To no one’s surprise, men in the sports media industry have been overly critical of many women they work with. The extensive resumes of women sports reporters such as ESPN’s Maria Taylor and Katie Nolan ought to afford them automatic respect and admiration for how well they do their job in this male-dominated field. However, it seems their work ethic and successes are still not enough to warrant respect from men in the industry.
For years, women have fought for equality and fairness in sports. The United State’s women’s soccer team filed a lawsuit in 2016 demanding pay and accommodations equal to the U.S. men’s soccer team. Some fans, particularly men, made the argument that payment should be based on the quality of performance — putting that idea into context, though, the women’s soccer team was ranked No. 1 in the world and had higher revenue earnings than men. They were only asking for well-earned recognition and compensation based on their unparalleled success. However, in a decision that frustrated many, the judge did not rule in their favor and the women’s team is now seeking an appeal.
This also translates back to the treatment of women in sports media. On Sept. 14, Taylor was reporting on a Monday Night Football game for the first time in her career and wore a black shirt that showed her shoulders and collarbone area. Dan McNeil, former host of 670 The Score in Chicago tweeted about Taylor’s wardrobe, writing that she was better-suited to host an adult film awards show instead of an NFL game. McNeil was fired the next day.
The truth of the matter is men should not feel comfortable speaking on the attire of a woman and should not retort to belittling statements to discredit them. These are the constant problems that women in sports media have to face. The perpetual criticism and comments from men about hair, makeup and attire certainly make it harder for women to focus on what matters and do their jobs effectively — yet they still seem to be doing their job better than a lot of these men: Given that Taylor hosts College Gameday and the NBA Countdown, it can be presumed that her employer, ESPN, sees her as a valuable asset.
ESPN reporter Nolan was recently in a feud with Deadspin reporter Jason Whitlock for his sexist remarks about Nolan and Taylor, including an attempt to diminish Nolan’s accomplishments.
“Beauty transformed Katie Nolan from bartender to seven-figure personality, Emmy Award-winner and the darling of aroused bloggers and TV critics willing to ignore her pedestrian humor and inability to execute live television,” Whitlock wrote.
He went on to write that Taylor was hired by ESPN because she is tall and attractive, not because she is an engaging speaker and host. Nolan later locked her Twitter account to no longer allow comments.
The problem is not so much the employer but rather male employees (such as McNeil) who ought to be allies in the fight against misogynistic and unfair treatment of women in the sports industry but instead choose to take part in this sexist rhetoric. Men in the industry should find themselves on the right side of the fight for protecting women in sports jobs, just as they would (hopefully) do for their daughter or wife. It is conventional wisdom that if one does their job right, they will leave no room for criticism — that statement does not hold true in a society built on systemic oppression.
This poses a huge problem in the sports media industry, and it seems to be happening more frequently despite the nationwide reckoning on systemic oppression. There is no place for sexist and misogynistic views in the industry. They should be neither tolerated nor allowed. Women should feel safe in any job or space they are in and should be given the security and assurance that they will have that equality, no questions asked.
The industry is composed of more than 90% men who occupy jobs as hosts, commentators and analysts, according to _____. Though there has started to be more representation of women in the industry, it still is not enough. For the women trying to open doors for more women in the future, it can be discouraging and disheartening to see how they will be treated once they are in a male-dominated workplace. And women are not at fault for the treatment they receive. Taylor could’ve covered every part of her body, and someone would’ve talked about her hair, her makeup or how she misspoke.
Directly combatting the argument that women have no place talking about sports in an in-depth and analytical fashion are trail-blazers such as Doris Burke, who is known for her analyses and knowledge of the game of basketball. Even then, when virtually no reasonable criticism could be made about her abilities, male spectators still are not satisfied — they want her to dress in a more feminine way.
All this goes to show that men will never be satisfied with women in sports media. Instead of working with and for these women and encouraging them to occupy more spaces in sports, they turn to misogyny to indulge what are likely feelings of intimidation that arise from working with a capable, eloquent and experienced woman in a men-dominated field. If this industry can seek to fix and acknowledge the unfair treatment of women, specifically at the hands of male commentators, it would create a safer and more just work environment that would be more beneficial to all, employees and viewers alike.