Title IX has been a passionate subject for Candace Parker ever since she learned of its impact while doing a paper on it in the eighth grade.
So, it is no surprise her first documentary as an executive producer is about the landmark legislation. On Saturday, “Title IX: 37 Words That Changed America,” will open coverage of the men’s Final Four on TBS at 1 p.m. EDT.
“I sit here because of Title IX. Although we have so many wins, we have so much further to go. That’s why we went with having the Title IX story told through my eyes so that you can see if Title IX didn’t exist, I wouldn’t exist,” Parker said.
Parker considers herself a first-generation benefactor of Title IX, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Parker’s mother, Sara, attended Iowa before Title IX became law. Candace’s 12-year old daughter, Lailaa Nicole Williams, will have more opportunities.
“It means a lot to be able to have my mom and my daughter be a part of this,” Parker said. “I have inspiration from my mom and her story. And then as well for my daughter, I want to continue to open up doors, and I don’t want her to see limitations.”
The documentary also comes as inequities between the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are coming under intense scrutiny.
“Something as simple as March Madness, right? Like, now women can use that. That’s unbelievable. It’s 2022,” Parker said. “But things are changing. But it still doesn’t take away that we still have so much farther to go. I think that’s the whole point of doing this documentary is if you invest, it’s not a charity, it’s an investment. And it’s an honest investment of trying to make it work. And I think for so long, we just existed; women’s sports existed as something that had to be there. And now we look at it as an investment, and then I think we can start moving things forward."
Parker won a pair of NCAA championships at Tennessee while being coached by one of the pioneers of Title IX, the late Pat Summitt. Parker has parlayed that experience into a successful career as a two-time WNBA champion and MVP and two gold medals in the Olympics.
Parker is also an accomplished analyst for Turner Sports on its NBA and NCAA Tournament coverage since 2018. During discussions about a contract extension at Turner, Parker and her representatives first pitched the idea of a documentary. It got the green light for production last November.
The documentary includes interviews with Billie Jean King, Peyton Manning, Lisa Leslie, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“There’s a number of influential voices that I think I have to pinch myself to realize that they’re a part of it,” Parker said. “To have Billie Jean King, like the 10-year-old girl that did a biography project on her, I just think it’s just so special.
“Title IX doesn’t just impact women. To watch Peyton Manning talk about how Pat really influenced his life, as a competitor and just as an individual. To see somebody that is an icon to say that I think speaks to how valuable women in leadership positions are.”
Having the documentary tip-off Turner’s Final Four coverage on Saturday should give it a broader audience. “The Arena” will air following the documentary and focus on the impact of Title IX on sports and society.
This is also the first project for Parker’s production company — Baby Hair Productions — and was also produced with Scout Productions.
“Having a diverse audience, that’s not just the women and girls, we want everyone to see how impactful and powerful women are in society,” Parker said. “To have this be something that we talk about, especially after with ‘The Arena' show, I think it speaks to just how important it is.”
More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25