Female Olympic Medalists Advocate for Increased Investment in Women’s Sports

Two iconic female athletes—Ibtihaj Muhammad and A’ja Wilson—called for more investment in women’s sports in the United States at the TIME100 Summit on Wednesday.

“I would love to see these big companies…invest in women and invest in the game,” Muhammad said.

Muhammad is an Olympic medalist in fencing, activist and author and Wilson is an Olympic gold medalist in basketball and WNBA Champion. The pair spoke with Pablo Torre, host of the sports podcast, Pablo Torre Finds Out, days after the lower pay of female athletes was brought to the spotlight when basketball phenom was selected first in the WNBA draft with a salary of $338,056 over the next four years.

Yet some college female athletes are doing significantly better financially than their predecessors after the NCAA lifted its ban on college athletes earning money for use of their names, images and likenesses. Asked about how different her career would have been if she were still in college right now, Wilson is direct. “Obviously, my bank account would be the biggest difference but I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I would have an agent in college,” she says.

WIlson also spoke about not compromising on her values and helping young Black girls feel seen when getting the money. “When it comes to big sponsorships…I’m like, well, you’re gonna get me and I’m not changing that because that’s what needs to be seen,” she says. “Black women have been a force; when it comes to the WNBA, this is essentially an organization that was built on the backs of black women.”

The duo praised young athletes while urging them to recognize the need to protect their mental health. “You have to protect your peace first; your brand is gonna come with that but your peace is what really matters,” Wilson said.

Wilson also talked about the awkwardness of playing in the Olympics and the WNBA season so close to each other. “I go from you being my rival—absolutely can’t stand you— to now it’s like—girl, let’s go get this gold…it’s very hard to do that,” she says. “But it also shows how elite the athletes are when you make it to that stage.

Muhammad recalled fielding many questions on politics, instead of on sports, before participating at the Olympics. She wishes Team USA prepared her better for that moment. “It was very stressful because you want to do well and you want to compete well for your country but at the same time, I wanted to represent the communities I’m a part of to the best of my ability.” Muhammad says she looks to boxer Muhammad Ali for inspiration when it comes to her values. “Muhammad Ali has always been at the epicenter of the way that I view my platform,” she said.

Wilson also called on fans to show appreciation for female athletes: “Buy that jersey. Go to that game, take someone else, put your money where your mouth is and invest in these women,” she said. Muhammad agrees. She’s a longtime fan, who grew up watching women’s basketball; her parents would take her to see the New York Liberty play at Madison Square Garden. (She’s from New Jersey.) “I’ve been invested from the time I was young,” she says.

The TIME100 Summit convenes leaders from the global TIME100 community to spotlight solutions and encourage action toward a better world. This year’s summit features a variety of speakers across a diverse range of sectors, including politics, business, health and science, culture, and more.

Speakers for the 2024 TIME 100 Summit include actor Elliot Page, designer Tory Burch, Muhammad, Wilson, author Margaret Atwood, NYSE president Lynn Martin, comedian Alex Edelman, professor Yoshua Bengio, 68th Secretary of State John Kerry, actor Jane Fonda, and many more.

The TIME100 Summit was presented by Booking.com, Citi, Merck, Northern Data Group, Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky, and Verizon.