The podcast Just Not Sports released a video today in which men read tweets to sports reporters Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro. What begins as seemingly borderline inappropriate jokes turn dark and ventures into the world of what women working in sports deal with on a regular basis.
The pain on the faces of the men, Spain and DiCaro, as the tweets get more and more violent, is powerful. It hits home for every woman who has been sarcastically asked if she really knows stuff about sports.
— JustNotSports (@JustNotSports) April 26, 2016
This isn’t just on a national level, as four local women who worked or are working in sports shared their stories. I’ve chosen to keep them anonymous.
WOMAN A wanted to be a sports reporter since she was six years old, muting the T.V. in her basement so she could do play-by-play for baseball games. She went to sports broadcasting camp four summers in a row. She assured me that, yes, sports broadcasting camp is a real thing.
“Sports mean so much to people, they love their teams, they love their favorite players. And I love being able to share those moments and games and stories with everyone.”
After a state hockey tournament in which she did some rinkside reporting, she was out at a bar with friends when a man came up to her and said he had been watching her all weekend. He asked if she wanted to know what he thought of her. She responded with only if it’s nice things.
He said on the first day of the tournament when he saw her, he thought “Wow, nice (breasts).” Obviously, it came with a more derogatory word for breasts.
On the second day of coverage the man told her he watched her and said to himself “Cool. She did something different with her hair.”
“That really stuck out to me, one, because it had nothing to do with my quality of of my work. And two, I make a conscious effort to dress in a way that’s work appropriate so people will notice me for what I say, not if my shirt is low cut.”
Her news director talked to her about that subject and told her she had to be conscious of her attire because she’d be around a lot of men.
“That’s not a conversation he had to have with anyone else in the sports department.”
Another example of feeling out of place was when she was carrying her big camera bag and her tripod and a security guard made a comment that it was a big bag for her to be carrying all by herself. After she gave her normal “Don’t worry, I’m pretty strong” response, the security guard grabbed her arm and squeezed her muscle and said “Oh, I can tell you work out.”
“This security guard had no right to touch me, even if he was making a joke, but he did and I believe it’s because I’m a female. I think I’m treated with less professionalism maybe or people think they can say things to me that they would never say to a man just trying to do his job.”
WOMAN B was a very good soccer player, going as far as trying out for the U.S. national team. She remembers following her dad around on the golf course.
“I found journalism. It has that same competitive edge. I like being knocked down and having a challenge to rise to. I think sports reporting has a lot of those same challenges as sports themselves. It has a very competitive nature. It provides me that competitive edge and adrenaline rush.”
She said when she first started in sports reporting she was asked why she was qualified to do her job and that she should leave it to men. She also gets women telling her that she’s fat and her skirts are too short.
She mentioned sexual advances from men as if it’s normal.
“Still not cool, but nothing like what the big-time reporters deal with on a national or network scale.”
WOMAN C got into sports because of her dad. She peppered him constantly with questions about the rules of the game, which she felt he hated because it took away from his time to yell at refs. So she had to learn for herself, so he could focus on yelling at the refs.
Now, at an older age, she realizes how thankful her dad is because he now has a daughter as passionate for sports as he is.
“But lets not give him all the credit. Playing sports growing up I was never the best athlete but always had the best determination. That gave me perspective about how sports are more than just a game. I still truly believe that athletics shape a person’s character, teach them about leadership, camaraderie, goal-setting and teamwork better than anything else. They can lift you up and teach you that you are part of something bigger than yourself. That’s how I got into sports and the reason I still can’t seem to shake them today.”
She remembered being in a press box during a football game she was covering and being asked what was the number of the guy who just ran the ball. She gave her answer and the man in the press box turned to the man next to him and asked if that was right.
“It’s not like he asked me if that was a screen pass or something, even though I would know what that looks like too. You definitely have to be twice as professional as a male and come across twice as knowledgeable to be recognized even half as smart as a man.”
WOMAN D was enamored by baseball at the age of 5. She knew she wanted to work in sports when her first game was David Cone’s perfect game.
“Sports is one of the few things that draws people together. Sports heals and takes our minds off the negative and gives people hope. I love that something so simple as hitting a ball with a bat can give people such powerful emotions.”
“I would be lying if male athletes and coaches didn’t give me more information because I am nice, smile and pretty. However, that also is one of the more crippling parts of my career.”
She talked about hearing whispers on the sidelines from football players and how they’d find her on social media and ask her out or hit on her. Some bragged to their friends and started rumors about sleeping with her. Coaches were no different. She had three college coaches ask her out. One even flirted with her to get better coverage.
“If anyone dares to question or doubt my abilities, it’s fuel to the fire for me to outdo myself and outwork any man in my profession to get to that next level. I know my self worth and that is all that matters.”