A Visit with Ann Meyers Drysdale

Ann Meyers Drysdale, vice president of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury, paid a visit to Allstate Arena, Friday night, while the Sky hosted the Mercury. One of basketball’s iconic figures, Drysdale chatted with reporters, visited with fans and signed her new book, “You Let Some GIRL Beat You?”

Drysdale, the widow of the late Dodgers great Don Drysdale, was in high school when Title IX quietly passed as part of the Education Amendments Act in 1972. “It didn’t happen overnight,” Drysdale said. “Here we are on the 40th anniversary of Title IX and we’re still not equal on a lot of things.”

The events of Drysdale’s life and her unparalleled accomplishments helped raise awareness for unfair practices toward women in both education and athletics. Not long after the amendment was ratified, Drysdale became the first woman to accept a four-year athletic scholarship at UCLA in 1975. The following year, women’s basketball was introduced to the Olympics, where Drysdale helped Team U.S.A. earn the silver medal. And in 1978, she was selected with the No. 1 pick of the inaugural Women’s Professional Basketball League – the first such pro league for women in the U.S.

Drysdale admits her meteoric rise couldn’t have been possible without the aid of women who pioneered the cause before her. “I do feel blessed to be in the right place at the right time,” she said. “There were so many other women that opened up the doors for me and I don’t think they’re given enough credit because people in the media didn’t write about them. I was fortunate enough where people wrote about me and know who I am.”

Yet Drysdale insists the acceptance of Title IX and women’s role in sports has been slow to say the least. “It’s been a process,” she said. “There are a lot of schools that are still not in compliance with Title IX. Men felt their programs were dismantled because of it. Women today still face barriers.”

Drysdale recalled several instances in which she personally felt limited by others who refused to allow girls to play with boys – even if she was better than them. In the fifth grade, Drysdale wanted to join an after-school basketball program that was created for boys. There was no such program for the girls, but Drysdale felt she could play with the boys. “My parents had to go through the school district, the principal and the parents to get the OK so that I could play, too,” she said. “You come across people who say you can’t do it, or you’re not good enough. Women have to find out that there are still battles to be won.”

Perhaps Drysdale’s most publicized incident came in 1979, when she signed a contract with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers for $50,000. Though she was eventually cut from the roster without playing a game, Drysdale had already stirred the pot and raised questions as to whether qualified women should be allowed in the men’s league. “The owners felt it would generate publicity,” she said. “A lot of people in the NBA felt it was not the right thing to do. When you’re the first one, you’re under a microscope, but I hope it opens doors for other people.”

Drysdale is pleased with what the WNBA has done for Title IX as it gives hope for equality between men and women. “The WNBA is a great avenue now for young girls to compete as professional athletes. They can go overseas and make money,” she said. Drysdale says there is still much work to be done to bridge the gap between men’s and women’s professional leagues, including salary differences and assuring that positions are filled equally with qualified men and women. That divide is the reason Drysdale decided to come forth with her book as a loud voice on behalf of the women’s cause. “My stories coincide with Title IX; it encompasses so much of my life,” she said. “It’s become a calling card for women in sports. Things have gotten better, but attitudes have to continue to change.”