It wasn’t until Fox Sports’ Katie Nolan posted her video, “Why boycotting the NFL because of Ray Rice is not the answer” did I have the thread I had been looking for to sew together the scraps of ideas that had been banging around in drafts in my notebook over the past few days. It has been a rough week for women covering sports, not just with unending Ray Rice stories, but with the continual small drips of insult in regards to gender; intentional, unintentional, and institutional biases.
In her video, Nolan discussed wanting to ask Roger Goodell directly about the Rice suspension at a Fox Sports event earlier in the summer and elaborated on her failure to do so because she was afraid it went outside what her defined role was at Fox, the girl who makes funny videos. Nolan went on to list the jobs generally held by women in sports television media; sideline reporter, reciting headlines, and reading funny Tweets from a couch. The serious, Walter Cronkite “this is why it matters” opinions being reserved for male commentators, Chris Berman, Keith Olbermann and the like.
Nolan then ended her video with a challenge to not only her bosses at Fox Sports, but the sports media world at large, “It’s time for the conversation to change, or at least those who are participating in the conversation.”
Think about that last line again, “It’s time for the conversation to change, or at least those who are participating in the conversation.”
At the end of last week two personal articles made the rounds, one generally held by the male writers across the blogosphere in a positive light, one framed as an embarrassment. First, the “humiliation” of Pam Oliver.
Oliver wrote an essay for Essence titled “Game Change: Pam Oliver Breaks Her Silence on Her Career Shake-up” after her much publicized removal from the lead NFL on Fox broadcast team.In the piece she discussed what the sideline position meant to her and how the process of losing that role at Fox played out from her point of view. She spoke about how she had the leverage and respect to push back at her bosses and receive what she believed she deserved, a final twentieth season on the sideline.
That’s powerful. Not many people in any facet of entertainment industry get to say, “To end on 19 is wack! I wanted 20” and have their demands met. Her story should be held up as an inspiration to men and women alike.
But instead of hearing how she stood up for herself and got a final year on the sideline when her bosses were already showing her the farm system, we got headlines that spoke to her “humiliation” and set up and old-fashioned cat fight scenario between women in the eyes of their readers, a disingenuous choice as Oliver could not have been more positive about her replacement, Erin Andrews, in the piece.
Chris Chase at USA Today’s FTW: Fox’s Pam Oliver was ‘humiliated’ at being replaced by Erin Andrews
Los Angeles Times: Pam Oliver on being replaced by Erin Andrews: ‘That hurt’
Here is a woman speaking about the difficulties on the job, fighting to go out on a high and the pull quotes not only put her at odds against the next woman to hold her position, they make Oliver look ruined and weak.
Think back to Nolan’s closing line, “It’s time for the conversation to change, or at least those who are participating in the conversation.” After seeing Oliver’s name repeatedly and unfairly coupled with the word “humiliated” would you ask her to sit behind the desk and give her opinion on the news of the day? The conversation cannot change if the women who could help the discussion flourish and grow are being torn out at the roots before they can get there.