FOX cut from the Seahawks’ domination of Super Bowl XLVIII to show images of its interpretation of the city’s only other champion — the 1979 Sonics — and a nerve was pricked, again. Storm fans, leading executive Karen Bryant and WNBA three-time MVP Lauren Jackson (who watched the game from China where she’s currently playing) jumped on Twitter to express their ire.
Seattle’s WNBA team was actually the first to give the city a championship since the Sonics when the Storm won titles in 2004 and 2010. The first was sealed before 17,072 fans at KeyArena and had headlines throughout The Seattle Times acknowledging the Storm as the city’s first champion in then-25 years.
But the fact was dismissed nationally on Sunday as Super Bowl coverage steamrolled history.
By Monday morning, the omission was veiled by the words “men’s” and “major.” Sports media has justified overlooking niche sports by compartmentalizing pro leagues as the Big Four (remember when it was three?) and the rest. The WNBA, MLS, PBA, it’s all minor so need to bother with those statistics.
Forbes staff writer Kurt Badenhausen was upfront with his omission, writing “The city of Seattle has not celebrated a championship in a major pro sport (we’re not counting the two titles by the WNBA’s Seattle Storm) since the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979,” in a list of 48 things you need to know about the Super Bowl. He expanded on his classification on Twitter, stating he also didn’t include the Sounders FC.
@ChloeCline Not a female thing. I wouldn't have counted the Sounders either for this purpose.
— Kurt Badenhausen (@kbadenhausen) January 31, 2014
The Sounder’s accomplishments “don’t count” because Seattle’s three U.S. Open Cup titles aren’t part of a professional league. The competition is open to amateurs and professional teams. End of discussion.
ESPN’s Chris Berman just disregarded every title on any level that the city has won, including all of the softball, volleyball, basketball, soccer and cross country titles at Washington and Seattle U. He boldly proclaimed “Seattle has their first championship in any sport since the 70s” after the Seahawks’ win.
This is especially disheartening since ESPN owns the broadcasting rights to the WNBA.
Seattle is the first city in Super Bowl history that can challenge this accepted notion of what is “major” when it comes to simply counting titles. No other city since the WNBA was established in 1997 has won a Super Bowl championship after it won a WNBA title. Indianapolis won its Super Bowl championship in 2007 and the Indiana Fever won its WNBA title in 2012.
It’s time to look at this quantifier for what it is — sexist. The WNBA is the only successful women’s professional league in America. That makes it major. And that has to be recognized. Period. Finding a way to not mention it when simply throwing out a list of titles attached to a city is blatantly disregarding women’s pro sports and a city’s pride in its teams’ accomplishments.
When national media is talking about Seattle and pro titles, the Seattle Metropolitians (1917), Seattle SuperSonics (1979), Seattle Storm (2004, 2010) and Seattle Seahawks (2014) should be listed in that order because it’s the truth.
None is less than the other when only talking about who won what. The athletes were all paid a monetary value for their participation and worked hard to reach the greatest achievement in their sport. The modern-day athletes were paid for competing in the playoffs, receiving a bonus for winning, and were celebrated in Seattle by its people and its media that followed them through the trophy ceremony and parades.
A Super Bowl championship is the pinnacle. In this age of sports, you can’t get any bigger. The fact Seattle won the way it did at the NFL’s best display of the event — from hype to the halftime performance — is unbelievably spectacular. We are seriously going nuts over here.
Seattle’s a winner in every sport no matter the size or gender. It’s time to acknowledge that.