Title IX, Steroids, and Spygate: Sports and Our Next President

Those of you who are like me are quite tired of the ongoing presidential election. The (not so) funny ads, the double talk from the candidates and their camps, the arguments over petty incidents (do I really care whether Obama called Sarah Palin a pig?), and the constant low blows coming from both sides grow to become quite wearisome.

Most troubling to me is that by watching the news, viewers are seldom presented with any real answers or insights into what the candidates think about the issues. That is the context in which the idea for this article was born. Instead of attempting to write an article presenting the candidates views on the major issues, I decided to write about their views on some issues relating to the sports world. My role with The Father Life is as a sports writer, after all. I’ll leave the major issues to someone who is more qualified and well-versed in the political realm than me.

However, I do not want to diminish the importance of the issues I will take a look at. Sure, they certainly aren’t as important as foreign policy, the war, or health care, but they are much more important than the “audacity” of a candidate not wearing a flag pin on their lapel.

I think.

Please note that each candidate’s views are my own paraphrasing to either the candidate’s own direct response, or his staff’s response, when presented with each issue in various interviews. The sources I used are listed at the end of the article.

To start, consider the issue of Title IX, part of the Education Amendments of 1972, which states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Most often, this is related to sports programs at schools. Senator McCain takes issue with what he calls “liberties” that the U.S. Department of Education took under the Clinton administration in interpreting the law. He is referring to some adaptations in the law that mandated that universities must fund athletics programs in proportion to male-female ratios, or else see federal funding cut or eliminated. According to McCain, this led to the closure of many athletics programs due to a shortage of funds being available to sustain identical male and female programs in every sport. McCain wants to go back to Title IX’s original intent: providing equal access and funding without limiting opportunities for any students.

Senator Obama acknowledges the number of complaints filed with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights relating to discrimination against female sports teams. He also is concerned with the lax enforcement of the law, evident in the number of cases that are actually seen compared to the number filed. Senator Obama supports the High School Sports Information Collection Act, which requires schools to make information relating to equality in sports programs publicly available. He also seeks to work with the National Women’s Law Center to more strictly enforce the compliance rules of Title IX, reducing the number of schools who offer surveys related to the law and then take a lack of respondents to mean lack of interest in playing sports. This, in his opinion, is an attempt for schools to circumvent the law.

Next up: Federal involvement in issues involving drugs in sports, such as steroids in baseball. Senator McCain has long supported Federal involvement in this area. McCain views this issue as very important because of the effect on the nation’s youth. He highlights the simplicity with which youth are able to obtain performance-enhancing drugs online, along with the potential for future health issues that may arise as a result of increased teen use of these drugs. He would focus on educating youth about, and requiring schools to include material on these substances, and funding the research laboratories that are working to stay ahead of the science that is attempting to beat the drug screens.

Senator Obama acknowledges that voluntary action by the leagues is the most preferable method of dealing with these concerns. But he believes the government must step in when the health of the athletes is threatened, or when sports fans (consumers) are being deceived. He specifies that he would use the bully pulpit of his office to warn Americans about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs and would call for a summit of the commissioners of the major sports leagues, as well as university presidents, to explore all options for decreasing the role of drugs in sports.

Each candidate has a different opinion when it comes to issues such as Spygate or the NBA referee gambling scandal. McCain would not take Congressional action on such issues because he does not view them as a threat to our youth or the general public. He would urge the individual leagues to live up to their duties to police themselves and ensure fair levels of competitiveness.

Senator Obama views Spygate and the like as interstate commerce issues, and therefore feels that the government should act to serve the fan’s best interest, as the fan is the consumer in this case. He understands that sports should not be politicized, but also recognizes the need to protect the fans, who are paying for a service that is hopefully fair and competitive.

So there you have it. McCain certainly has more experience in these fields, having chaired many committees discussing the steroid issue. Each candidate also has received hefty donations from athletes and teams. McCain’s wife, Cindy, has a stake in the Arizona Diamondbacks. Obama’s affection for basketball has been much publicized. Each candidate views athletes as workers in the industry of sports, and as such, feels that it is important that they receive equal say, just as workers in any other industry. Each indicated as well that athletes were not deserving of special treatment under the law, and neither were sports leagues.

So maybe if you are absolutely torn over which lever to pull in November, one of these issues might push you over one edge or the other. You are a sports fan after all; these issues should be important to you.

I think.

Dan Mason profile picDan Mason is an accountant who day-dreams about being in the wilderness, and has a perfectly healthy male-affection for Aaron Rodgers. He was just married in August to his girlfriend of 3 1/2 years. Visit his blog for more of his writing.


Answers from the Presidential Candidates to Sports-Related Questions,” by Paula Lavigne. September 2, 2008.

Where the Candidates Stand on Sports Issues,” by David Jackson, Kathy Kiely, and Jill Lawrence. May 8, 2008.

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