Sports Journalism: Gender Stirs It Up

Does anyone remember when Don Cherry said, live on CBC: Hockey Night in Canada in Spring 2013, that “I don’t believe women should be in the male dressing room”? And Ron MacLean reacted in embarrassment and total disagreement?

Cherry’s comments caused controversy because so much has changed and not changed. There are women who work in sports journalism and play sports and are good at both. Why the controversy over their presence? Is it because they disrupt people’s notions of what’s right and wrong in sports journalism and in regards to gender norms? Or is it because men just want to set the terms, expectations, and rules of sports journalism, and not be challenged by women to grow up, EVOLVE?

Whatever the reasons, women have every right to participate in all areas of sports journalism.

Sports Illustrated (SI) recently wrote about Fox’s decision to replace Pam Oliver, a seasoned NFL sports reporter, with Erin Andrews (who notices the differences in Wikipedia’s profiles of Oliver and Andrews? I do). Oliver, who has been working as an NFL sideline reporter for 20 years, was replaced/demoted due to “restructuring”, “rebranding”, whatever.

Yet as SI notes: “removing the well-regarded and well-connected Oliver from the No. 1 team, not to mention initially wanting her out of sideline reporting altogether, seems counter to what a sports network should want in an NFL reporter. Why the decision to make the switch? … A veteran NFL reporter -– who has worked in television and asked for anonymity -– offered another reason. ‘She’s not blonde, nor is she in the demographic,’ said the reporter. ‘I’m not naïve and I understand it’s a business, but I think that Fox did not treat her as befits a woman who has been the female face of their sports operation for the past 19 years’”.

When I googled women sports reporters what came up was a series of articles and lists of the hottest women sports reporters. How gross and insulting. Period. No other way to swing this – women are valued for their beauty, and if they’re smart on top of that, well great, but not the most important thing, if at all! Ugh.

The Bleacher Report has a list of the most popular women sports reporters. Notice a few trends?

Kate Fagan, a writer for ESPN, was interviewed about this by the Huffington Post. Fagan gets right to the point by saying: “I make a concerted effort to tweet stories written by women, to respond to emails and engage with other women in the business so that as we each grow in our careers, we have this circle and network around us and we’re not relying on the men above us to be the sole definition of our careers”.

Because if women were to solely rely on men for their advancement, they would be stuck…glass ceiling styles. That’s why it’s so important for women to support each other and advocate for diversity and access. Because if we don’t, outdated and superficial expectations are projected onto us, like, we don’t belong in men’s locker rooms or we don’t know shit about sports or we’re only watchable if we’re “beautiful” or “sexy” in a conventional way.

For anyone who thinks this, or like this, of women…you are a dinosaur.