ESU turned to social media to highlight and celebrate their connection to 25 year old tennis star, Jennifer Brady. However, their post spoke not to Jennifer’s success but to her father’s previous success as an ESU alumnus.
Brady is making headlines across the world after surprising spectators and the tennis community with her run of success at the Australian Open this past week.
ESU has a long history of success within their female sports and have shown that women in sports are important to the ESU community.
However, the post for Brady on Wednesday seemed to imply something different.
Rather than featuring a picture of Brady herself, the post showed her father, Pat Brady.
Heralding from Pennsylvania, Pat Brady was an All-American linebacker at ESU in 1988. This connection is both a moment of pride and honor for ESU.
The caption read, “Jennifer Brady, daughter of former ESU All-America Linebacker Pat Brady, advanced to the Australian Open semifinals last night. She has reached the semifinals in 2 of the last 3 Grand Slam events. Brady was AP Little All American 3rd team in 1988 under head coach Denny Douds.”
Yet, many viewers didn’t even read the caption, never realizing that the post was a feature for Jennifer Brady’s success.
All they saw was a picture of a football player.
The ESU Warriors’ Instagram has since attempted to rectify the post by posting another piece of Jennifer Brady with a swipe function to a picture of her father, in regards to her winning her semi-final match and getting into the Grand Final.
Although the post attempted to highlight the connection between ESU and Jennifer Brady and, ultimately, her success, it instead highlighted her father and did not achieve its desired message.
ESUniversity Instagram has yet to alter their post.
It would have taken the managers of both social medias minutes to find or edit a picture of Jennifer Brady to post.
It does not seem that ESU made any attempt to reach out to Pat Brady and asked if they had a photo of them together to post.
Female sports have been battling equality and representation across the world.
Considering the importance of media representation for females in sport, viewers of the social media post could have interpreted a male being portrayed as the reason for Jennifer Brady’s success instead of a female achieving great things.
Stand out examples are the U.S. Female soccer team who filed a lawsuit over inequitable working conditions.
Another example can be found in tennis star Serena Williams, who spoke to media representation of females during the Super Bowl a few weeks ago.
While large steps towards gender equality have been made within the sporting world, media representation is one of the areas still lacking in acknowledgement.
On Saturday, Feb. 20, Jennifer Brady faced off against Naomi Osaka in the grand final match.
Although she lost in straight sets, the world number 22 making it to the finals is a major achievement in and of itself.
Brady has taken a rather unique path on her tennis career.
She attended UCLA for four years, focusing on her collegiate career rather than her professional rankings.
Her collegiate career has clearly given her the experience to achieve success as a fresh-faced player on the professional tour.
“I wouldn’t say I’m in disbelief. I have earned the right to be sitting here, to be playing in a final,” said Jennifer Brady in her post-semi-final match interview, highlighting her unusual career path has not been without hard work.
After Serena Williams’ loss and emotional exit from the court amidst questions of retirement, she shines a light upon Brady’s success as the future of U.S. Tennis.
This post may seem like a small thing, but it represents the global issue of symbolic annihilation.
“Representation in the fictional world signifies social existence; absence means symbolic annihilation,” said George Gerbner, renowned Pennsylvania higher education professor of communication and founder of cultivation theory.
Cultivation theory, according to CommunicationTheory.org, is defined as, “people who watch television frequently are more likely to be influenced by the messages from the world of television.”
On a site such as Instagram, where pictures are the prominent source of information, a caption doesn’t deliver a message, the image does, and in this case, the image boldly spoke to male provision and value.
As a student-athlete myself, this post sent a message that the ‘value’ that my team and I have to the school is maybe one of talk and not actuality.
This issue could easily be swept under the mat, yet it is not a conversation that should be ignored.
The only way equality is achieved is through addressing situations and holding our institutions accountable.
ESU is better than this and can do better than this.
For once, it would be nice to see a female, not their male counterpart, when a female achieves success.
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