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Old 11-07-2019, 04:41 PM
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Are women allowed to try out for major league sports?


This is a question to which I really haven't been able to find a definitive answer yet. Major league sports remain in practice sexually segregated, and the Big Four North American leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL), as well as the CFL in Canada, have to my knowledge only male players, with the well-known (and so far unique???) exception of Manon Rheaume, who played a few exhibition games as a goalie with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992 and 1993. So, is it only the case that women don't succeed at tryouts, or do any of these five leagues (or their respective teams) actually have regulations barring women from even trying?

And would such regulations even be legal?

Do women actually try out for these teams, and if not, why? Do they simply prefer to play on women's teams? Do they assume they won't succeed? Or do they try but routinely fail? Or do they believe that they won't be allowed to try out? And is that the case?

Today there are women firefighters, women police officers, women bodybuilders, even women in infantry combat roles. So what exactly is preventing women from playing alongside men in major league sports?
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Old 11-07-2019, 04:47 PM
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I don't believe that any of them have rules prohibiting women. It's very likely more a question of whether such a tryout would be more than a publicity stunt.

In the case of the NFL, Carli Lloyd (who plays on the US national women's soccer team) apparently had several offers for tryouts (and even getting to play in preseason games) from NFL teams last summer, after hitting a 55 yard field goal while visiting an Eagles/Ravens joint practice during training camp.
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Old 11-07-2019, 04:52 PM
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There was a female kicker in the NFL, I believe. I can't find a cite. But, in the 90s maybe? Anyone know?
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Old 11-07-2019, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Beckdawrek View Post
There was a female kicker in the NFL, I believe. I can't find a cite. But, in the 90s maybe? Anyone know?
That was just a movie.
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Old 11-07-2019, 04:58 PM
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Oh, okay. I buy that.
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Old 11-07-2019, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by The Maple Leaf View Post
So what exactly is preventing women from playing alongside men in major league sports?
I forgot to address this. The conventional wisdom (even among most female athletes and their supporters) is that the top tier of female athletes can't compete with the top tier of male athletes. This isn't about sexism; this is about body proportions, muscle mass, etc.

The US women's soccer team, mentioned above, is very likely the best women's team in the world. That team won the gold medal in the 2016 Olympics; three months before the Olympics, that same team lost to the US Mens U-17 team (that is, the top male US players under age 17), by a score of 8-2. The current female world record holder for the marathon, Brigid Kosegi, ran it in 2:14:04, or about 10% slower than the male record holder, Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:39).
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Old 11-07-2019, 05:01 PM
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BTW, there have been several female kickers in minor-league arena football; the most successful one has been Julie Harshbarger, who played college soccer, and has kicked for several Chicago-area indoor football team since then.
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Old 11-07-2019, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Beckdawrek View Post
There was a female kicker in the NFL, I believe. I can't find a cite. But, in the 90s maybe? Anyone know?
Not only has there never been a female NFL player but only once has there been a female who tried out.

Lauren Silberman
She was indeed a kicker. It did not go well at all. It wasn’t in the 90s, it was only 6 years ago.

But yes, she’s the only woman to ever try out. Note that these “regional combines” are open to anyone who can pay the fee ($275 for kickers and punters) but there’s nothing stopping another woman from trying other than a lack of interest, or the knowledge that she doesn’t stand a chance. That’s the case for most men too; only the tiniest fraction of the most talented/athletic of men have a chance either.
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Old 11-07-2019, 05:09 PM
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Atamasama beat me to it - Silberman tried out for the NFL, as a kicker, years ago. It was an absolute dismal failure of a showing.
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Old 11-07-2019, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by The Maple Leaf View Post
Today there are women firefighters, women police officers, women bodybuilders, even women in infantry combat roles. So what exactly is preventing women from playing alongside men in major league sports?
The difference is that in those occupations, you can use technology to compensate somewhat for physical differences (a smaller, weaker soldier with a gun can kill a big strong enemy soldier from a distance) and also that those often aren't directly 1 vs. 1 competitive in the same way that professional sports are.


In professional sports, it is simply "my body vs. your body." A woman who tries to play cornerback in the NFL and guard an opposing wide receiver such as Julio Jones 1-on-1 would be absolute toast. She would be unable to keep pace at all; she would be allowing big plays or TDs all day long. A woman who tries to play on the offensive or defensive line in the NFL would be getting trucked and run over by opposing male linemen all game long. It is no contest.

One sport in which a woman might be able to compete with the men in would be MLB baseball, because it's a sport that is fundamentally different than, say, hockey, basketball or football. But there would still be questions about her arm strength.

Last edited by Velocity; 11-07-2019 at 05:16 PM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 06:46 PM
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You might be able to find a woman who can field as well as a man, but you're not going to find any who can either bat or pitch like one. And no team is going to hire a fielder who can't hit.
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Old 11-07-2019, 06:59 PM
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The difference is that in those occupations, you can use technology to compensate somewhat for physical differences (a smaller, weaker soldier with a gun can kill a big strong enemy soldier from a distance) and also that those often aren't directly 1 vs. 1 competitive in the same way that professional sports are.


In professional sports, it is simply "my body vs. your body." A woman who tries to play cornerback in the NFL and guard an opposing wide receiver such as Julio Jones 1-on-1 would be absolute toast. She would be unable to keep pace at all; she would be allowing big plays or TDs all day long. A woman who tries to play on the offensive or defensive line in the NFL would be getting trucked and run over by opposing male linemen all game long. It is no contest.

One sport in which a woman might be able to compete with the men in would be MLB baseball, because it's a sport that is fundamentally different than, say, hockey, basketball or football. But there would still be questions about her arm strength.
Additionally, those occupations have a lot more people than professional sports. If professional hockey needed to hire 10,000 people, it would likely hire some women. The top woman won't beat the top man for a spot on a hockey team, but once teams are looking at the top woman vs the 3,000th best man, women will start to look pretty competitive*.

*The numbers I used are likely unrealistic, but hopefully my point is clear.
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