Postgame Press: Saudi Arabia and female fans

Some big news broke in the sports world recently. With one of the craziest World Series in recent history, the NFL deadline fast approaching and Americentrism in terms of sports, this news got passed over on most American channels. In spite of this, the news was, for me, one of the biggest sports news stories of the year.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently allowed women to drive, finally listening to the awesome, persuasive PowerPoint that I put together lobbying for it in seventh grade Social Studies. This was a gigantic step for women’s rights, and the nation has kept rolling. Women are now allowed to go to sports games, starting in 2018. While the women will be segregated in a separate “family” area, it is still a major change. It is a very noticeable shift from three years ago when a woman was arrested simply for attending a soccer game.

The recent changes have been partially due to the heir apparent to the Saudi Arabian throne, Mohammed bin Salman. His policies are very progressive compared to those of his predecessors, and new policies are showing that. It is an exciting new time for women in the country.

I do not want to downplay the other new and progressive changes for women in Saudi Arabia, but this new sports policy is very special to me. The sports world is filled with competition, hyperboles and surprises, but my favorite part is the human experience that can be shared during a game. When you go to a stadium and stand next to a fellow fan, nothing else matters. All that does is that you both love the same team. What matters is that when your team hits a home run or scores a goal, you high five or hug that person. You cry together during heartbreaking losses (or heartwarming wins). Sports can be a universal language for fans, and the more people who can enjoy it, like newly allowed Saudi Arabian women, the merrier.

At the same time, being a fan is not equal for men and women. While women will be able to go to stadiums, they will be in a separate section. At the same time, even if they were integrated, their love of the game would be taken differently. I see sports as a universal language, but many men do not see it the same way. This has come to the forefront recently when Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made a comment about how funny it was to hear a woman talk about football routes. The fact of the matter is women are often looked at as less than true fans. I have seen many men explain a sport’s rules to a woman without being asked, only to find that the woman knows much more about the sport than they do. The enjoyment of sports is not discriminatory, so fans should help preserve that attitude with their actions. Women, including newly allowed Saudi Arabian women, can, and do, love sports just as much as the next fan. Keep the fan experience fun and equal for all.