The year of 2015 was a very unique one from a historical standpoint within sports and for social issues. The year started on a solemn note with the January passing of longtime sportscaster Stuart Scott, who died after a long and public bout with cancer. In November, the attacks in Paris garnered strong reaction throughout the world, including the sports world. There were significant achievements on the fields of play such as the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and the incredible year by tennis great Serena Williams. However, there were even more significant stories that occurred in 2015 that spoke to how American society has changed or remained the same. Here are the top five stories of 2015 in no particular order:
-The highly anticipated Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight highlights incredibly active sports weekend. The fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally took place on May 2, 2015 and was a contrast in boxing styles and boxing personalities. The bout expectedly shattered records for the amount of Pay-Per-View buys. While the fight ultimately disappointed, there were several other events like the Kentucky Derby, NFL Draft, and NBA Playoffs all that happened during the same weekend which was also measured through numerous social media outlets.
-Caitlyn Jenner opens up conversation on gender identity. Former Olympic gold medalist then-Bruce Jenner had a TV interview with journalist Diane Sawyer that was viewed by millions and millions of people in which Jenner opened up about his life and that transitioning into a woman and has dealt with gender identity issues since his youth. Now as Caitlyn Jenner, her life and openness with her decisions as a public figure has opened up more public conversations about transgender issues and gender identity.
-The liberties of college student-athletes remain in question. In January, the NCAA announced that schools and universities will be able to give their athletes the full cost of attendance as part of a full athletics scholarship beginning Aug. 1, and those scholarships cannot be revoked for athletics reasons. However, the full cost of attendance measure that was passed by the Power 5 conferences of the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, ACC, and PAC 12 at the NCAA Convention in January offers up as many questions as it does solutions to a problem. During the year, court cases about what student-athletes should be compensated continued with victories on behalf of student-athletes and for the NCAA. On college campuses, students and student-athletes approached the important issue of on-campus racism with high profile instances on the campuses of the University of Missouri and the University of Oklahoma. The lives of the athletes in college and universities are anything but normal and 2015 reflected that.
-Athletes and sports figures approach issue of police profiling and police brutality. During 2014, various athletes from all types of sports began speaking out on social issues including the issue of police brutality and police violence against people of color. The issues of police violence and profiling remained a significant issue in America in 2015 including in Maryland following the death of Baltimore native Freddie Gray while in Baltimore Police Department custody. The riots in Baltimore that followed resembled many that happen following sporting events. Athletes also found themselves targets of police violence and profiling during 2015 showing that fame, fortune, and prestige do not completely shield athletes of color from mistreatment from the police.
-Women obliterate sports barriers in male dominated positions. One of the incredible occurrences that happened in 2015 was the numerous breakthroughs women had in positions generally dominated in professional sports by men. Former WNBA star Becky Hammon became the first female head coach in summer league history and led her team to a championship. Jen Welter made NFL history with the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL preseason as a coaching intern. Basketball legend Nancy Lieberman joined Hammon in the NBA as an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings. There was significant breakthroughs in areas other than coaching as Sarah Thomas became the NFL’s first female official, Jessica Mendoza became the first woman to broadcast an MLB game for ESPN, and Stephanie Ready became the first woman to hold the position of full-time NBA game analyst for a team’s local broadcast as analyst for the Charlotte Hornets.These women showed in 2015 that they can succeed in male-dominated fields as millions of women do in other professional arenas.