Late last month, we at the Herald were jolted when a senior at Kennedy High School, in Bellmore, called on school officials — and the local media — to stop referring to girls’ sports teams at Kennedy as the “Lady Cougars.”
The student, 17-year-old Rachel Nossen, of Merrick, wrote an op-ed essay for her school newspaper, The Cougar Crier, and it certainly caught our attention. Throughout our newspaper group, which encompasses 18 editions on the north and south shores of Nassau County, we decided to drop the use of “Lady.”
Nossen was right to argue that the term diminishes the accomplishments of female athletes. Lady is a term of a bygone era when women were expected to be prim and proper and quiet, not the accomplished and fierce competitors they have become since Title IX was enacted in 1972, prohibiting sex discrimination in the schools. According to Title IX, if there is a boys’ team at a school, there must be a girls’ team. Up until then, many, if not most, schools did not have competitive girls’ athletic programs.
Our editorial board gathered to figure out how “Lady” came into our sports-reporting lexicon, and concluded it was simply a matter of tradition. As we have learned in recent months and years, however, we need to look critically at our traditions to ensure they are in sync with modern thinking.
Use of “Lady” when referring to girls’ sports teams is clearly out of step with 2020 culture, and so we will stop using it, except when it is part of an official team name.