Five incidents – ranging from the painfully awkward to outright harassment – that spurred larger discussions about workplace conditions for female sports reporters.
When the veteran ESPN sideline reporter interviewed Joe Namath during a nationally televised football game in 2003, the result was cringe-worthy. Ms. Kolber asked questions about football, but the seemingly inebriated Mr. Namath responded with an awkward pass. “I want to kiss you,” he slurred, preceded by a half-hearted lean-in. To her credit, Ms. Kolber took it in stride. But nearly 10 years after the incident, the iconic quarterback is still something of an Internet punchline. And unfortunately for Ms. Kolber, it’s difficult to hear her name without thinking of a drunken Mr. Namath making her – and millions of viewers – feel extremely uncomfortable.
Googling “Erin Andrews harassment” returns at least six separate incidents. The most serious occurred when Ms. Andrews, a Fox Sports broadcaster, was filmed in her hotel room through a peephole. Her stalker was eventually convicted in 2010 and given a 27-month prison sentence. Ms. Andrews has also been harassed on the job. Most recently, the hip-hop artist 50 Cent gave her an awkward kiss as she was reporting from a NASCAR event. (Ms. Andrews later tried to defuse the situation and said, “It was my fault!” in an interview.) In an incident from several years ago, a college football player approached Ms. Andrews from behind and gyrated his body, much to the delight of onlooking spectators.
The case of Ms. Sainz, a Mexican TV journalist, sparked debate about work-appropriate conduct for female reporters. In 2010, Ms. Sainz was harassed by players and coaches at a New York Jets practice. According to reports, she was subjected to catcalls and ogling in the Jets’ locker room, and while on the field, a coach hurled passes in her direction so that players could get close to her. (The Jets’ owner made an apology to Ms. Sainz, which she accepted.) Not everyone was quick to defend her, including female reporters. Jemele Hill, an ESPN.com columnist, said she had “a hard time feeling sympathetic” for someone whose conduct “insults some women” in sports reporting. Ms. Hill referenced an episode from a Super Bowl media day, when Ms. Sainz “went around touching players’ biceps as part of what she called a ‘strongest arm’ competition.” Then there are Ms. Sainz’s fashion choices. “A quick Google search turns up numerous images of Sainz standing on a football field in clothing that seems better suited for a nightclub,” Ms. Hill wrote. Regardless, Ms. Hill noted that Ms. Sainz never deserved to be harassed, no matter how she dresses.
Don Cherry’s comments were inspired by an interaction between the Chicago Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith and Karen Thomson, a sportscaster with TEAM 1040 in Vancouver. Ms. Thomson asked him about a slash he committed on the Canucks’ Daniel Sedin. Mr. Keith said he didn’t take a swipe at the opposing player, then added: “I think he [Sedin] scored a nice goal, and that’s what the ref saw. Maybe we should get you as a ref maybe, hey?” Ms. Thomson responded in jest, saying she couldn’t skate, to which Mr. Keith responded: “First female referee – you can’t play probably either, right, but you’re thinking the game, like you know it?” Ms. Thomson initially joked about the event on Twitter, then added: “Hockey is an emotional game and things are often said in the heat of the moment. I think this is what happened last night. I’ve moved on.”
Ms. Olson was reporting on the New England Patriots in 1990 when she was sexually harassed in the locker room. During the incident, Ms. Olson said a group of naked players crowded around her to make lewd gestures in an aggressive manner. She described their actions as a “premeditated mind rape.” The Patriots went on the offensive, saying that the Boston Herald should never have assigned a female reporter in the first place. Ms. Olson settled a lawsuit against the Patriots, but the ensuing torment – including abusive phone calls, death threats and slashed tires – was enough to derail her efforts to report on two other Boston teams. The Herald eventually transferred her to Australia.Report Typo/Error
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