The Sports Question I Want to be Asked

Covering sports, I witnessed emotional moments firsthand. I’ve asked questions that sparked angry answers and seen professional athletes fight back tears as they address the media. Asking thoughtful questions in sports breaks down barriers and humanizes the games we love. There’s just one question I never get asked.

People ask me about athletes I interviewed or which sport is the most fun to cover. I’m happy to talk about the layout of the Broncos locker room or the havoc that is postgame hockey interviews. I even listen intently while people describe athletes they met or games they attended.

I’m taking the year off from sports. I needed a break to reignite my passion. And as I have, this one question continues to bother me. In fact, now that I’m out of the press lounge and day-to-day interactions, the answer to this question infuriates me.

So I’ll ask it.
Derek, what surprises you the most about covering sports?

The sexism:

  • Men using job offers and media access to try and date women
  • Men telling their female colleagues to impress with their looks
  • Men sexualizing women (including colleagues) in media areas
  • Men openly flirting with women while in professional settings
  • Men degrading the work of women for sexist reasons
  • Harassments/stalker tweets online

When I say men, I mean players, team officials, journalists and fans.

And yes, I only covered sports and announced games around Denver—a place I consider to be fairly progressive. On the flip side, I am friends with a lot of women in sports and I hold their words in high regard.

The signs of this problem are everywhere. Kate Feldman’s tweets were a catalyst for this article, followed by Megan Richardson’s. I was disturbed by the treatment of Lindsay Jones after she asked a question at Peyton Manning’s retirement ceremony—I’ve seen firsthand what a great reporter she is at Broncos practices. Samples of other instances include players’ inappropriate interviews with sideline reporters and this Sports Illustrated piece about social media.

If you’re skeptical, I’m sure you’re asking for proof. I’m not giving it to you here. It’s not my place to tell women’s stories on this issue without their permission and I don’t want to get lost in a few details. These behaviors need to be addressed and swiftly corrected. If you talk to enough women in sports, I’m sure you’ll hear stories. They just may not want to go public because it could hurt their careers—the backlash from the sports community and fans has damaged women’s careers before.

Let me be clear, I like people in sports. Almost every man in sports I’ve interacted with appears to be respectful towards women. The perpetrators of sexism are a small sample size—working discretely or protected by a team. Most of my friends in sports would do everything in their power to change unfair treatment of others.

Now it’s time to prove that. Male journalists should be willing to step up and end this behavior when they see it or are told about it. There is nothing about sports journalism that necessitates a different environment for men and women. We should speak out and fight any sexist behavior.

Players, player personal and other journalists need to be held accountable.

I’m willing to do what little I can now. Any woman in sports journalism who has faced discrimination against them can send me their story. I will post it here, anonymously. If I return to sports journalism, I will take this fight on with more force.

Sexism is currently a part of sports culture. This is not one or two instances, but a reality for women in the profession. It hurts sports and journalism. We are all better when a diverse group of people have the access and the voice in public spaces. We need to end safe havens for sexist behavior. It’s on all of us—men, fans, journalists, and team officials—starting now.