FOXBOROUGH — Now retired as a sports journalism trailblazer and a former Globe columnist, Jackie MacMullan preached one of the industry’s greatest ethical standards when she admired the shining Title IX necklace that was presented to her on Thursday.
“I was just saying that I’m glad I retired, or I wouldn’t have been able to accept it because journalists aren’t allowed to accept gifts,” MacMullan remarked. “I’m very happy I’m retired to accept such a nice acknowledgment of Title IX.”
It was a token of appreciation given to the panelists of the “Equal Play” event at Gillette Stadium. The afternoon honored the 50th anniversary of Title IX and was hosted by Kraft Sports & Entertainment and Kraft Analytics Group.
Tennis all-star Billie Jean King, the headliner of the event, joined virtually. Other speakers included Michele Roberts, the former executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, retired US women’s national soccer team player Kristine Lilly, retired Harvard women’s basketball coach Kathy Delaney-Smith, and NFL Network reporter Kayla Burton.
More than 800 people from 50 colleges and universities and 17 professional sports teams attended the afternoon’s festivities. Patriots veteran safety Devin McCourty made an appearance.
“This was an important day. It’s an important event and it’s an important law,” MacMullan said. “I’m concerned about where the country is headed at times. Equity for women, to me, is nonnegotiable, so I was really happy to be here today.”
MacMullan, 61, will be inducted into the National Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame later this month. The honor will add to those she has previously achieved, including the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing and The Association for Women in Sports Media’s Mary Garber Pioneer Award.
After retiring from ESPN in August 2021, MacMullan moved to the New Hampshire seacoast and has picked up a handful of new hobbies.
“I have an incredible garden [and] I bought a bird book,” MacMullan said. “I just built two bluebird boxes, they hatch in March, so I’ve missed this year, but I’m a bird nerd now.
“I’ve taken up golf and I’m going to kill somebody, so just stay away if you see me swinging.”
MacMullan joined The Globe out of college in 1982 as an intern. In 2002, she became the first female sports columnist in Globe history.
Although her time at the publication was admirable, MacMullan did share one personal lament.
“I was 21 years old when I got hired at The Globe, I was the only woman writer in the department at that time and I covered whatever they told me to cover,” MacMullan said. “As I said, I did my pro bono with the women’s stories on my own time.
“I should have fought harder for women at that newspaper. I should’ve fought harder for more stories. I should have fought harder for not just me, but anybody on that staff to be writing. That’s the regret I carry.”