Imagine going into a typical work day, following your usual routine, minding your own business, until suddenly all of your credentials are put into question simply because you are a woman.
Unfortunately for the Carolina Panthers beat writer for the Charlotte Observer, this hypothetical became a nasty reality. When interviewing quarterback Cam Newton at a press conference after a win against the Patriots on October 1, Jourdan Rodrigue did her job and asked a simple sports question that could have been easily responded to.
“Devin Funchess has seemed to really embrace the physicality of his routes and making – getting those extra yards. Does that give you a little bit of an enjoyment to see him kind of truck-sticking people out there?”
To any normal person, this question doesn’t seem unusual in the slightest. It was relevant to the game, mentioned specific players, and was an overall pretty easy question to answer. However, Newton didn’t seem to feel the same.
His clever response to this female reporter’s question?
“It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes like – it’s funny.”
Now, my question to the Carolina quarterback: Who’s laughing? Why is it so funny to hear a female talk using normal football terminology?
Let me preface my opinion with something I feel necessary to say: I have never identified myself as a feminist before. It honestly never felt applicable to my life until now. Something about this situation really made me think. Why is there such a stigma around women in the sports industry?
For years, female reporters have been shut down, or often ignored when at sporting events. Women would try to get into locker rooms after a game to get an interview with some of the players, but they were shunned or asked to leave. When asked for a reason why, coaches would respond with, “Well why didn’t they send a male reporter?”
Athletes are able to use their celebrity status in such influential ways, so why did Newton feel the need to belittle a journalist just trying to do her job? In a column for the Detroit Free Press, renowned sports writer Mitch Albom explains it best: “Women [are] continually harassed and demeaned, even by figures we hold in high esteem.”
Another issue female reporters have been dealing with lately is the backlash of social media. Successful women in the field such as Erin Andrews, Sarah Spain, and Julie DiCaro have had their twitter pages bombarded with sexist tweets, mostly from men who don’t believe they are apt enough to cover sports. Sexually explicit insults are thrown left and right at these women, and no one bats an eye. Users hide behind the anonymity of a keyboard so they don’t have to deal with the consequences like Newton did.
If you look up the staff list for the Boston Globe right now, you will disappointingly find an incredibly disproportionate list of female and male writers. While these men do a fantastic job at sports writing, I don’t think it is terribly difficult to find a female in the Boston area who is willing to get paid to cover New England sports. Maybe now is the new generation of female sports journalists with the skill to enlighten the critics.
Now, I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I am trying to bash male reporters for getting better treatment than females, but rather I am just pointing out the sad reality. Being in a sports journalism program in college has opened up an entire realm of possibilities for my career, but if athletes still have the mentality that women don’t understand as much about sports as men, it allows me to question if this is the right path to take. The future is pretty frightening, but if women in sports keep pushing forward, the stigma could definitely be diminished.
Being in a press conference filled with journalists with the same end goal as mine is the dream, but only if the work I’m doing is being appreciated and not questioned simply because I’m a woman. Hopefully by the time graduation comes around in three years the sports world will be ready for female journalists, but for now I’ll let the professionals like Jourdan Rodrigue pave the way.