Watch Nine for IX
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Nine for IX was a documentary series created by ESPN in 2013 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX, a landmark law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Each of the nine documentaries in the series explored the achievements, struggles, and impact of women in sports, from trailblazers like Billie Jean King and Pat Summitt to unsung heroes like a women's rugby team in war-torn Afghanistan.
One of the standout episodes of Nine for IX focused on three American athletes who dominated their respective sports in the 1980s but also faced controversies, setbacks, and comebacks that tested their resolve and resilience. The athletes were Brandi Chastain, Ann Meyers, and Mary Decker Slaney, who shared their candid and emotional stories of triumph and tragedy in a male-dominated world.
Brandi Chastain is best known for scoring the game-winning penalty kick in the 1999 Women's World Cup final and celebrating by taking off her jersey in a moment of pure joy and liberation. But before that iconic moment, Chastain had to endure years of discrimination and doubt as a female soccer player. Born in California in 1968, Chastain played soccer from a young age and excelled at it, but often had to fight for recognition and resources.
In the documentary, Chastain revealed that she was the only girl on a boys' team and that she had to wear a boy's uniform and cut her hair short to avoid criticism and ridicule. She also recalled how her high school coach discouraged her from pursuing a college scholarship for soccer, saying that there were no opportunities for women in the sport. But despite those challenges, Chastain persisted and eventually became a star player at Santa Clara University and on the U.S. Women's National Team.
However, Chastain's career was not without controversy. In 2008, she caused a stir by posing nude for a magazine to raise awareness of body image issues and breast cancer. Some criticized her for betraying her role model status, while others praised her for her courage and message. Chastain herself admitted that she was not prepared for the backlash and the impact it had on her personal and professional life.
Ann Meyers, on the other hand, was a pioneer in women's basketball who fought for equal opportunities and recognition. Born in California in 1955, Meyers grew up playing basketball with her brothers and became a standout player in high school and college. However, when she tried to play for the U.S. men's Olympic team in 1976, she was denied based on her gender.
Undeterred, Meyers went on to play for the U.S. women's Olympic team and win a silver medal. She also played professionally in the short-lived Women's Professional Basketball League and was named the league's MVP in 1980. But despite her achievements, Meyers faced resistance from male coaches and executives who did not see the value of women's basketball and did not offer equal pay, promotion, or resources.
In the documentary, Meyers shared how she had to fight for everything, from getting a decent locker room to being allowed to practice with the men's team. She also expressed her frustration with the lack of media coverage and support for women's basketball, as well as the stereotypes and prejudices that female athletes faced. But Meyers also acknowledged that she had made a difference and paved the way for future generations of female basketball players and executives.
Mary Decker Slaney was a middle-distance runner who set multiple world records and won numerous titles in the 1980s, but also faced a series of setbacks and injuries that prevented her from winning an Olympic medal. Born in New Jersey in 1958, Slaney started running competitively at age 7 and quickly established herself as a prodigy. She won her first national championship at age 15 and broke her first world record at age 19.
However, Slaney's career took a dramatic turn in the 1984 Olympics, when she collided with another runner in the 3000-meter race and fell, injuring her hip. She was carried off the track in tears and was unable to compete in her other events. Four years later, in the 1988 Olympics, Slaney was again the victim of a mishap, as she tripped over another runner and fell, dislocating her jaw and ending her race.
In the documentary, Slaney recounted how those two incidents had affected her physically, emotionally, and mentally. She also revealed that she had struggled with depression, anxiety, and self-doubt, especially after failing to win an Olympic gold medal. But Slaney also talked about her love for running and her determination to keep pushing herself, even into her 50s, when she still set records and won races.
Overall, Nine for IX was a powerful and enlightening series that showcased the diversity and complexity of women's sports and the challenges and triumphs of female athletes. The episode featuring Brandi Chastain, Ann Meyers, and Mary Decker Slaney was a testament to their courage, resilience, and legacy.
Nine for IX is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (10 episodes). The series first aired on July 1, 2013.