The Daily Gamecock

Column: Fighting sexism in sports media

Every year, journalists accumulate thousands of paper coffee cups, craft hundreds of stories and absorb a few days’ worth of sleep. They work exhausting hours and ask iron-clad questions as if they have nothing to lose. It’s a hard yet rewarding profession, and one worth respecting.

That respect falls away once gender is involved.

In a society determined to establish equality, the growing sexism in media looms large. It’s most apparent in the sports world — women who host various shows and provide commentary are met with venomous remarks about intelligence, appearance and existence. Female reporters enter post-game locker rooms hoping to get the story and avoid sexual harassment. They encounter numerous obstacles, all hinging on the fact they are women infiltrating the beloved “Boys Club” of sports.

There are male reporters who are also criticized by viewers, whether it be for their analysis or their accents; when you’re on millions of television sets, you’re bound to encounter haters. It comes with the job — especially if you’re tearing into someone’s favorite athlete or team. Some people just like to complain. Many women avoid the criticism and accomplish great things without observers batting an eye. 

However, the harassment of female broadcasters is a rapidly growing issue and it must be addressed.

Recently, Jessica Mendoza received harsh criticism for being the first female to do color commentary of a MLB playoff game.Many argued she didn’t add anything and called her “that woman announcer.” On the flip side, others wanted her in front of the camera because of her physical attractiveness. Her various softball accolades during college and the Olympics —  and the fact she played baseball until she was forced to switch — carried no weight. To viewers (primarily male), she was uneducated and unqualified.Mike Bell, radio host on Atlanta’s 92.9, added to the fray, calling Mendoza “Tits McGhee” and saying ESPN was “too frigging cute for their own good.” 

Mendoza most likely spent days preparing for this moment, conducting research like any good analyst. She stood in the booth with Dave O’Brienand Dallas Braden and held her own. She made history.

And all people can focus on is her gender.

As a young woman hoping to go into sports broadcasting, I take note of these instances. It’s my prospective career path, which will apparently be lined with men calling me derogatory names. Shock melds into disappointment when I realize the difficult truth. This is the new normal and it will stay that way until someone sparks change.

However, even when someone tries to go against the grain, it’s like talking to a brick wall. Michelle Beadle is known for her strong opinions, and ESPN likes them. If they didn’t, the “Worldwide Leader in Sports”would not have hired her — twice. She is also open about her experience with domestic abuse, using her platform to spread awareness. When fellow analyst Stephen A. Smith discussed the topic last summer and said women shouldn’t “do anything to provoke wrong actions,” Beadletook to Twitter and expressed her anger.

“I am now aware I can provoke my own beating,” she posted, using her signature tongue-in-cheek manner to breach the topic. She bluntly added, “Violence isn’t the victim’s issue. It’s the abusers. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting. Walk. Away.”

The reaction was staggeringly swayed in Smith’s favor; many on social media attacked Beadle for calling out her colleague publicly. They replied with the C-word and claims that she provoked her partner during her own abusive relationship. Some even said, “I hope you get beat again.”

Beadlewas in the news earlier this year when her press credential was revoked from the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas.After working with HBO all week to cover the historic bout, Mayweather’scamp reportedly denied her access to the main event. She wasn’t the only one either. CNN reporter Rachel Nicholsgot the same treatment after grilling Mayweatherabout his domestic violence-filled past in 2014.

These two women were in Las Vegas to do their respective jobs and were subsequently blocked. Their access was reinstated after Beadle and Nicholstook to social media. Even then, people believed Mayweather’speople were in the right for restricting their access and limiting their ability to do what they’re paid to do. 

These stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Female reporters trying to do their jobs are met with sexual harassment and gender-based scrutiny. It happens too often. Society can advocate equality, yet actions speak louder than words — and these biased, disgusting actions are screaming from the rooftops. 

Why do people ignore this issue? Why do they slap the label "feminist" on anyone who pushes for change? Why do they think it’s in a woman’s mind when it’s happening every single day?

Journalism is hard enough without the added obstacles of sexism and harassment. As a new generation of female broadcasters and reporters rise, they sit in classrooms and listen to comments such as, “Well, she was probably harassed in the locker room because of what she was wearing.” This is being said in an auditorium full of young women and men, proposing the idea that men are allowed to catcall because of what she is wearing — and that the woman is in the wrong. 

That’s not just being sexist. That’s being a terrible human being.

How do we fix the issue? That question has an answer — more females need to enter the sports media world. Flooding airwaves and TVs with more women and their opinions will make it commonplace. Mendoza,Beadle and Nicholskeep working because this is their profession, and they refuse to let negativity get in their way. It can be intimidating with these stories coming out, and many probably reconsider their career paths. However, that gives the haters what they want. How the three aforementioned women have persevered despite adversity should inspire young women to pursue sports careers. Encountering offensive people and comments may come with the territory, yet that doesn’t mean it erases all the hard work it took to infiltrate that territory.

The job of a journalist is to uncover the truth and the truth is that sexism and harassment in sports media is a problem. It’s time to realize the issue and advocate a change. If not, it will only get worse for the current and future female reporters and broadcasters in sports. 


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