Title IX Event Celebrates Milwaukee Athletes

Oct 23, 2017

Earlier this month on Lake Effect, we spoke with the former commissioner of the Women’s National Basketball Association who will speak at an event this week in Milwaukee on the legacy of Title IX, 45 years after the landmark legislation was enacted.

READ: Former WNBA Commissioner Donna Orender Speaks on Title IX's Value, 45 Years Later

Orender's experience is one of many influenced by Title IX. The legislation has had a significant impact on millions of people in the academic setting - especially in the world of athletics, where women and girls now have many more opportunities than they had a half-century ago.

Two Milwaukee women whose experiences in sports were shaped by Title IX include Nicki Barnes and Bernell Hooker. Barnes played volleyball for four years at the Division I level at Marquette starting in 2013, and Hooker has been in basketball for four decades - most recently as the owner and president of the semi-pro Milwaukee Aces. She is also founder and CEO of the nonprofit Images of Us Sports. Both women will be among the athletes honored on Wednesday at a Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee event marking the 45th anniversary of Title IX.

Hooker's first played on an official women's basketball team in high school, which lead to earning a college athletic scholarship. Hooker went on to her first coaching job at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

"I've seen a lot of the changes from me growing up, but what I've noticed much of is how the sport changed, the competition changed, the opportunities to be able to have the gym more....back then it was a fight to get in the gym," she recalls.

Hooker says young women need to understand how sports began and just how young Title IX is. "In (Barnes') day and age, sports is a given. Back in my day, we didn't take it for granted and we knew the struggles. But just to see it grow and seeing the accomplishments of young women nowadays is just awesome to see."

Barnes admits that she didn't know much about Title IX growing up and took participating in equal opportunity sports for granted. "I don’t think I ever thought too much about the struggles that women before me have had - even my mom’s age, growing up, and younger even," she says. "I definitely did not have as much of an appreciation for their struggles as I should have."

However, learning more about it on its 45th anniversary has changed Barnes' perspective: "By no means has Title IX run its course, the problems are not solved. But I think just the great experience I've had my whole life supports speaks volume to the word its done."

Barnes and Hooker share more of their experiences and outlook on Title IX with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich: