Karen ‘Blair’ Troianello (she/her)

By Sarah McDermott

A drawing of a blue running shoe with white accents and laces.
“Blue Shoe” by Anika Gopez.

In 1976, Karen Troianello and her teammates at Washington State University (WSU) rode to track meets in cramped caravan cars while the men’s sports teams traveled in charter buses. Known by her family name, Karen Blair grew up in Bellingham. A student athlete, she ran cross-country for Bellingham high school and became a freshman at WSU in 1976. She joined the track team from walking by a notice on a bulletin board and showed up for the first meeting. Troianello considered herself an average runner and ran for the pure joy of it.

Troianello became fed up with the unfair treatment and extreme disparities she and her teammates were dealing with while men’s teams were getting better accommodations. Women had to use old uniforms, limited supplies, unequal access to weight rooms, reduced budget for coaching hours, etc. Title IX passed in 1972, which banned gender inequality in higher education athletics departments. Four years later, the progress has been slow, if any effort was made by the school at all. Blair decided to fight back and resist the continued gender discrimination. She became more educated on Title IX and what the school should be doing to improve.

She and her fellow teammates raised concerns by writing letters, making fact sheets, and giving tours showing the poor conditions of women’s locker rooms versus the men’s. Continuing to be angered by lack of progress, she, along with 38 female athletes and 11 women’s sport coaches, took legal action. Connecting with the Northwest Women’s Law Center, a lawsuit was filed in 1979 citing unlawful sex discrimination under the state’s Equal Right Amendment.

Because she was dedicated to making change, and because her last name came first in the alphabet, the historical case of Blair vs. Washington State University was filed. She was terrified yet ready to make progress for women’s equal rights in sports. In 1982, during pretrial questioning Troianello quotes: “It is difficult to feel that I am first-rate when it is so clearly demonstrated that I am not considered of much importance by Washington State University, but men doing the same things are very important”. The ruling for Blair vs WSU took place in March of 1982 and she already graduated WSU in 1980 with a degree in communications. The case was won by Troianello and her team, ruling that discrimination has continued for an “unreasonable time”. Money was to be allocated equally to men’s and women’s departments. Men’s football was missing from the initial ruling and an appeal to add it was quickly filed. In 1987 the appeal was accepted, and football was added to equal fund distribution.


Karen ‘Blair’ Troianello was honored in 2022 at a WSU basketball game as a “Pioneer of Title IX”. She helped pave the way for equality and increased women’s college sports participation. Troianello currently serves as an editor for the Yakima Herald-Republic and frequently helps at high-school track/cross-country meets. She continues to be an advocate in the continued efforts for women’s equality in sports.



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Badass Womxn and Enbies in the Pacific Northwest Volume 2 Copyright © 2023 by Badass Zine Machine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.