On the April 8 episode of Saturday Night Live (SNL), an iconic comedy sketch show, cast member Punkie Johnson appeared during the Weekend Update segment, portraying Angel Reese of Louisiana State University, which six days before won the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship. Unlike previous SNL portrayals of female athletes, Johnson’s depiction of Reese was a celebration of the junior forward.
“I’m a big deal now,” said Johnson’s Reese. “Since college players get endorsements now, I’m about to cash in, and my brand works for anything…Last week, women’s sports was boring. Now, all y’all talking about is women’s sports all this week. Why? Because women is balling right now.”
She’s not wrong. It appears that people are finally noticing some of the incredible female athletes, especially in basketball. Viewership of this year’s WNBA Draft was up 42%. There’s a real sense of anticipation for the upcoming WNBA season. Other sports like soccer and track seem to be getting more mainstream media coverage. It’s about time.
Why did it take so long? We live in society where women’s athletic accomplishments are often undervalued. An increasing number of female sports journalists have tossed out the notion that you’re not really getting respect unless you cover men’s sports. Here’s hoping that change in mindset increases.
On the local level came the announcement that Megan Griffith, head women’s basketball coach at Columbia University, has signed a five-year extension to remain with the program. “While we have accomplished several firsts and broken numerous records, there is still much work to do,” said Griffith. “We have unfinished business and I am hungrier than ever to get back to work.”
As someone who once was excited at seeing a half-full gym for women’s events, watching Levien Gymnasium packed this season was an incredible sight.
Most previous comedic depictions of female athletes—except for the incredible HBO series “ARLI$$,” which ran from 1996 to 2002 and should be seen and appreciated anew—mocked female athletes. When Johnson rolled in wearing Reese’s #10 LSU jersey, a long dark wig, and some awesome eyelashes, it was clear that a new day had arrived. She delivered her lines with gusto and respect for Reese, showing an athlete in on the joke, not the butt of it.
Let’s keep the laughs, views, and inspiration coming!