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Sports Bring Women Freedom

September 17, 2018

Inspiration for women in sports, women who follow sports and women interested in supporting women in sports

I first heard how good Breanna Stewart was from my mother-in-law who worked for the Athletic Director at Cicero North Syracuse High School where Breanna played high school basketball. As usual the local newspaper did not cover the story of this rising female athlete, like they did not do very often with women in general on the sporting page; that was until she was scouted by colleges with big athletic programs like UConn where Breanna eventually played. Since I loved playing basketball with my father, male cousins and sons, I loved hearing about a talented young female in our local area excelling at the sport. I wish I saw her play but never did which I regret.

During Breanna’s stellar collegiate career, I began a Women’s Athletic Network, for women entrepreneurs who were also sports fans or participants, so we could gather together and talk sports, watch or play them. It was the first time I talk publicly about loving sports and finding other cool businesswomen who did too. Sports were not a regular conversation topic for women I knew until I announced the network. I was thrilled to find friends and a new freedom to talk about what I loved and another equality issue I felt passionate about – promoting female athletes and athletic organizations like the Women’s Sports Foundation.

It was no surprise to me that Breanna won four college championships earning MVP honors every year and then becoming the 1st overall draft pick in the WNBA, 2016 WNBA Rookie of the Year and 2018 WNBA MVP. She is simply a stellar star who is humble and deserving of such honors.

In October 2017, in the height of the #MeToo movement, Breanna shared her personal story of sexual abuse by a family friend during her childhood. Like so many of us #MeToo women, the need to share our story becomes a release. Some of us also find peace and freedom in playing sports where we can expend internal strife on the court, road or playing field lifting ourselves above the memories and empowering ourselves in a healthy way. Recently with my horrendous bout of alopecia leaving me a bald woman at the age of 53 for the first time in my life, sports has carried me through each and every day.

When I look in the mirror, I see an unhealthy bald woman with a non-life threatening disease called alopecia areata; but when I’m running, biking or swimming or training for a triathlon, I’m healthy and full of positive energy. I have started running without hat now. I don’t do it to get smiles or stares but to be me and to stride by stride empower myself. Nothing, and I mean nothing, ignites my positive spirit like sports. I couldn’t live without it.

Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart addresses media members after receiving the league’s Most Valuable Player award before a semifinal basketball playoff game against the Phoenix Mercury Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Even though I have never met Breanna, I am proud of her in so many ways including being a hard working female athlete who I believe will be the most decorated female basketball player of all time and her bravery to share her personal sexual abuse story. Not only does she have medals, trophies and titles to show others, she has an unbroken spirit that inspires millions of women everywhere. Play on Breanna. Play on women!

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