Capriati stumped when asked about Title IX

Posted: Friday, August 30, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Ask Jennifer Capriati about Title IX, and she'd rather talk about tennis.

After her 6-4, 6-2 victory Thursday over Tina Pisnik at the U.S. Open, Capriati was asked the usual questions about her opponent, the match and her game.

Then someone threw a curveball.

''President Bush has been holding town meetings across the country about Title IX,'' the reporter said. ''He's considering changing this important legislation that's helped women get involved in sports. If you could say something to President Bush, what would you say?''

The 26-year-old Capriati's reply was a stunner.

''I have no idea what Title IX is,'' she said. ''Sorry.''

Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation, wasn't shocked that Capriati knew nothing about the federal legislation mandating equal opportunity for women in college sports. The law marked its 30th anniversary last month.

''It doesn't surprise me,'' Lopiano said. ''So many of this generation of tennis players never played in college. They started young. They never played in the Title IX construct. They never ran into it.

''Any athletes who didn't come through the school system, I'd be shocked if they knew about Title IX. She's been totally sheltered from the issues for a long time.''

Chris De Maria, a spokesman for the WTA Tour, said players had been given a one-page handout on the history of Title IX and ''what it means to you as a tennis player,'' as part of a continuing distribution of information on current events or issues.

''Obviously, with the 30th anniversary, we felt it was something that could come up for discussion,'' De Maria said. ''With Title IX, you're dealing with young players who might not be aware of it.''

Lopiano thought that was the case with Capriati.

''They are all consumed with appearances, competitions and travel, and they've never focused on it,'' she said. ''Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have served on our board. When they go beyond tennis and get involved, they all of a sudden come out of their cocoons.''

Capriati said she was aware of the role played by women's tennis pioneer Billie Jean King in the women's sports movement but that she had never had ''an in-depth'' conversation with King about the issue.

''They've done a lot of things to get us on board,'' Capriati said. ''I know that and I definitely respect that. You know, they just started it and we're here to continue it.''

King thought Capriati's remarks were an indication that young people need to be educated about Title IX.

''Jennifer's comments today present a great opportunity for us to teach more young women and men about the important benefits of Title IX and the impact it has, not only in the world of sports, but our society in general,'' King said in a statement. ''We need to expose more people to the work being done by the Women's Sports Foundation, the National Women's Law Center and other organizations who support the true meaning of Title IX.

''Even though Title IX was enacted 30 years ago, we can never stop teaching people about the importance of it.''

Capriati and King had a high-profile feud last summer during Fed Cup competition. Capriati left the United States team after King refused to let her coach join her in practice.

King, the American Fed Cup captain, said Capriati repeatedly broke team rules by being late and not traveling with the team. ''The issue was the coaches cannot practice with the players because it's a team event that week and I can't have four coaches and four players on the court,'' King said.

Lindsay Davenport -- who, like Capriati, turned pro as a teen-ager -- called Title IX a huge step to give women equality in collegiate sports. She also noted the recent controversy in which quota aspects of the legislation were blamed for cutbacks in men's sports.

''I don't like the (law) when it forces other men's sports in colleges to shut down because they don't have the money to keep programs going,'' Davenport said. ''I don't think that's what it's for.

''You definitely want women to get as many opportunities as they can in college sports. They probably could tweak the rule a little bit, but I think overall the idea was to promote women's sports. It's been great. In some areas maybe it could be changed a little.''

In June, education secretary Rod Paige told a Senate committee that a panel of sports professionals and educators will examine ways to improve Title IX.

The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics is being formed in the wake of a lawsuit that argues that the law helps women's sports at the expense of programs for men.

The 15-member commission will be headed by Cynthia Cooper, former WNBA player and coach, and Ted Leland, director of athletics at Stanford University. The commission will submit recommendations to Paige by Jan. 31.

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