On Monday, I asked the Twitterverse (Xverse?) where people could watch the Lynx playoff game tonight. I also put the call out in our daily newsletter. It was partially selfish. I have been a Lynx fan for years. I was a season ticket holder when the team was racking up championships with Maya Moore, Sylvia Fowles, Lindsey Whalen, Rebecca Brunson, and Seimone Augustus. But I was also curious. How many local businesses would be showing the game with sound on? A major Minnesota team was playing their third game in the WNBA playoffs. It’s a big deal.
Crickets, folks. Crickets. No Southwest Minneapolis businesses responded. Black Hart in St. Paul was the only one to respond. Now imagine if the Timberwolves were in the playoffs. How many establishments could you walk into where the game would just be on?
“It makes me so angry,” Jillian Hiscock said to me over the phone on Tuesday afternoon. Hiscock is the owner of the soon-to-be new women’s sports bar A Bar of Their Own (in homage to the film "A League of Their Own").
“It feels like being a fan of women’s sports is always an afterthought,” Hiscock said.
It’s not just a problem for Lynx fans, Hiscock explained. The straw that broke the camel’s back for her was trying to watch the University of Minnesota’s women’s softball team national tournament at a sports bar near the university this spring. She had to ask to turn the game on. The establishment had more than 20 televisions and the bar didn’t even think to have the game on until she asked.
Not only does this make it hard to be a diehard women’s sports fan, wanting to watch the game in community with others, it also creates a space where becoming a casual women’s sports fan is nearly impossible.
“I can go to a sports bar and watch a [men’s] game or five [men’s] games with other people as a casual fan,” Hiscock said. “We aren’t creating opportunities to create that space for casual fans for women’s sports.”
Equity in sports goes beyond pay, Hiscock explained, as she started rattling off stunning research about branding and marketing to women’s sports fans.
The women’s sports fan base is growing exponentially but most businesses are ignoring them. Turns out, women’s sports fans are extremely brand loyal. “The Growth in the Women’s Sport Community” report by The Fan Project found “fierce loyalty” to brands that advertised with women’s sports teams. Women sports fans notice when brands invest in their teams and will in turn invest in those brands. The Minnesota Aurora women’s soccer team was noted as a local example of an “emerging market” for businesses to tap into as well.
Until A Bar of Their Own opens, women’s sports fans will continue complaining to each other over the phone and scraping together places to watch games in community.
“It demeans women’s sports fandom,” Hiscock said, about our shared experiences. “It’s another thing we are not supposed to ask questions about.”
The location of A Bar of Their Own isn’t established yet but it will be in the Twin Cities. The bar is launching crowdfunding soon and those who want to stay updated on the bar’s progress can follow its social media channels and sign up for the email list, all available on the bar’s website.