Breaking Barriers: Female sports reporters silence critics

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

By Nicholas Poblete/Asst. Sports Director


ESPN, a company dominated by men, has seen women begin to break down barriers, increasing their presence in the realm of sports media, but are met with adversity by some of their male colleagues.

A study from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport in 2012 found that 88.3 percent of sports reporters were men.

In an article from The Seattle Times, ESPN reporter Sara Spain explained how a seasoned beat reporter from Chicago told a team public relations representative that the reason she had been coming back with good stories was because she was sleeping with a player.

“The best I could do was put my head down and work as hard as possible, never give anyone any reason to suspect impropriety or judge me unfairly,” Spain told The Seattle Times.

“And get good enough at my job that people would respect my work and be forced to rethink their stereotypes or assumptions about female reporters.”

ESPN has been taking strides to rid itself of its locker room culture. Last fall, ESPN canceled its new show with Barstool Sports after just one episode because of the blogs controversial declarations.

The sports outlet also parted with former NFL players Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis, after both men were involved in a lawsuit that claimed they had sexually harassed an employee from the NFL Network.

Adrienne Lawrence, former ESPN employee, claimed the company was silencing her and other women, after Lawrence and others said they had been subjected to a sexually hostile work environment.

“ESPN has failed to address its deeply ingrained culture of sexism and hostile treatment of women,” said Lawrence in a press conference.

Although many ESPN employees have complained that the work environment is hostile toward women, ESPN spokeswoman Katina Arnold told the Boston Globe that ESPN is working to place women in high position within the company.

“We work hard to maintain a respectful and inclusive culture at ESPN,” Arnold told The Boston Globe. “It is always a work in progress, but we’re proud of the significant progress we’ve made in developing and placing women in key roles at the company in the boardroom, in leadership positions throughout ESPN, and on air.”

Jemele Hill, a journalist for ESPN, spoke about how women of color worry that they won’t fit the status quo for female journalist and that it is important for them to have their opinions heard and respected.

“I hate to tell them this because I hate to feel like I’m empowering those people who shouldn’t do it anyways,” Hill said in an interview with Mike and Mike. “But as I’d say to them, it’s an unfortunate part of the business and you do have to develop a thick skin for it, otherwise it will be difficult for you to survive.”

Ximena Tellez, a senior majoring in broadcast media, hopes to enter the media field once she graduates. Although incidents such as these worry Tellez, she is optimistic about the future.

“I feel like women are becoming leaders in today’s world, and I believe women aren’t staying quiet anymore,” said the senior. “Women shouldn’t belittle themselves, they shouldn’t think that this is the way things are now.”

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