Earlier this month, Muffet McGraw, who guided Notre Dame to this year’s NCAA final as the defending champion, declared she will never hire male assistant coaches. McGraw, who needs 77 victories to reach 1,000 for her career, admitted she has not done so since 2012.
“People are hiring too many men,” McGraw told the website Think Progress. “Women need the opportunity. They deserve the opportunity.”
During this year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four in Tampa, McGraw expounded on her views in a press conference April 4:
Men run the world. Men have the power. Men make the decisions. It’s always the man who is the stronger one. And when these girls are coming out, who are they looking up to tell them that’s not the way it has to be? And where better to do that than in sports? … So, yes, when you look at men’s basketball and 99 percent of the jobs go to men, why shouldn’t 100 or 99 percent of the jobs in women’s basketball go to women?
Muffet McGraw: A voice for women.
— NCAA WBB (@ncaawbb) April 4, 2019
Now, suppose an African-American man with impeccable qualifications and potential wanted to apply for a vacancy on McGraw’s staff. Would McGraw, who has two black women as assistant coaches, even bother looking at the resume? If she refused, would the applicant have a case for a civil rights suit against Notre Dame for sex discrimination?
When Inclusion Actually Means Bigotry
McGraw’s updated version of “separate but equal” for the sexes illustrates the philosophy behind her views: The “progressive” emphasis on “inclusion” and “diversity” actually encourages bigotry and retribution. It is not designed to fight bigotry but to redirect it against supposedly “privileged” groups—in this case, men. It represents the ultimate in identity politics.
McGraw’s other comments during her press conference reflect her embrace of identity politics to the point where “equality” essentially means entitlement that only quotas can satisfy.
“We’ve had a number of women running for office and winning, and still we have 23 percent of the House and 25 percent of the Senate,” she said. “I’m tired of the novelty of ‘the first female governor of the state,’ ‘the first female African-American mayor of this city.’ When is it going to become the norm instead of the exception?”
She continued, “We don’t have enough female role models. We don’t have enough visible leaders. We don’t have enough women in power. Girls are socialized to know when they come out, gender roles are already set.” Toward the end of her press conference, McGraw justified her refusal to hire male assistants by saying, “This is the path for you to take to get to the point where, in this country, we have 50 percent of women in power.”
Strange Parallels to Those Blocking Jackie Robinson
McGraw’s opinions inversely reflect the kind of bigotry that prevailed in baseball before Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. For the previous six decades, African-Americans had been barred from playing in the major leagues, although no formal written ban existed.
Even before Robinson donned the Dodgers’ uniform, opposition mobilized. When Robinson signed in October 1945, a former infielder named Billy Werber, a Duke graduate, called Brooklyn General Manager Branch Rickey to say: “A large segment of the ballplayers who contribute to the success of major-league baseball are of Southern ancestry or actually live in the South. To attempt to force them to accept socially and to play with a Negro or Negroes is highly distasteful.”
In 1946, after Robinson scored in the first inning of a spring-training game, a Florida policeman ordered him to leave the field or face arrest. When Robinson’s minor league manager asked the policeman what was wrong, author Roger Kahn recorded his response in, “Rickey & Robinson: The True, Untold Story of the Integration of Baseball”: “We ain’t having n—–s mix with white boys in this town. You can’t change our way of living. N—–s and whites, they can’t sit together and they can’t play together and you know d-mn well they can’t get married together.”
During spring training in 1947, one of the Dodgers’ best players, a former batting champion named Fred “Dixie” Walker, circulated a petition among his teammates declaring their refusal to play with Robinson. When manager Leo Durocher heard about the petition, he called a team meeting at 1 a.m., praised Robinson’s ability, and told the instigators to use their petition as a suppository.
That May, rumors circulated about National League players threatening to strike if Robinson played. National League President Ford Frick, who eventually became the major leagues’ commissioner, promised to suspend striking players with this rebuke: “This is the United States of America, and one citizen has as much right to play as another.” If that holds true for athletes, why not for coaches?
Sex and Skin Color Don’t Matter to This Job, Skill Does
Even in 1953—when such future Hall of Famers as Robinson and Roy Campanella played for the Dodgers while Willie Mays and Monte Irvin represented the cross-town New York Giants—resistance to black players persisted. During that spring training, two of the Dodgers’ rookies, infielder Jim Gilliam and Cuban outfielder Sandy Amoros, threatened what sportswriter John Lardner called the “50 percent color line.” Teams could field four black players out of the nine in their lineup but a fifth would break that line.
With Gilliam and Amoros possibly joining Robinson, Campanella, and pitcher Joe Black on the field at any one time, the threat was real. In other words, the “50 percent color line” established an irrational, artificial quota to protect a particular group.
In describing that spring training in his book, “The Boys of Summer,” Kahn mentioned one of the Dodgers’ utility infielders, Bobby Morgan, who pointed at a black minor leaguer and shouted, “Hey, how come he ain’t a Dodger? He’s dark enough.” An unnamed reserve outfielder added, “Yeah. They’re going to run us all right out of here.”
Compare the angry sense of entitlement those white baseball players expressed to McGraw’s policy of not hiring male assistant coaches. Compare the perceived necessity for a quota that protected white players to McGraw’s demand for women to fill 50 percent of powerful positions in this country. Notice any fundamental difference?
Some would argue that McGraw wishes to increase opportunities for “her people.” But major league teams used the same rationale to increase opportunities for white players at the expense of those with darker skin (and immense talent).
Some would argue that McGraw is fighting for an under-represented group. But ultimately, rationales provide nothing but excuses. In the final analysis, no moral difference exists between a female coach saying she would never hire a male assistant, and a white man saying that he would never hire a black. Both are unjust.