It is widely known that female athletes are not given equal treatment when it comes to sports. The starting salary for an NBA player is nearly $600,000. On average, WNBA players earn a fraction of that – just over $71,000 – less money than what some teachers make a year. This year’s No. 1 WNBA draft pick will earn $53,500 for her rookie season.
At Cleveland, where a huge focus is placed on diversity and equity, female athletes are not being left behind. After spending years in the shadows of their male counterparts, some of Cleveland’s female athletes are finally getting their chance to shine.
Senior Jade Cannon has been a phenomenon since she transferred to Cleveland from Roosevelt High School last spring along with her twin sister Shadai and her older brother Jordan. The trio had made a name for themselves with each being a three-sport athlete.
Watching Jade play, fans would not have guessed she has never played the sport before. She uses it as conditioning for the off seasons.
“I play football because it keeps me in shape for basketball, and I wanted to play with my siblings,” she said.
Jade is enjoying her time on the field, but football is not her favorite sport.
“I’d rather play … basketball and track,” Jade said. “I feel like I’m better in them.”
While Jade may underestimate her abilities, she has proven to be a tough defender on the field. She plays both defensive tackle and offensive line. She also has a spot with special teams.
Jade gets all the support she needs from her family. Her mother expects nothing but success both on and off the field. She attends every game, team dinner and any football-related event along with the rest of Jade’s siblings.
“My mom thought it was pretty cool because … there’s not a lot of girls that play football,” Jade said.
Her mom thought both girls were strong enough to handle the hard-hitting sport.
Jade’s football coaches expect a lot from her as well and see her as a leader on the field. Jade gets her team together and makes sure things on the field are handled and in order. Assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Charles MacFarland said Jade is one of the people he knows will get the message across to the team if needed.
“She encourages the kids to be on time … making sure everybody is where they need to be at and even encourages the underclassmen,” MacFarland said.
While the coaches would love to see Jade move forward with her football career, she is hesitant about the decision. Because of her work ethic and positive energy, the coaches believe her potential could lead her to success.
Offensive Coordinator Jovan Wiggins believes that Jade would do great with a career in football and wants to see her give it a shot.
“There is a really good semi-pro women’s team … I want to see her tryout and see what she can do,” he said.
Although Jade is one of a few girls on the team, the coaches do not treat her differently. She is expected to perform the same physical requirements as the boys. In fact, they believe she has surpassed some of the boys when it comes to physical strength.
“She’s actually rougher than a lot of the boys,” MacFarland said. “She’s stronger than a lot of the boys … we treat her just like everybody else. There [are] no specific drills she’s removed from or different positions that she can play just because she’s a girl … she pretty much holds her weight.”
Jade has a backup plan if sports doesn’t work out: basketball. It’s a sport she is passionate about, but if basketball isn’t in her future, she knows exactly what the career she wants to pursue.
“Nursing … I’m going to major in nursing and minor in business,” Jade said.
Jade is determined. Football has proven to be a way for her to display all of her talent.
Staff reporter Jasmine Hendrix contributed to this report.