Monday was the 74th anniversary of the Women’s March, and one of the few things missing from that day’s events was a lot of female athletes.
There was LeBron James and his wife Savannah, and lots of big names from other sports as well, but there was not a single woman among the 100,000 protestors estimated by organizers to be in attendance.
Serena Williams certainly had her reasons. It’s Monday, for the most part, and the tennis star planned on having her first child at the end of the year. Additionally, she was preparing for a U.S. Open semifinal match Tuesday night against Naomi Osaka and was away from the courts at the time.
But for some female athletes, it was an easy decision to skip the Women’s March events.
Sarah Lewis, a hurdler for the U.S. women’s basketball team, is a law student and said she would have gone to Washington and marched had she been free, but explained that she has been deeply affected by the abortion rights struggle in recent years.
“It’s kind of gotten to the point where we’re seeing girls and women in university basketball doing sports for college money and not being able to pay their rent and to feed their kids — so a march, to me, is not really going to make a big difference,” Lewis said. “I feel like it’s more important to be at home or in Washington and show my support and get educated on how important it is to have reproductive health care.”
Beyond that, both Lewis and the other athletes said they believe it’s the women’s role to protest at times when issues are important to them and have a unique position of influence in affecting the issues they care about.
“It’s important to recognize that everybody is important, and not just men, not just white people. We all have some kind of power,” Jennie Jenevein-Wright, a former U.S. women’s volleyball player, said. “I do think it’s important to make our voices heard and stand up, and I hope I am able to do that in my lifetime. But it’s important to me to share that.”
While there were some Democrats and female politicians present, among the thousands protesting in Washington, the events were primarily attended by liberal-leaning adults who were upset about President Trump’s administration and concerned about a variety of issues. The majority of the women taking part in the marches were white.
“I am more supportive of issues of women’s rights, so I feel like it would be hypocritical to be there because I’m not taking a stance,” said Abby Frazier, a hockey player for the U.S. women’s national team. “Hopefully, we will be able to continue to change the policies that are in our power to help the next generation of women and girls. I think that’s really important to me that I’m doing this now, so when we’re in the leadership roles, it’s something we can be adamant about.”
Frazier is no stranger to political activism. The 20-year-old was part of the protests during the 2016 presidential campaign and said that she has supported Women’s March since 2017.
“I’m not ignorant,” Frazier said. “I know what is going on. My whole life has been about taking action and educating myself. That’s just what I do.”
But some athletes said that continuing activism is important because of how hard it can be to stand up and advocate for an issue. The women who were there said they have seen how difficult it is for the average woman to speak out on a hot-button issue like abortion rights.
“I know what it’s like to be one of those women that are exposed and attacked and doesn’t know how to share your voice, and so this just allows me to put all that in my history books and when I go to school and I sit on the podium I know my voice was heard,” Carly Montgomery, a cornerback for the U.S. women’s soccer team, said. “Women aren’t always out in the media, because they’re in so many other aspects of life as well, but they have to do it at some point, and they have to be there to represent their friends and their peers.”