Women’s Right to Run and a Lawsuit

 

International class action lawsuit, 5000 & 10,000m events - 1984
International class action lawsuit, 5000 & 10,000m events – 1984

The founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, said the Games were meant to be an “exaltation of male athleticism with female applause as its reward.”

Thirty years ago. . . .

    . . . on June 22nd 1984, the Federal Appeals Court judges ruled against the women runners, basically two-to-one.  Ultimately, we prevailed.

Judge Pregerson, who voted for us, countered:

The IOC made concessions to the widespread popularity of women’s track and field by adding two distance races this year [3000 meters and marathon]. The IOC refused, however, to grant women athletics equal status by including all events in which women compete internationally. In so doing, the IOC postpones indefinitely the equality of athletic opportunity that it could easily achieve this year in Los Angeles. When the Olympics move to other countries, some without America’s commitment to human rights, the opportunity to tip the scales of justice in favor of equality may slip away. Meanwhile, the Olympic flame – which should be a symbol of harmony, equality and justice – will burn less brightly over the Los Angeles Olympic Games.

For the record, after the court battle, the 10,000-meter race for women was added next, followed by the 5000-meter race . . . .  and with these additions, the women’s slate of distance events finally gained parity with the men’s.  Sometimes you lose a batte, but win the war.

During this same month in June 1984, I was fortunate to direct two races at the US Olympic Trials, the 5 & 10, thanks to a generous sponsor who stepped forward, Etonic Shoes.  Joan Benoit (Samuelson) won the 10,000m in an excellent time, preceeding her Marathon win, and Julie Brown with Betty Jo Springs raced to the wire in a most exciting 5000m race.

To read more . . .  Pressing Our Case

Chapter 20, A Long Time Coming