Top Women Athletes Are Just Lucky?

Men are skilled and committed, but women are only good-looking and lucky? According to a study conducted by the University of Delaware regarding NBC’s commentary at past Olympic Games, sexist statements dominate the feedback that fans are exposed to.

Researcher James Angelini published the study this month in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. As he explained, “It’s all about luck with the females. It’s all about ability with the males.”

Angelini gathered the network’s prime-time coverage from NBC, which maintains exclusive U.S. rights to cover the Games on TV, and categorized clips based on 17 criteria, including commitment, intelligence, strength and luck.

Not only does NBC’s Olympics commentary unfairly compare men and women athletes, it also gives more coverage to U.S. athletes and includes racist remarks, a second study found. Those remarks include references to white athletes being committed and composed, while black athletes have physical strength and Asian athletes are intelligent.

Past studies regarding Olympic coverage of women have shown similar results. For example, women often don’t receive equal coverage as men and must verify that they actually are women.

Will this new study affect the future of NBC commentary? We’ll have to await the London Games, which begin on July 27. Take notes.

Photo from Flickr user sawyerlaw via Creative Commons 3.0


Danica Ceballos is currently interning with Ms. In the fall, she will return to Fairfield University in Connecticut as a junior majoring in English Journalism and minoring in Women's Studies and Political Science. For the past two years, she has worked for Fairfield University's Independent Student Newspaper, The Mirror. She also runs NCAA Division I Cross Country.