Why aren’t women’s professional sports more popular?

The Minnesota Lynx landed UConn star Maya Moore in the WNBA draft yesterday, creating some excitement for basketball fans. But the Lynx and other WNBA teams have struggled with low attendance. Today’s Question: Why aren’t women’s professional sports more popular?

  • Alison

    Maybe because all of the really hard core sports nuts that I know are men. I know some women who are into a sport (as in one), but none of them have the same fanatacism for multiple sports as many men I know.

  • Dianne

    As a season ticket holder for the Minnesota Lynx since their inaugural season, I see people come and go. Part of the problem is a lack of advertising and a lack of TV contracts. The other part, I think, is the shorter summer season.

    The great things about women’s sports are the games are great, the players are approachable and there are fun things to do at the game. Most people are probably unaware that in addition to the Minnesota Lynx professional basketball team, there are 2 women’s football teams and roller derby teams in the Metro.

  • bsimon

    Maybe the question should be rephrased: why are men’s professional sports so popular?

  • Big

    I was told if I have nothing good to say…

  • Mick

    For the same reason Americans don’t care about soccer: Sports fans are interested in the cream of the crop, the best of the best. It speaks to the core of the appeal of sports – the best usually wins, and the winner is usually indisputable. Few would argue that a WNBA player could be considered on the same level of athletic talent as an NBA player. Unfair or not, that’s why women’s athletics are considered inferior by many.

  • Philip

    Remember, if you can’t be an athlete then be an athletic supporter.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Because most women are smart enough to realize that it’s only a game, so they don’t get as obsessed about sports as men do.

  • Beth

    We are just starting to hear about men or women professional athletes that are sons or daughters of women who played sports. This is great but it is evidence that most women’s sports have only had one generation of participation.

    If you have followed the WNBA since its inception it is stunning how much the game changes every year. There are those who criticize the women’s game because it is not “above the rim”. I’m guessing it will get there some day. In the meantime go watch you will be amazed.

  • Jason

    As a frequent attender of the women’s college games at SCSU, I find that the women actually appear to be more technically proficient then the men and the games are less about power and more about finesse. Women’s games have less violence and blood is rare and, when it does occur, it is the result of an accidental contact rather than an intentional hit. Men’s sports appears to have become bigger, harder, faster, and more violent (concussions anyone?). In addition, at the college level, the games I have attended appear to be more family affairs with player’s families being a large part of the audience. So, maybe large audiences will only be attracted to the games where there is a chance of violence and injury. I wonder how many people watch a Youtube video of the beauty of Pele’s ball control rather than a goalee diving head first into an upright?

  • James

    Men are hunters’ – women are gatherers… hard to bend the rifts of time.


  • steve

    this is an interesting and sad question i think womans sports are more exciting than men they have more finisse and woman are closer as a team than men. but i guess it all boils down low turnouts for sports and the marketing dollars are not there so it is basically money which is sad, because i believe women>men in sports perhaps not athletically but mentally and overall how they carry themselves is much better!

  • Neil

    I think its mostly about traditional gender roles. Team sports as being the domain of men is just too entrenched in our cultural psyche. Anything else is seen as lesser entertainment.

    For sports which rely most on individual effort and skill like downhill skiing, swimming, and gymnastics, their popularity becomes more even between the genders.

  • Matthew

    For the same reasons why more people watch Major League Baseball instead of minor league baseball. Female athletes are slower, weaker, by and large less skilled, and therefore less interesting and exciting to watch. Anyone who has a problem with this honesty is a fool. Michael Jordan or Cheryl Miller? Wayne Gretzky or Cammie Granato? Given the option to watch the best or second best, people will watch the best regardless of the sport. I’m not saying men are better per se. Women are as good or better at many things, but sports is not one of them. If this makes me sexist, too bad for me. And sorry, ladies.

  • Neil

    Many good comments so far. I would add that the “PR machine” which is primarily newspapers and AM radio is still the domain of grumpy old men who would rather report on a bad men’s team than an exciting women’s team. Without the hype, it’s easy to forget to go/watch/listen to a game.

  • chuck

    There is only one professional women’s team in the Twin Cities and it’s the Lynx. When do they play? May, June, July.

    What Minnesotan, in his or her’s right mind, would go inside to watch basketball then. Isn’t that why the Twins moved outdoors?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Dear Matthew –

    Kudos for having the external reproductive organs to tell an important part of the truth on this one.

  • garyf

    There was a WNBA draft yesterday?

    Yes, you don’t watch basketball in the summer. Even if the Timberwolves were good and went deep into the playoffs I’d have a hard time watching it in May or June.

    But, the Lynx are owned by the Timberwolves and make bad draft decisions.

    If the Lynx were my team…….

    I would have done all I could have done to get Whalen and McCarville here, by trade, by draft or by thievery. It wouldn’t have mattered if they won, but you could have ridden the wave they started with the Gophers. THe win-loss record may not have been great, but think of the great attendance you would have had.

  • KMKJake

    For the same reason the Warroad boys high school hockey team was able to wipe the ice with the USA Women’s Olympic team. Two different levels of play.

  • Matthew

    It should also be noted that there are no bylaws or rules within the respective organizations prohibiting women from competing in the NFL, MLB, or NHL etc. These pro sports are not identified as the “Men’s National Football League,” or “Men’s Major League Baseball.” Therefore, if a woman is good enough to compete against men and can prove herself as an asset to any professional team, she will be signed to play. As a matter of fact, there have been a few women who have been signed to compete in semi-pro baseball as pitchers, the most recent one being a player who was signed to play for the Duluth team in the Northwoods Baseball League, although that was several years ago now. This seems to counter the idea that bigotry or sexism is to blame for the unpopularity of female pro sports.

  • uptownZombie

    Why are men’s professional sports so popular?

  • Mustaf

    Very simple people, its business and money that dominates the sports world. If these old greedy (mostly white) men would not care about every bit of their dollars, maybe we would have women sports. The same can be said about who soccer which by the way is the most popular sport in the world (except here, only girls like to play) is not as popular as is should be, because again, greedy business partners don’t have time to see it grow, they want their double digit growth right NOW and not in 5 or 10 yrs. Again, it is not about gender, but ALL about BUSINESS.

  • Ann

    Even the Vikings have had to beg people to buy tickets to prevent a TV blackout. There is a limit to how many activities a small market can support. So of course the long tradition of men’s sports gets the most support. Some of us don’t watch any sports.

  • http://mpr.org louis

    If the women were as good in any sport ,everyone would watch. Simple, we love our sports, however, we can see the differance and in some sports,golf and tennis especially, that differance is very obvious. But that does not imply we can’t enjoy womens sports . Just stop trying to fool us with believing they are as good. In fact, as long as women play with such passion and fun and can avoid emulating the men, I’d rathewr watch women in many sports. Finally, womens boxing, really? I always held women to a higher standard. And skip the sexist card as my FOUR sisters will kindly refute.

  • kennedy

    I agree with previous posters that a paid performer(s) will get more money if they are better at their craft. The sports with the biggest US spectator market are football, baseball, basketball, hockey and car racing. Of these sports, car racing is the most equal playing field for men vs. women. I would guess that women competing in that sport get more audience and endorsements than men of equal skill.

    As to why a particular sport is popular, I don’t know. I find soccer much more exciting to watch than baseball, but clearly that puts me in the minority in the USA. It may be that we like to watch others playing a sport we were once involved in. We can then understand what it takes to excel and what it feels like to compete. In that vein, I am completely uninterested in American Idol or Dancing With The Stars. I can neither sing nor dance. What do you suppose is the gender makeup of those audiences?

  • Jason

    Team sports are a form of civilized warfare. Wars are the domain of men and appeal to their aggressive nature. Men see women’s sports as just warfare-lite.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Dear Jason –

    Nice warfare analogy.

    Dear Kennedy –

    I think that the vicarious analysis is accurate to a point. I played competitive tennis, and men’s professional tennis is the primary professional sport that I now follow.

    But in general, the first two professional sports in terms of number of spectators are the NFL and the NBA – both predominantly played by physical freaks (OK, several standard deviations from the mean 🙂

    That would point more to spectators seeking vicarious fantasy.

    Now, when someone starts a professional Amazon Gladiators League…… 🙂

  • Kevin VC

    Considering womens sports did not exist in any serious form a century before, it has come a long way.

    Maybe one should merge womens and mens sports…

  • Josh

    Hey, Im in grade 10 and Im doing an assiment answering this question. Could any one help me? I have to discuss ways to make women sports more popular. Thanks guys