“Can you bring the Cavalier girls up to the suite, please?”

It wasn’t the first time I had been asked that. This request was minor, in the grand scheme of things. Working in television, the perks of attending some of the most major sporting events from the NBA Finals to the World Series, along with a numerous amount of regular season games across all the professional sports leagues in a suite was just another normal night for me. Entertaining clients was routine, and by far the best perk of my job.

“Or you could just put on the uniform and come back in here, it would be the same thing.”

A follow up comment like this?  I constantly shrugged off. This male was a very large client of mine whose agreement was up with millions of dollars on the line. So I laughed, pretended like it didn’t bother me, like I could take a joke. It’s this fine line, and when it’s crossed seems to be blurry. When do you sweep things under the rug, and when do you finally say something?

It’s that feeling, right there, that the lines get blurred of what’s tolerable and what’s not, and it’s this weird guilt that I believe not only women feel but men do too for getting paid to work in this exciting, fun environment. It’s okay if you make $25,000 a year, you are working for a professional team, a TV network! It’s that mindset that I feel has created this stigma, and women are facing both battles.

I’m not going to give stats, reports, or figures. It’s my account, my experience, and I think it’s important in light of the latest sexual harrassment accusations across the business, in front of and behind the camera. Love is blind, even when you love your job. And deep down I knew while it wasn’t right, some of the experiences I had came to be assumed because I was a young, attractive, female in television it just “is what it is,” and I should be “lucky” I get to do what I do for a living.

This is not a bashing. I had a lot of great mentors, supervisors, and co-workers who I learned from on a daily basis while working in television distribution. I represented networks ranging from genres of sports, entertainment, reality, and education. I was able to understand how networks make the majority of their revenue, as billions of dollars are brought in by subscriber fees, and am proud to say I was a part of that for numerous years. There’s also an immense amount of pressure working in a business that is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but exciting. I had this desire to constantly be on the go, stay busy, focused, and make a difference. I loved it. But I let a lot of shit go.

I was refused to be spoken to quite a few times because of my gender by a client. I was told I was a little girl who knew nothing. I was grabbed, sexually harassed by a client which I reported and nothing could really be done because this man wasn’t an employee. And the back rubbing. Do you know how many times I did not want my back, or any body part touched, that it happened anyway? Passed off as a “friendly” hug. Not to mention the pet names; honey, baby, sexy, among others.

It’s amazing what you think you would do in a situation, but when it happens to you, you can’t help but think at one point- did I bring this on myself? Did I give any type of indication that it was okay? I’d leave the office and cry in the bathroom, so I wouldn’t be seen. And if I would say something I would look like a bitch, like I’m too sensitive, or weak. And I happen to care what people think. It’s important to me and many others in this business. It’s what makes personalities shine, what grows followers. It’s not uncommon to want to be liked, and it shouldn’t be taken advantage of as it is now.

I’m not privy by any means to the latest accusations coming out at these major networks, but it’s validating to hear the alleged accusers come forward and stand up for themselves. It was only because a co-worker and friend of mine that I told about one of my incidents that it got reported. I’m so thankful for her.

The culture will not change tomorrow, but these steps that major networks are taking in a business where this happens every day is refreshing and promising and hopefully a shift in to the right direction. Not every incident is going to be in someone else’s eyes a large deal, but when it happens to you, that violation, no matter how detailed or deep, is still a violation and to be strong enough to confront it where the culture is protected and untouchable is inspiring and on the path to change.

About Holly Wetzel

Holly has spent the majority of her career in affiliate distribution negotiating contracts with content providers across the US. She covers the media landscape of rights fees, retransmission consent, carriage disputes, and the regional sports network business.
She's a Cleveland native and graduate of The University of Mount Union and constantly wishes she was still a student. Since that's never happening, she compensates for it over wine, cooking, sports, not working out, and any Turner Classic movie. Holly can be followed on twitter @HollyanneLiz