Monday, December 29, 2008

Women Ski Jumpers Sue for Inclusion in Olympic Games

Though outside the scope of Title IX, the Title IX community may be interested in the pending lawsuit to include women's ski jumping in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Some of my favorite women's sports blogs have been posting on this for a while, and All Things Considered covered it in its broadcast tonight. Ski jumping is the only Olympic sport that excludes women, so 10 female ski jumpers, including American champion Lindsey Van, have sued the Vancouver Organizing Committee, arguing that as a government entity, it must comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, their equivalent of our constitution's equal protection clause. In American constitutional law, the US Olympic Committee is not a state actor (thus, the USOC was immune to equal protection challenge of its prohibition on the "Gay Olympics") but I don't know if Canadian courts have similar precedent or whether they are more likely to impose constitutional requirements on their Olympic entities. But if the charter does apply to VANOC, it seems unlikely that it could justify the exclusion of women by simply evoking the fact that the IOC does not sanction women's ski jumping. To use a Title IX analogy, that would be like letting colleges that are subject to Title IX get away with gender inequalities by blaming the policies of NCAA. An entity's obligation to comply with nondiscrimination law (by virtue of being a state actor in VANOC's case, or by virtue of accepting federal funding in the Title IX case) is not negated by that entity's association with another entity that is outside the scope of that law.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how the case resolves. Maybe the plaintiffs will win, and the Americans will rock at women's ski jumping, and colleges across the country will start adding women's ski jump teams to comply with Title IX?

[thanks SJE]