I attended the Women's Sports Foundation's Billie Awards earlier this week, had a wonderful time and was inspired by the stories of many great athletes and award winners. The WSF, founded by tennis legend Billie Jean King in 1974, is a great organization that continues to advance the cause of women in sports, but it's International Women's Hall of Fame has a glaring omission that I believe must be corrected as soon as possible.
The International Women's Sports Hall of Fame has inducted more than 130 athletes in dozens of sports including representatives of orienteering, squash, fencing, judo, shooting and mountaineering. I don’t mean to diminish those sports, but it doesn’t seem just that there isn’t a single soccer player on the list.
This in spite of previous nominations for FIFA Women’s World Cup winners Michelle Akers, Carin Gabarra and April Heinrichs. These athletes pioneered a sport that is now one of the most popular among girls in the United States, yet they, and apparently all other women soccer players have not been deemed worthy of selection.
When I brought this issue up to National Soccer Hall of Famer Julie Foudy, who is Past President of the WSF, she explained that attendance at the induction is a criteria for selection and Michelle hasn't been able to attend. Julie said she isn't sure about Carin and April's nominations, but believes both would be worthy candidates. In addition to those three, Mary Harvey, Debbie Belkin, Tish Venturini, Shannon Higgins-Cirovski, Lori Henry, Amy Allman and others all deserve recognition for their pioneering work to put women's soccer on the map in the United States and worldwide.
The "Class of 1999" (including Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Carla Overbeck, Joy Fawcett, Briana Scurry, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly and Tiffeny Milbrett), while worthy of entry as soon as the mandatory five years after retirement period expires, should be honored after the original pioneers are inducted.
If attending the event in person is important to the WSF, i believe the attendance criteria should be adjusted, so that an unavailable inductee would automatically be scheduled for induction the following year, and subsequent years until attendance is possible.
Nominations are due October 31st and can be made here. i plan on nominating the pioneers listed above. If you are like minded and have the time to do so, please follow suit as more support will help with efforts for women's soccer players to gain their rightful place in the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame.
I'll have more on the great things the WSF does and the Billie Awards in my next post.