Olympic Medalist Credited as ‘Athlete’s wife’ by Media

Corey Cogdell-Unrein's achievement was not enough for the media, which referred to her only in the context of her NFL player husband.

Corey Cogdell-Unrein. Photo via Instagram

Taking home the bronze medal for women’s trap shooting for the United States on Sunday was not enough of an accomplishment for Olympian Corey Cogdell-Unrein, according to some media outlets. Headlines regarding Cogdell-Unrein’s victory referred to the athlete as the wife of an NFL player.

A Chicago Tribune headline said, “Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, wins bronze in Rio.” And when posting the article on Twitter, the publication used a similar headline:


Twitter users slammed the publication for focusing on her husband rather than Cogdell-Unrein. Users responded negatively, and some proposed alternative headlines.

On Monday, following the firestorm on Twitter, the Tribune sent out another tweet.

Indeed, Cogdell-Unrein is impressive in her own right.

Cogdell-Unrein is competing in her third Olympics. She also earned a bronze medal in 2008 in Beijing. On Sunday, she hit 13 out of 15 targets, with her last one earning her the medal. Cogdell-Unrein’s win earned the United States its sixth medal. (Currently the U.S. has 19 medals.)

“They are very similar as I won bronze in 2008 in a shoot-off as well,” she said of her second victory compared to her first. “But I think it is different, because in 2008, I was two years into the sport. Now I have been competing for almost 10 [years], so I am a different athlete and I felt more prepared coming into these Games.”

Sexism in Sports

Female athletes frequently face different standards when compared to men in the sports world. The Cambridge University Press published a study last week, “Aesthetics, athletics and the olympics,” which highlights stark disparities between how male and female Olympians are written about by the media and shows that the Chicago Tribune’s article about Cogdell-Unrein is in fact not that far from the norm.

“Using the Cambridge English Corpus (CEC) and the Sports Corpus, multi-billion word databases of written and spoken English language from a huge range of media sources, experts at Cambridge University Press have analysed millions of words relating to men and women and how they are described in language associated with the Olympic sports,” the study explains.

According to the findings:

“Notable terms that cropped up as common word associations or combinations for women, but not men, in sport include ‘aged’, ‘older’, ‘pregnant’ and ‘married’ or ‘un-married’. The top word combinations for men in sport, by contrast, are more likely to be adjectives like ‘fastest’, ‘strong’, ‘big’, ‘real’ and ‘great’ — all words regularly heard to describe male Olympians such as Usain Bolt.

“When it comes to performance, it seems as though men also have the competitive edge: we see ‘men’ or ‘man’ associated with verbs such as ‘mastermind’, ‘beat’, ‘win’, ‘dominate’ and ‘battle’, whereas ‘woman’ or ‘women’ is associated with verbs such as ‘compete’, ‘participate’ and ‘strive’.”

Related Story: Mansplaining for Soccer Pay Gap

Earlier this year, members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) accusing the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) of wage discrimination, citing the higher pay earned by the male soccer team. Players on the women’s team cited the fact that the men were compensated $9 million for a 2014 World Cup victory, compared to the $2 million the female team garnered for their win the following year.

The USSF provided numerous reasons for the differences in pay, including the fact that the women had negotiated for a different pay structure. However, the federation also cited maternity leave as a contributing factor and called providing it “revolutionary.”

Related Story: Serena Williams, New York Times and Body Image

Like in Cogdell-Unrein’s case, female athletes are frequently presented differently than their male counterparts by the media. Last year, the New York Times came under fire for its demeaning portrayal of tennis star Serena Williams.

Just one day before her Wimbledon victory last year, the Times published an article with the headline, “Tennis’s Top Women Balance Body Image With Ambition.” The context of the article compared Williams’ physique to that of other female tennis players and added that the latter do not wish to emulate Williams’ body type.

Writer Ben Rothenberg writes of Williams’ “large biceps and mold-breaking muscular frame” and also quotes the tennis star as saying, “I’m really happy with my body type, and I’m really proud of it.”

However, he then quotes white female tennis players who have said they don’t want to look like Williams. In addition, the Times later sent a tweet accompanying the article, not highlighting Williams’ accomplished tennis career but rather her allegedly undesirable body type.

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  • Shooting BBs at a target hardly makes one an athlete. It is a skill like darts or tidily winks.

    • As a competitive shooting sportsman, including trap and sporting clays, I can tell you have no idea what you’re talking about.

      Having an orange-hued vent day today, Don?

    • Don, please show me your Olympic medal. No? Don’t have one? In anything? #ifyoudonthaveanythingnicetosay…

    • I would imagine there are all sorts of sports that look easy or un-sports like on TV. Try some and see just what is involved. I’m betting you’ll find muscles & breathing techniques you never dreamed would be used in the sport.

    • So athletes do not require excellent hand eye coordination, lightning reflexes, or the ability to make decisive decisions? The attributes I mentioned are required by basketball player, baseball players, football players, tennis players, fighter pilots, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and competitive shooters . . . gasp, didn’t know that did you? Before you belittle a sport you should do a little research about it first.

  • The Trib should have learned after it got hammered for running a pic of Bill Clinton speaking, front page above the fold, with the story about Hillary Clinton being the first woman nominated. No picture of HRC in the story.

    • Maybe they were brain-washed by that partisan talking point claiming that all her accomplishments were merely derivative of her husband’s.

  • Don…. Seriously?

    Coming from a Repbulican (me) to you: Olympic level Trap is an athletic endeavor, and there is no sense in demaning her accomplishment.

    Way to go, Corey!
    (I only wish I could shoot so well; All three of my sons typically best me at Trap, and my younger daughter is well on her way.)

  • Don Miller is so IGNORANT about how difficult it is to shoot at a target that the word “glaringly” is inadequate to describe it. As a former Army lieutenant, hitting targets 350 meters away during Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM) worth an M16 is NOT like darts or tiddlywinks! He would be surprised how many MALE soldiers FLUNKED because they can’t hit 26 out of 30 targets (it may have changed in 35 years)!! Many FEMALE soldiers, who NEVER shot a weapon before PASSED ON THEIR FIRST TRY HITTING ALL 30 TARGETS! I was not one of these female soldiers, I barely passed!
    . Because of my lackluster shooting, I ADMIRE women like Cogdell-Unrein who could medal in the Olympics! She deserves all the PRAISE ALL BY HERSELF! The sexism in Sports is identical to the sexism in the military. You have BONEHEADS like Don Miller and the other Don tRUMP (and OLD male fossilized commentators stuck in caves) who stuff female athletes’ accomplishments under their husbands jockstraps!
    . Another OLD WHITE MALE FOSSILIZED Olympic commentator said that the female swimmer Hosszu from Hungary improved because her husband became her manager–she became a better swimmer because of him! I’m 60 years old and have evolved in many ways into 21st century thinking, but these OLD WHITE MALE FOSSILS still dominate Olympic commentary. Another archaic commentator refused to refer to gymnast’s Simone Biles grandparents as her PARENTS; they reared her and her sister since they were children. Not only was this OLD WHITE MALE FOSSIL ignorant about parenting, but about African American history and culture. During slavery, when these old fossils’ slave master ancestors sold a black child’s biological mother or father for profit, some other black slave woman or man stepped in to PARENT that child –they became that child’s PARENTS, even though they were not biological!! When white AmeriKKKan hypocrites preach about “FAMILY VALUES, UNWED PREGNANCIES, and the BLACK FATHER’S ABSENCE” from the home, they need to know that THEY STARTED THESE DYSFUNCTIONS in AmeriKKKan black families. Parents became whoever raised you!! “American Values” is an oxymoron, a cruel joke and the BIGGEST LIE EVER TOLD!

    • If they legally adopted then they are parents. If not they are grand parents and/or legal guardians. Race doesn’t need to be injected into every situation. Do you actually know he was refusing to acknowledge them? They were grand parents.

      • No, we do know he refused, when he doubled down. He was just lazily playing into dog whistle tropes. But that’s NBC commentating as a whole. I’m so disappointed they have the Olympics contract.

    • It must really suck to hate America as badly as you do…. do you know a lot of countries/systems you’d rather live under?

      I’m still grateful to live in the home of the brave and the land of the free.

      Your constant need to blame EVERYTHING on White people is tiresome. Black fathers were historically VERY present in their nuclear families well after slavery ended. When did that end and why???? That is the real question, and when you can honestly answer that you might quit blaming everything on slavery.

      • Dan, “home of the brave and land of the free” has always been a propaganda phrase, not anything that relates to the real world.

        In reality, we’re a cowardly country that lashes out terribly destructively whenever enough boneheads become afraid of anything, usually things they can’t understand.

        We’re so not free that in many states you will be arrested if you grow a cannabis plant, and our police keep killing unarmed black people due to a combination of fear and hate.

        We’re so not free that Muslims face constant risk from right-wing faux-Christians, many in positions of power. Again, this is driven by fear and hate.

        Some percentage of us are smart, civilized people, and move the country forward – so there is hope that we’ll become a civilized country one day, but a lot of us are emotionally-driven nitwits who hate anyone who’s at all different from them, and like that we have an unjust system.

        Whoever filled your head with absurd propaganda did you no favors. It makes you seem extremely gullible.

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