Brett Kavanaugh is a girls’ basketball coach.
He’s also Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee. While the White House has refused to disclose more than 100,000 documents that would reveal Kavanaugh’s opinions, he has consistently sided with corporations over American citizens, threatening the viability of environmental, civil and women’s rights.
But I digress, because if the confirmation process that started last Tuesday reveals anything (which Kavanaugh has made sure isn’t much), it’s that he and his Senate supporters want to remind us first and foremost that he is a basketball coach to his two daughters.
So I am going to take a page from the Republican handbook — and assess him as a basketball coach.
In his opening speech, he described the importance of Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in sports, for his daughters.
He described the girls he coached as “awesome” and “tough as nails.” Coaching gave him the opportunity to be a beneficial influence, to provide “a word of discipline delivered in the spirit of love.” Parents have championed him as a person and coach.
But for all his positive recommendations, I am calling a technical foul for his failure to safeguard women.
Without even stepping on the (Supreme) court, Kavanaugh has demonstrated unsportsmanlike conduct.
At best, it’s a subtle hostility toward women. At worst, it’s a perspective that could dismantle our most basic of rights.
Demonstrated by his vague answers to Senate questioning, refusal to unequivocally state his opinion on controversial issues and past court decisions is an inkling to take autonomy away from women.
There is an irony here.
Men such as Kavanaugh use sports to teach young women important values. Values such as strength, hard work and confidence that, as Kavanaugh stated, “translates into confidence elsewhere in life.” Sports are an instrument to empower women.
Yet, on and off their respective courts, too many women face an archaic system of sexism handed to them by men. It’s a rhetoric that fosters growth within a defined path that men have paved for women, one where deviations are punished through social norms.
The same rhetoric was present when the U.S. women’s national soccer team had to sue the U.S. Soccer Federation over pay discrimination in 2016, highlighting that, while the women’s national team brought in more money and popularity, the players were paid four times less than their male counterparts.
It’s the same rhetoric that was present at Serena Williams’ heated dispute with the umpire at the 2018 U.S. Open final.
Most dangerously, it’s the same rhetoric that was present when USA Gymnastics was supposed to be protecting young girls from Larry Nassar.
And it’s the same rhetoric that is present when reproductive freedoms are men’s to take away, but only women’s to fight for.
When men refuse to unequivocally uphold the protection of women, slights persist. More grotesquely, they become precedent.
After being asked by Sen. Ted Cruz as to what he’s learned from being a coach, Kavanaugh stated that his most important lesson — and favorite part about coaching — was the responsibility that comes with the influence he can have on his impressionable players.
I didn’t hate his answer — and as a woman who competed in sports throughout her childhood under male coaches, I appreciated it. But I am not here to, no pun intended, judge Kavanaugh as a father, coach or athletic director.
He is asking for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court that will give him much more influence — not only over the girls on his basketball team, but on all American men and women.
It’s not dramatic to say that the lives of women, especially poor women from underrepresented minority groups, are at stake in this confirmation hearing.
If Kavanaugh is going to exploit his role as a basketball coach to appeal to women, he needs to reveal his uncensored opinions on issues that affect women — not only reproductive rights, but also gun rights, health care and labor unions.
Until then, he needs to stay off the (Supreme) court. I’ll give him the basketball one back.
Alicia Sadowski covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].