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Patricia A. Cervenka, Free Shoes for Primary and Secondary Schools: Playing by the Rules of Title IX, 17 Marq. Sports L. Rev. 285 (2006)

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17 Marquette Sports Law Review 285 (2006)


Many credit Title IX with providing opportunities for girls to participate in athletics in greater numbers. The National Federation of State High School Associations show that the number of girls participating increased from 294,015 in 1971-1972 to 2,908,390 in 2004-2005, almost a tenfold increase. In the same time period the number of boys participating increased by 443,000. Girls participation has dramatically increased so the big picture is focused. Now attention is being drawn to some of the smaller aspects of Title IX compliance.

Shoe deals sidestep rules on equality in schools. Thus ran the headline in the Oregonian. The journalist went on say that, Nike, Adidas and Reebok sponsor about 300 high school basketball teams nationwide... about 75 per cent of the high school teams sponsored by Nike... are boys teams... That figure is driven by a market in which boys buy far more basketball merchandise than girls do. A follow-up story appeared the following Sunday telling readers that When private donors give shoes or other perks to boys teams... the school 'shall ensure that teams of the other sex receive equivalent benefits or services.'

Another story appeared in the Indianapolis Star on July 6, 2006. It became known that one of the prep basketball stars who was in Indianapolis for the Nike basketball camp because he is a future pro has shoes and gear provided by Nike for his Medford Oregon high school team. However, the girls' teams at the same school have to pay for their own shoes which sell for as much as $150. The mother of one of the girls has complained, was rebuffed by the school officials so she took her story to the media to bring attention to the situation.

When a company offers to give a school's basketball team free shoes or any other kind of equipment or gear, it may seem like a welcome gift. First, the gift would save the players or the school money because neither has to buy the shoes, uniforms or other equipment that has been donated. Second, the gift may be in recognition that the school's athletic program is successful and has star players that are of interest to the donor company. The athlete may provide an endorsement in the future, but in the course of their high school or college career, they would be wearing or using the company's specific brand.

But what happens when the company gives the gift only to the girls' team or only to the boys' team and not the other gender in either case? The statutes and regulations of Title IX step in and give guidance to primary and secondary schools. This article will consider the applicable statutory and regulatory language concerning gifts of shoes and other equipment; the administrative policies and judicial interpretations that have been applied to the statutory and regulatory language; and the efforts that have been made to educate the administrators of school districts, booster organizations and parents about gifts of free gear and equipment.

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