Imagine if some of the most iconic moments in sports history never came to be: members of the USA soccer team ripping off their jerseys in pure joy after winning the 1999 Women’s World Cup, the Williams sisters dominating the U.S. Open in 2001, the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team winning an unprecedented 90 consecutive games—the longest streak in both men’s and women’s NCAA basketball.
These big points in sports owe thanks to a 37-word amendment, Title IX, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. While ESPN commemorated that anniversary with wall-to-wall coverage on its website of the gains women have made, it also realized the need to keep the conversation going.
“It shouldn’t only be anniversaries,” says Libby Geist, associate director of development at ESPN Films. “We should always be highlighting women.”
“The result of that yearlong reflection is ESPNw and ESPN Films’s Nine for IXdocuseries, which airs July 2 and continues throughout the summer. The nine episodes, all directed by women, feature some instantly recognizable names: Venus Williams, Pat Summitt, and Mia Hamm. Others are harder to place, like sports journalist Lisa Olson, who fought sexual harassment by New England Patriots’ football players; late scuba diver Audrey Mestre, whose push to complete the deepest dive ever led to her death; and runner Mary Decker, whose promising Olympic dreams were nixed because of a collision with another racer.
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