Sports Round-Up: #MeToo Movement

Sports Round-Up: #MeToo Movement

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BY EMILY SOLOMON | Editorial Intern

Breanna Stewart is 24 years old and has already accomplished more than most of us will in our entire lives. She had an incredible career playing for Geno Auriemma at the University of Connecticut, winning a national championship each of her four years. She won Final Four Most Outstanding Player four times too, her fourth one coming in the same year she was drafted first overall to the Seattle Storm in the WNBA. Rookie of the Year in Year 1. WNBA All-Star in Year 2. Championship, WNBA MVP, and Finals MVP in Year 3. There’s not much she hasn’t accomplished, and the best part is, she’s only 24. We can only imagine how many pages long her resume will be by the time she’s Sue Bird’s age (Sorry Sue, we all know how old you are).

Now, I am the biggest Phoenix Mercury fan that there is. I have been to every single WNBA game in Phoenix for the past five years. For four years, I had court-side season tickets with my family and last season I got the incredible opportunity to work in basketball communications with the Mercury. I got to see how everything worked behind the scenes, including conducting interviews with the players and coaches in the locker room, all while still getting to watch spectacular basketball. I am now a sophomore at Whitman College, which is awesome and I love it, but also a bit farther from Phoenix than I’d like to be.

“Stewart has done enormous things not only for the game of basketball, but for women.”

With all that being said, Breanna Stewart is an interesting case for me. I will root for her in almost every situation, unless it involves her beating out the Mercury in the WNBA semifinals. In that case, I am very much anti-Stewart. If you haven’t seen her play, you’re missing out on something huge. The woman can shoot, blow by defenders, block the crap out of shots, handle the ball coast to coast, guard the point guard, guard the center, the list goes on and on. If you haven’t seen her in action you’re probably wondering what position she plays if she does all of that. That’s just the thing. She’s listed as a forward but honestly, if there is a true definition of a player who can play any position, it’s her. The woman can do it all.

Stewart has done enormous things not only for the game of basketball, but for women. I have such extreme respect for the person and player she is on the court, but the things she does outside of basketball are even more noteworthy. Stewart, as she added “ESPY for Best Female Athlete” to her resume in 2016, used the stage in front of hundreds of sports fans to call attention to unequal media coverage of men’s and women’s sports. On October 30th, 2017, Stewart did something even bigger. Something even braver and even more challenging but important for not only female athletes, for all women.

At the end of October last year, Stewart joined the Me Too Movement and took advantage of her rising popularity in the media to tell her story and encourage others to do the same. The phrase “Me Too” was coined back in 2006 as a way to help women who had survived sexual violence. Eleven years later, rape and sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein brought “Me Too” back to center stage, as many women have come forward to share their stories.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I released it. I didn’t want people to view me differently.” - Breanna Stewart

Stewart pointed out that basketball provided her with a safety net during a troubling time during childhood. A kind of safety only basketball can bring. Safe, but still not completely safe.

“My parents had put me in the sport just to keep me busy,” Stewart recounted in her “Me Too” story published in the Player’s Tribune. “I was a kid with a lot of free time and nothing to do. Eventually, nobody had to make me go. I wanted to play. Basketball became a sort of safe space for me. But no space felt completely safe.”

In a Time Magazine article “How the #MeToo Movement is About to Change Pro Sports,” Michael Kimmel explained what makes 2017 different from allegations of sexual assault in years past. “One big difference in 2017 is that women are being believed,” Kimmel argued. “Women are not on trial. Their credibility is not the issue. Men’s behavior is the issue.”

Even as 2017 came to a close and 2018 began with similar incidents continuing to arise, the credibility of women, for whatever reason, has typically been more thoroughly questioned than behaviors of men. As difficult as it is for, not just women but for all sexual assault survivors, to speak up and share their stories with the world, Stewart describes her experience of publicly sharing her story to be relieving, but also extremely challenging.

In an article published by the Hartford Courant, “Breanna Stewart Discusses Sexual Assault Ahead Of Gracing ESPN Body Issue”, Stewart discussed just how challenging it was to put her story out there for anyone and everyone to view on social media. “I was really nervous because you see everything with social media,” Stewart said. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I released it. I didn’t want people to view me differently.”

Sharing her story, after bottling it up for two years as a child, while also keeping it out of the eyes and ears of the media until 2017, has given Stewart a sense of freedom. “I could be surrounded by my teammates or friends or complete strangers,” Stewart disclosed. “Living life as I normally would, and memories like lightning will strike.”

Stewart describes still having moments of quiet when she still thinks of what happened, a memory she will never be able to erase. She wrote, “For two years – that’s how long I was molested – I never got used to the night.”

Now, she feels no feelings of forgiveness, and definitely no feelings of shame. A message she hopes to convey to others who may follow in her footsteps. It might be hard. It might be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. But don’t be ashamed.

Breanna. All I have to say is...I am glad you shared your story. I’m glad you had the courage to utilize your platform as the extremely talented and badass professional athlete you are and use it to inspire and encourage strength in so many others. Keep doing what you’re doing on the court but more importantly, keep doing what you’re doing off of it.

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