COVID-19 Reshaped Sports In 2020, But Women Continued To Make Their Mark

Award-winning sports columnist Christine Brennan joins Detroit Tigers vice president of marketing Ellen Hill Zeringue to look back on the marquee moments for women in sports in 2020.

Women athletes found ways to make their mark in a year when COVID-19 completely rewrote our relationship with sports and how they operate.

Kim Ng became the first woman general manager of a Major League Baseball team. Sarah Fuller became the first woman to score points in a Power 5 football game, though her season as kicker was cut short after Vanderbilt’s game against Georgia this weekend was canceled due to COVID-19 cases on her team. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association landed their largest corporate sponsorship

Listen: Sports columnist Christine Brennan and Detroit Tigers VP of marketing Ellen Hill Zeringue discuss women in sports

And WNBA players successfully operated their league in a bubble (similar to their male counterparts in the NBA) and saw more of their games get nationally televised. Their viewership went up, too.

They also lead the way on using their platform to speak out on social justice issues as protests against racial inequality and police brutality swept the country this summer.

Photos courtesy of guests
Photos courtesy of guests

“All of these young women now — even in their 20s and 30s — faced discrimination or lack of respect or some kind of being told they were other or not the real deal,” says Christine Brennan, an award-winning sports columnist for USA Today. “And so I don’t think it’s a surprise that women speak up even more in some ways than men in terms of these social issues. That will certainly be remembered from 2020 not to mention previous years.”

Brennan joined CultureShift on 101.9 WDET to look back on women in sports in 2020. She was joined by Ellen Hill Zeringue, the vice president of marketing for the Detroit Tigers.

“Brands and marketers are starting to take notice to the importance of the voice of the women athletes,” says Zeringue, who is a native Detroiter. “You see more and more brands creating campaigns that are amplifying what these amazing women are doing. That’s another reason why this is not a trend and it has staying power… particularly when you look at the Gen Z audience and you think about how they are so focused on philanthropy and what brands are doing from a cause perspective.”

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  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.