The Mavericks announced their annual ladies only "Mavericks 101" event on Wednesday, designed to teach interested female fans more about basketball. Basketball Twitter promptly lost its shit.
Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don't Lie rounded up some of the reactions:
There's a way to cater to new fans - even specifically women if you want - without making the pitch gendered. We don't all like pink.— Kayla Knapp (@KaylaKnappFOX) August 31, 2016
I understand why they, and many others who tweeted about this, feel that way. The Mavericks haven't earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to advertising to the team's female sports fans, and they deserve to be called out over this. While the event name is much improved, they still couldn't resist making the text of this announcement pink, rather than a color that has anything to do with the team's color scheme.
Still, I'd like to make the case for the important role women-only events can play -- and for withholding judgment and waiting to see whether the Mavericks get this right.
While there are a lot of women who love sports and plenty of them who write about it, women are underrepresented both as fans and as writers. Teams should be trying to get them more involved! And contrary to some of the reactions on Twitter, the Mavericks aren't suggesting that women are the only people who need a Basketball 101. They just seem to be suggesting that some women may enjoy learning more about sports in an environment where they're less likely to be talked down to or hit on.
When it comes to execution, many team-sponsored women-only events and Ladies Nights Out are unfortunately reminiscent of this Houston Astros fiasco, but there are example of such events that are genuinely supportive of female fans and that take outreach to an underserved audience seriously. Jessica Luther wrote about her positive experience at a UT-sponsored football event in Austin. If the Mavericks take this opportunity to provide a supportive and enriching opportunity for women who love basketball to learn a little more about it and meet some of their favorite players, that's seems like a great thing for both the team and the fanbase.
As a woman and a serious sports fan, I'm always grateful to have advocates, but I'm a lot more impressed by female bylines than by Tweet round-ups. A well-executed outreach event could be just the kind of thing that encourages more women who like sports to take that next step.
Editor's note: we originally misidentified this event as formerly being called "Hoops and Heels." It has never been called that. That is actually only the name of the "lady MFFLs" fan club. We're sorry for the error.