Woman fired from NFL team for menstruating, won lawsuit

Written by Staff Writer

Renee Richards was fired by the New York Giants at 41 for menstruating.

She later won the Boca Raton Open in Florida, despite never playing golf before.

Renee Richards is a member of the National Women’s Golf Hall of Fame. Credit: Courtesy Renee Richards

Richards is also known as “the great all-sport athlete” who helped usher in women’s golf.

She was a women’s professional from 1951 to 1977, and a member of the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Hall of Fame, among other distinctions.

Through the years, Richards’ controversial decision to sue the NFL for gender discrimination made headlines. The club said it fired her because Richards failed to have an operation to fix her irregular period during the regular season, thereby violating health insurance guidelines.

“We are men who were acting out of concern for the women of the world,” John McVay, who was part of the executive committee that fired Richards, said in a 1962 report.

As the discrimination case moved through the courts, Richards also became known for an unorthodox decision she made during a bout with the migraine and neurofibromatosis headaches that plagued her.

The sued, saying she should not have to pay for their treatment, a decision Richards upheld in court.

“After years of putting her foot down, she refused to pay and should not have to do so,” she wrote in the essay “Sparing the Swine,” one of the many posts she made on the website rolexism.org.

“This was not an easy choice for me, but a major life decision. I had a choice between defending my cause with the strength of my conviction and paying to go without.”

She also wrote in the essay that she was aware of “the costs of being this way” and the possibility that “finding a way to compromise (with men) could be the only acceptable option.”

The case was eventually settled. As part of the agreement, Richards’ insurance company agreed to provide benefits for her needed medical treatment, including an operation, which she never underwent.

In 2001, Richards was honored at the Wall of Fame induction for the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“When I first started, I said I couldn’t shoot 72 in a tournament, never mind finish the 72 holes,” she said at the time. “And now I’m one of the very few golfers who has.”

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