Over the last few days, as the sports world writ large and NBA fans in particular have grappled with the death of Kobe Bryant, there have been a flood of stories and videos of Bryant talking about his love of his four daughters and his appreciation for women’s sports, including the WNBA.
ESPN “Sportscenter” anchor Elle Duncan inspired a viral hashtag when she shared her one meeting with Bryant a couple of years ago, while she was pregnant with her own daughter and Bryant shared how much he loved being a “#girldad.”
Over the last couple of years we’ve seen a growing tide of female athletes speaking out and standing up, for themselves and for the girls and women who will follow. For equal or improved pay, to not be punished financially or otherwise for having a family, to have their games and their wins celebrated. As an added bonus, the number of men championing those causes is growing rapidly.
New York Knicks forward Marcus Morris is apparently not one of those men.
Morris is not a fan of the Grizzlies’ Jae Crowder, and that’s fine. It’s how Morris expressed his dislike of Crowder that’s problematic.
“He plays the game a different way,” Morris said. “He’s got a lot of female tendencies on the court, flopping and throwing his head back the entire game. It’s a man’s game and you just get tired of it.”
And Morris wasn’t done.
“His game is soft. He’s soft. ... Just very woman-like,” he said — to a female reporter.
Morris apologized on Twitter late Wednesday night, calling it a “Heat of the moment response” and saying he respects women.
What are female tendencies?
So why, in 2020, are men still speaking like this? It’s an antiquated idea to say that women are in any way inferior to men, a notion that should be as forgotten as the rotary telephone.
There’s nothing soft about being a woman.
And what, exactly, are female tendencies?
Did Morris mean the tendencies of two-time WNBA MVP and two-time Olympic Candace Parker, who missed just eight games of the 2009 season after giving birth to her daughter and breast-fed her newborn during halftime of her return?
Maybe the tendencies of Allyson Felix, who needed an emergency C-section to deliver daughter Camryn in November 2018 due to a potentially fatal pregnancy condition called pre-eclampsia, but was on the track at the world championships in Doha, Qatar just 10 months later, a member of the gold-medal winning and world-record setting mixed 4x400 meter relay team?
Maybe the tendencies of Serena Williams, who won the 2017 Australian Open while about eight weeks pregnant? And she didn’t drop a set in seven matches, by the way. She also needed an emergency C-section due to a life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
Do you know where Williams was a little less than four months after that scary ordeal? Back on the court for an exhibition match and she returned to competitive matches six weeks after that.
Those are female tendencies.
Keep in mind as well that those women and others usually didn’t have financial support from their sponsors or leagues as they endured these things — Felix and fellow American Olympic runners Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher revealed last year that Nike pulled its paychecks to them while they were pregnant and not racing.
Just this month the 23-year-old WNBA finally added structural support for players who are mothers or pregnant: they’ll get their full pay while on maternity leave and receive a child care stipend, among other things.
Being pregnant takes an incredible toll on a woman’s body: as we grow a new life there’s morning sickness, which for many is all-day sickness, and can last weeks or months; there is often back pain and joint pain, even for women who are incredibly fit when they get pregnant, as the baby grows and moves.
Add in possible complications like pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and anemia, and pregnancy can be far more than just uncomfortable.
‘Female tendencies win games’
Liz Cambage, the Las Vegas Aces standout, tweeted, “FEMALE TENDENCIES WIN GAMES THOUGH” in the wake of Morris’ comments. Morris responded to her through the site, apologizing again for his comments and saying she’s great at the game.
(The game he called a “man’s game,” which Cambage took note of as well.)
Cambage has yet not responded.
It’s long since been past time for language like Morris’ to be retired. Title IX is nearly 50 years old, the number of girls and women dedicating themselves to becoming athletes has grown exponentially since, and there are legions of proud fathers and brothers and husbands cheering us on, helping us train, coaching our teams, or riding their bikes alongside us on summer training runs, just like Bryant did with his girls.
We play through bloody noses and torn ligaments, we fight through slumps at the plate, we plant our feet to take a charge, we persevere through losing streaks, we feel the glory of winning gold medals and trophies on the grandest athletic stages.
Female tendencies win games. And World Cups. And gold medals.
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