Behind The Scenes

Pioneer Donna de Varona shares Title IX, broadcasting and soccer thoughts

Donna de Varona has been a champion of women’s sports since her days as a double Olympic Gold Medalist in swimming and as the first president of the Women’s Sports Foundation. Just 10 years after winning the Olympic medals in 1974, de Varona joined the legendary Billy Jean King in building and shaping the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Her impact on women’s sports continues and can be felt in the ESPN original program, USA Soccer: Leveling the Field, showcasing the 1999 U.S Women’s World Cup Gold-Medal winning team which airs Saturday, June 23, at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2. De Varona chaired the World Cup that year, which was held in the United States in the same venues as the 1994 Men’s World Cup was played in. It turned out to be the most successful sporting event in the history of women’s sports.

“Donna had great insight on the struggles women had faced prior to the passing of Title IX,” said Tina Cerbone, ESPN features producer for USA Soccer: Leveling the Field. “Her understanding of the challenges as the bill was implemented, as well as where the state of Title IX currently stands and what still needs to be done regarding equality in sports — made her a logical guest for the roundtable discussion which is part of the show.”

Joining de Varona on the panel was host Julie Foudy (ESPN analyst and former national team star), Tony DiCicco (ESPN analyst and former National Team head coach), Kristine Lilly (23-year veteran of National Team) and Heather O’Reilly (current National Team star).

The feature and roundtable discussion about the impact of Title IX on the growth and success of women’s soccer in the U.S. is part of more than 180 hours of women in sports programming on ESPN networks Friday, June 22 through Sunday, June 24.

The weekend of programming culminates ESPN’s three-month multiplatform initiative, The Power of IX, recognizing the 40th anniversary of Title IX, signed June 23, 1972. De Varona generously gave ESPN quality time telling her story of what Title IX means and the importance of giving women a voice — on outlets like espnW.

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