Risa Isard on the limits of Title IX and an intersectional approach to equity in sports

Social Sport

October 4, 2021

Risa Isard is a sports industry veteran and policy expert. She specializes in advancing equity with and for girls and women, LGBTQ+ people, people of color, and others in and through sport. Her career in the sports industry spans professional and college sports, sports policy, and nonprofit thought leadership. She has developed partnerships with professional ninja athletes, hosted Billie Jean King in an on-stage conversation, directed the premier national event for increasing access to youth sports, co-authored and edited foundational research reports, established community-based partnerships to support sport leaders across the country, launched a first-of-its-kind online portal for community leaders, founded a farmer’s market at professional baseball games, run a baseball league for people with special needs, hosted a celebrity soccer challenge, authored fortune cookies, and more. She is the former associate director of thought leadership for national nonprofit KABOOM!, former project director for the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, and former community relations coordinator for a minor league baseball team. She’s also been on staff at Brandi Chastain’s nonprofit organization, Duke University women’s basketball, and the Phoenix Mercury. Risa has presented at South by Southwest (SXSW), Spotlight: Health at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the Surgeon General’s Innovation Summit, the University of Pennsylvania’s Law School Sports Symposium, the North American Society for Sport Management, and elsewhere. She has written for Sports Business Journal, AdWeek, Global Sport Matters, Quartz, espnW and elsewhere. Risa graduated cum laude from Duke with a specialized degree in “Social Change at the Intersection of Culture, Gender, and Sports,” simultaneously receiving honors for her original research thesis on the pre-history and early years of Title IX (1969-1975). A long-time advocate of using sports for social change, Risa is a Research Fellow in the Laboratory for Inclusion and Diversity in Sport at UMass, where she is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Sport Management from the Isenberg School of Management.


–“This is definitely not sport-specific. Racial bias has long been documented in men’s sports. There is less documentation, but no less convincing evidence, that it happens in women’s sports as well. It can manifests in a number of different ways. It can be about the attention athletes get, it can be about the kind of attention they get, and it can be about the language we use when we talk about athletes…Absolutely, racial bias is pervasive in and across sports, and in women’s sports.”

–“Title IX has fixed things unequally when it comes to girls. Title IX has been excellent for white, middle-upper class girls like me. It has been a lot less effective at creating equity for Black girls, Latinx girls, girls of color broadly, and girls from low income communities. The gender gaps that exist in some communities are still quite pervasive…Title IX, at its best, ought to create a more equitable society for all girls, and it hasn’t done that yet.”

Follow Risa on Twitter: @RisaLovesSports

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