deals? The women on this list, according to ESPN, make a combined $57,650,000 in endorsements. Not bad, right? But Roger Federer, who is currently listed at #4 on the top 100, makes 60 million on endorsements all by himself. Yeah…let that sink in.

Women get the short end of the stick when it comes to sports all the time. They make way less money and they get way less media coverage, which means they have to work that much harder just to stay relevant and to get some equality. So yeah, some of it is on the media. They would rather ask a girl who she is wearing rather than how her training on set plays is going. They are almost forced to retain every single shred of femininity about them when all they really care about is slicing the perfect backhand down the end line. It would seem the media would rather show them off the court than actually on it. Because can anyone tell me what channel you can watch your local NWSL team on? I’ll give you a hint – it’s not on TV. But you best believe you can watch Hope Solo on TMZ. You can see Masha in OK Magazine coming out of a nail salon. Or you could catch Simone Biles perform a perfect cha-cha on basic cable.

But it’s not all on the media. It’s on us. Because we watch TMZ, and read OK Magazine, and tune into DWTS. But we don’t buy tickets to see the Houston Dash play live. We don’t flip through the channels to catch the L.A. Sparks play in a rematch against the NY Liberty. And we surely didn’t watch the French Open when we didn’t even know who was playing (seriously – last week’s article, guys).

We are the problem, my friends. We restrict these women by caring more about their social life than their game. We are part of the reason that they are only 8% of the top 100 and only make 77 cents on the dollar (or 40 cents if you are a US Women’s Soccer Player).

So what do you say? Maybe watch a game instead of a red carpet event. Go to a fan day at the local stadium. Hell, maybe just follow one of your favorite players on social media to find out how their training is coming along. Your changes don’t have to be drastic to make a difference – it’s all the small steps that allow us to bring about large change.

So that’s my challenge to you: care about what the woman does on the court just as much as you care what she does off of it.




You can check out the full list of the World Famous 100 here: http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/page/worldfame100/espn-world-fame-100-top-ranking-athletes