Ally Profile: Nancy Hogshead-Makar

Nancy Hogshead-Makar is Jacksonville’s own 3-time Olympic swimming champion from the 1984 Games. She is a life-long advocate for access and equality in athletics, internationally recognized legal expert on sports issues, scholar, and author. She has a commitment to equality, using sports as a vehicle for social change. As one of the foremost exponents for gender equity, she advocates for access and equality in sports participation, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and assault, employment, pregnancy, and legal enforcement under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and within the youth sports and Olympic movement.

Hogshead-Makar has testified in Congress numerous times on the topic of gender equity in athletics, written numerous scholarly and lay articles, and has been a frequent guest on national news programs on the topic, including 60 Minutes, Fox News, CNN, ESPN, NPR, MSNBC and network morning news programming. She serves as an expert witness in Title IX cases and has written amicus briefs representing athletic organizations in precedent-setting litigation. Her scholarship includes her book, co-authored with Andrew Zimbalist, Equal Play; Title IX and Social Change, Pregnant and Parenting Student-Athletes; Resources and Model Policies, published by the NCAA, and her book chapter, “The Ethics of Title IX and Gender Equity for Coaches” appears in The Ethics of Coaching Sports; Moral, Social and Legal Issues, edited by Robert L. Simon. Since 2003 she has been the Co-Chair of American Bar Association Committee on the Rights of Women. Sports Illustrated Magazine listed her as one of the most influential people in the history of Title IX.

Hogshead-Makar is currently the Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation, a 29-year affiliation that started as a college intern.   She has received significant awards recognizing her commitment to athletics, including receipt of an honorary doctorate from Springfield College, induction into the Academic All-America Hall of Fame and the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame for the National Association for Sports and Physical Education, and receipt of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators’ “Honor Award”. In 2011 she was presented with the National Organization for Women’s “Courage Award,” and was inducted into the National Consortium for Academics and Sports Hall of Fame. In 2012 she was awarded the “Title IX Advocate Award” from the Alliance of Women Coaches.

Nancy is the recipient of the 2014 International Olympic Committee’s Woman of the Year for the Americas. She has been recognized as one of the foremost authorities on gender equity in sports and one of the most influential people in the history of Title IX – the groundbreaking legislation which has given women the same opportunity as men to compete in US collegiate sports.

Why is Nancy a straight ally and supporter of the HRO ordinance?

I am an ally and supporter of the HRO ordinance because human dignity and respect for who you love is a birthright.

At every level, sports participation is a powerful educational experience, and is the underlying reason I work in this field. Homophobia, in particular, is used to diminish all women’s athletic feats, as they accomplish under a cloud of sexual suspicion. Women’s heart-soaring accomplishments can’t upset traditional notions of femininity too much as they become stronger, highly skilled and more ambitious. Therefore, questions about boyfriends and future plans of marriage are practically obligatory, and not just in the media.

So while most LGBTQ athletes suffer, my lesbian teammates suffered uniquely. Straight women may be afraid of supporting their lesbian teammates for fear they might be seen as lesbians themselves. Women athletes are all running from the same shame and discrimination, rather than affirming our life’s pursuits and our selves.

So it’s no wonder so many of my lesbian teammates didn’t share their sexuality with me until long after we’d finished competing. That saddens me – that they didn’t see me as safe. I love my family with my whole being, and I bring that enthusiasm with me to practically every conversation. I can’t imagine not being able to share the people I love with the world, for fear of discrimination. How painful. I want all of my lesbian and gay friends’ humanity. That includes their ability to share joyfully their life’s loves with as much passion and freedom as I share about mine without fear of loss.

What if the stigma of same-sex relationships didn’t exist? The suspicion of being a lesbian could no longer be used to marginalize women in sports, and we’d all be healthier and more productive.

The Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance will be a solid step towards making this dream a reality.


See Nancy’s Straight Ally Video Statement here:

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