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Wisconsin Women: Packers Halftime Showcase A Missed Opportunity

This article was written by the captains of the University of Wisconsin-Madison women’s ultimate team.

The Green Bay Packers have offered an unprecedented honor to ultimate fans this fall. Never has our sport had the opportunity to be showcased in front of a potential 80,000 people. To each player that is competing, we congratulate you and we are thrilled that ultimate is being exposed to so many (we hope) future fans.

As the University of Wisconsin-Madison women’s ultimate team, we challenge the lack of female players in the All-Star showcase. This is a reminder that we still need to strive for gender equity with urgency. As you read this, it is the hope of our team not that you agree with what we say, but that you examine critically–but fairly–what we say.

While this occasion is prodigious for men’s ultimate, it hurts women’s ultimate in the way that it fails to support the gender equity movement that has been emphasized for the past several years. Our community has been working hard to close this gap. While the intent of the individuals involved in putting together the All-Star showcase was not to exclude women, the core of the problem lies in the oversight to include women from the college or club scene. Members of our community must be wary of a negligent attitude towards equity of any kind.

Where before certain events or opportunities were naturally only considered for men, we must extend these opportunities to all athletes. If you are a male player, leverage your privilege to help showcase women in ultimate by advocating for them in situations where the higher institutions look to men first. As a community, we have a chance to expand the limits of legitimacy for women’s ultimate. When those involved omit women, whether purposefully or not, their lack of deliberation says that gender equity only matters on the small scale and that at a large-scale, women’s ultimate is illegitimate. We have unwittingly let complacency seep in.

While disappointed by the lost chance to be inclusive of all athletes, Bella Donna wholeheartedly supports the teams participating in the showcase. We respect the Radicals, Hodags, and the players that will be joining them, and we are proud of having such a competitive sibling team – but we ask that you do not overlook us because we are women. We are just as fierce, athletic, and worthy as any of our brothers in cleats.

Originally published at: https://ultiworld.com/2016/11/29/wisconsin-women-packers-halftime-showcase-missed-opportunity/


Quick share of what I posted on Facebook on November 14th, when I first saw this opportunity described - "I’m pretty open minded when it comes to using men’s ultimate as a way to promote ultimate in general, but it’s tough not to be bummed that the first thought, when presented with the idea to showcase a short ultimate game during an NFL football halftime (insert all sorts of questions about whether or not ultimate should be aligning itself with the NFL in any way) - wasn’t, we should make this a MIXED game and invite the BELLA DONNAs or HEIST - but was rather let’s involve the local professional men’s team to join us.

Imagine if instead, those 80K people in the stands got to see COED grass ultimate?"


Whilst Ultimate is still in its infancy we should be showcasing the best product we have to offer when given a platform of this magnitude, assuming we want our sport to grow. The best we have to offer currently is the men’s game.

I challenge you to define “best” in this scenario in a way that is truly objective. When you describe the men’s game as the “best” you need to unpack exactly what it is you are saying. What makes it the “best”? Who decides what is “best” and for whom? The inherent assumption that the version of the sport played by one gender is better than the other is the whole reason that this discussion needs to happen.


Ultimate is not in its infancy. We have two MENS “professional leagues,” national club competitions, college club competitions, high school leagues, city leagues, and international competitions to name a few.

We are growing. However, we are growing away from our spirit of the game. We are growing away from our spirit of inclusivity, equality, respect, and self officiation. These ideas are the “best product(s)” Ultimate offers. These are the ideas that truly separate and define Ultimate for me. These are the ideas we are sacrificing as we try to grow our sport into a viable economic model with professional leagues and referees and advertisers and sponsors. Why do we need to make money off of the sport? Why do we need to sell ourselves?

Our best product is not your perception of male dominance in the sport nor is our “best product” that our male dominated society sought to exploit our sport for profit by creating professional leagues for men.


‘Best’ as in the highest standard. If female ultimate players happened to be better at the sport than men then I would have no issue with them being showcased on this platform.

Is it known for a fact that the contacts for the players participating didn’t try in ernst to make it coed/involve women?

At what point do you begin to include women?

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Difficult to say precisely but roughly when the sport is at a point where the loss (in terms of growth of the sport) from showcasing a slightly inferior product is outweighed by the benefit of exhibiting diversity within the sport. I would argue that we are still at the stage in the development of the sport where given an audience of this magnitude we need to exhibit the highest standard of the sport we have to offer. That just happens to be the men’s game.

I don’t really know much about the game or the teams that played… but are they not open teams? Where men and women can tryout?

Your definition of the “highest standard of the sport” is rooted in believing that men are physically superior to women. Whether that is true or not, I vehemently disagree that this is the highest standard of Ultimate.

The best things Ultimate offers and the “highest standard of the sport” are inclusivity, equality, respect, and self officiation all while playing competitively and at a very high level.

Physical prowess is not where Ultimate begins and ends. It is so much more. It’s character, integrity, meeting new people, cultural exchange, spirit games, making new friends. It’s the lack of using the referee’s to gain advantage. It’s having spirited discussions about the rules and about how one may have broken or not broken the rules. It’s that we have civilized discussions about infractions on the field between the two teams and make it right without an intervening group. It’s about player safety and respect for one another. These are the highest standards of our sport.


A well thought out and well written statement from Bella. Perhaps the fact that the Radicals had included the people who were contacted by the Packers in an exhibition game earlier in the year influenced their decision.

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Men are physically superior to women, athletically speaking. I agree that many of the things you mention are some of the best things about the sport. Therefore we should showcase the highest standard product we have to offer in order to grow the sport and hence spread these things.

All of those things you said are great. But none of them can be showcased in a scrimmage during halftime. I think from an outside perspective, Mixed games are one of the most unique and drawing aspects of the sport since no other major sports feature that at a high level, so I do think we are missing out by not showcasing that aspect of the sport.

I do also agree with the idea that, in this forum, showcasing our best athletes which are men. (I’m not going to find a source, but I have recall that men the average man is 2.5 standard deviations stronger than the average woman. That means that the average man is stronger than 95% of all women.)

Ooooh yay, a lot of “men’s is the best, most athletic, most coolest!!” I guess I’m not inclined to think stronger=more interesting to watch since I love playing frisbee and think women’s is super interesting.

I know this is kind of a ~novel idea~ but maybe we shouldn’t showcase our sport during halftime at a professional football game at all. Football goes against a whole bunch of what I hope a lot of us don’t want our sport representing, anyway. A contact sport all about money that relegates women to the sidelines cheering (not to mention lingerie leagues…omg, maybe we could make a frisbee pro league where women play in lacy Five sports bras and compression shorts and ya’ll can get your rocks off???..but I digress). Even worse, the NFL is an organization that is pretty chill about domestic violence. But yeah sure, put our relatively accepting sport in the midst of all that and call it a win for ultimate.

Yup, I’m serious. Sorry my experience as a female ultimate player (um, and human) doesn’t fit your narrative about what ultimate is.



These features may not be readily apparent to a causal spectator if he is watching on his own. However, if an informed announcer is there, her added narration could explain as foul/contest play out, how contact is avoided in the air, how sportsmanship is the expectation and not the exception, the tradition of spirit and spirit games. We should be using this time to share our sport and culture in its fullness. Otherwise, we are being disingenuous to our audience and doing our sport a disservice.


i was not expecting to laugh in this forum but this was fantastic.

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I currently feel that I disagree with the authors, but I am not sure of myself. Reading through comments here and on twitter, it seems like there is a fair amount of talking past one another. I’d like to comment here in order to share my views on both sides of this argument, and encourage discussion. My background: I am a dude, I’ve played ultimate at the Men’s club and AUDL level, and have played mixed ultimate in league play and at competitive tournaments but not with a club team.

Thoughts on why I am uneasy with my disagreement with the authors:

  1. There is an existing bias in favor of men in sports in general, and specifically ultimate that I agree we should work against. This exists from both a viewership side and from a numbers playing side.

  2. As several other comments mentioned, there are a lot of good things in ultimate that go beyond chasing plastic across a field that make it a great sport. These will likely not be showcased and elaborated on in this event. Interested new fans will have to take it upon themselves to figure it out on their own, otherwise this will base their opinion of things.

  3. I actively watch and enjoy watching ultimate in all gender varieties and skill levels. I personally find single gender to be more exciting than mixed, and men’s to be the most exciting. In the past, when I have shown new people something in order to introduce them to ultimate, I have shown them men’s and women’s ultimate. - but mostly men’s. I acknowledge that this means I am biased, but I also do not feel I should completely discount my preferences when it comes to enjoying watching an event.

Thoughts on why I disagree with the authors:

  1. The Radicals are a professional organization with ticket sales in Wisconsin. They play in a single gender league, and this would be the closest representation of the product they provide to fans.

  2. I have been influenced and motivated by women in sports, and I believe women can be influenced and motivated by men in sports. (This may be semantics but) if an event brings both men and women towards ultimate, does it necessarily hurts women if there is a disproportionate gender effect, or does it hurt gender equity - and are these directly linked or separate?

  3. The AUDL and MLU catch heat for not including women on the field. As an AUDL player, I do a number of community outreach events, including one where I and others ran an activity for a group of girl scouts introducing them about the sport, the rules, and the spirit of the game. As an men’s club player I have not done anything like this. I realize that men’s club falls under USAU, which manages and promotes women’s ultimate, but I feel like as a dude my contribution towards women in ultimate have actually been larger as an AUDL player because of team organized events than while simply playing men’s and sending in my annual membership fee.

  4. I don’t feel good writing this one but I want to be honest: sometimes when I read something that seems new and positive (like when this event was announced) and then I see others disappointed in it because they are not included, it seems like the others want to hop aboard a train that someone else has built without contributing themselves. The authors offer congratulations in their words. I wonder if they have reached out to the Radicals organization before or after the opportunity to play at halftime here arose. I feel that would be something that could be done concurrently with this article and I am interested in how that discussion did/will go.

To close, I’ll mention that this is not the only time ultimate has been showcased in front of a football crowd: the Stanford men’s team has played at halftime several times. I thought I remembered the women’s team doing the same and spent a while searching for evidence, but was not able to fine any. As I failed, I found myself genuinely disappointed. Perhaps communication of a very similar feeling was the purpose of this article - amplified by the fact that as women, the topic is a lot more personal and apparent - and I am merely reading my own existing thoughts from previous discussions on these matters into it. If it seems like this is so, I do not mind it being pointed out, but I ask that you please consider my other thoughts, as they are linked.


Having the announcer is a fair point if it is televised; if it is in stadium only maybe not so much. In terms of being disingenuous, I don’t think it is wrong to simply show our sport being played at a high level, and invite people to learn more about it and its culture if they are interested. I think it would be disingenuous to somehow portray that not playing following the spirit of the game is acceptable, or saying that there is not a tight knit community and culture. But simply not mentioning those things isn’t a big deal to me.

Hi, I really appreciate your thoughtful and full analysis of the article.

It seems that your disagreement with the author largely revolves around the Radicals. I want to clarify that a Packers intern reached out to a captain on the Hodags, and they were hoping to have the Hodags play another Wisconsin college team. The other Wisconsin schools aren’t as competitive, and so the captain suggested they play against a few Radical players. This is by no means a Radicals game, and that has been misconstrued across social media today. Captains from the women’s team reached out to the men’s team after they heard about the showcase game, because they were curious as to why they weren’t considered an option. I think they assumed that they just never came to mind, but wanted to confirm before they posted anything misleading on social media. I think that addresses your first and last points.

As for 2) I think you’re right that it doesn’t necessarily hurt women if there’s a disproportionate gender effect, but as one player said on Twitter today, “We want to promote ultimate AS a gender equitable sport, not with equity as an afterthought.” So sure, I think the disproportionate gender effect and hurting gender equity are linked.

  1. The fact that you do outreach events is laudable, because starting the ultimate base young will contribute to the strength of the sport in the coming years. However, to me you’re saying “I help teach girls ultimate, which excuses me from promoting women at my experience level and age.” You may be doing more than most players by helping girl scouts, but don’t be content with this progress.

As you said, you wanted to open a discussion and these are my thoughts. I really appreciate you laying out everything and I’d love to continue the discussion.

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