Who would’ve thought a short video could inspire so much change? That’s what Leffell High School senior, Nathaniel Yellin, wonders when recalling the inspiration for his gender-bias-monitoring app, SIDELINED. The TikTok by Oregon’s NCAA forward, Sedona Prince, compares the men’s expansive weight room to the women’s singular weight rack at the 2021 March Madness tournament. After seeing the massive disparity between men’s and women’s basketball facilities, Yellin “was inspired to question where else are female athletes being sidelined.”
His forward-thinking app allows users to interact with eye-catching visualizations of data, search specific terms and players, and view word clouds that help illustrate the extent to which gender bias exists in sports media coverage of D1 basketball.
To build his app, Yellin first examined 1,700 ESPN articles for signs of gender bias in NCAA basketball. He found that, at the league level, female players were featured significantly less than male players. Additionally, there was a total of 3,178 articles on the men’s homepages on ESPN.com compared to nearly half that (1,855) on the women’s homepages.
Next, Yellin assigned adjectives with a number value to determine which basketball positions had the highest sentiment score. Results showed that male centers had the highest sentiment score, and female centers had the lowest. “[This] position is usually associated with being strong and physical,” says Yellin. “These traits are not usually [attributed] to women, and that is affecting the perception of them in the media.”
SIDELINED allows users to observe where gender bias exists for their favorite teams and players. “[This] is very important,” Yellin says, “because it allows coaches, athletic departments, fans, and journalists to…explore for themselves this gender bias.” The impact of SIDELINED is also significant for individual players who rely on media coverage to publicize their name, image, and likeness and help them capitalize on their hard work and success.
Yellin says being aware of gender bias is especially important because “interest in [women’s sport] is at an all-time high.” He notes that the 2023 March Madness championship game was the most watched women’s college basketball game to date, with an average of 9.92 million viewers (according to ESPN).
Looking ahead, Yellin hopes to increase his data pool with information from more recent seasons and other websites and expand the app to include other collegiate sports and divisions. He eagerly awaits next year’s March Madness tournament when he’ll participate in a bracket pool of his family, friends, and community. “[It’s] the best time of the year,” Yellin says.