Two nights ago, I tuned into ESPN’s television broadcast of Major League Baseball’s American League Wild Card Game, presented by the broadcast team of Dan Shulman, Jessica Mendoza and John Kruk (you can find their bios and credentials here). Not having watched an ESPN-televised baseball game in some time, I first thought Mendoza was the on-field reporter (an unfortunate bias on my part). I was pleasantly surprised to hear her providing more frequent analysis than the typical injury update or manager sound bite, analysis that I found to be incisive, well-researched and representative of significant experience with the game. I didn’t even think there might be viewers who couldn’t come to grips with a woman announcing a baseball game on live TV until my wife alerted me to the backlash on Twitter (I’ll let you find those comments yourself since I don’t think they deserve a forum here). Here are some more takeaways from Mendoza’s broadcast and the (social) media hype:
- I was shocked to learn that Mendoza was the first woman ever to broadcast a nationally televised Major League Baseball postseason game. You’d think that would have happened in the last 75 years.
- Do women question how University of Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma can possibly understand women’s basketball when he’s missing a second X chromosome? Assuredly not. Would women doubt the ability of an ex-Major League Baseball player to understand softball strategy or glean information from players and coaches? No.
- ESPN (and other corporations) may care a lot about diversity. But there’s one thing they definitely care about more than diversity, and that’s money. And in television broadcasts, money means ratings. So there is no way ESPN would have put Mendoza on the air if they thought she would affect their ratings. Which means they thought she was extremely well qualified to be part of the broadcast. In fact, the network probably held her to higher standards than they would a male broadcaster, knowing the potential for sexist idiots to complain. In other words, the fact that ESPN included Mendoza in its broadcast team means they thought she was far better qualified than male candidates for the position.
2 thoughts on “Sexism in Sports Broadcasting”
Greg, as a female journalist who works with the NFL – trust me, it's still "a man's world". The most common comment I get is this: " As a woman, you've never played pro football and can't truly 'know' anything about it". The problem with that argument is that it comes 100% of the time from guys who never played one down of pro football, either, yet they are inherently all-knowing.
I would never say a man could know "nothing" about women's softball, tennis, volleyball or even gymnastics – even though they are unlikely have professionally played the sports.
It's time to bring down the velvet curtain and realize that what makes a person an expert in sports reporting has little to do with playing and everything to do with being informed, professional, educated and having a great understanding of the sport or sports in general. There are plenty of men who know nothing about another 'male' sport, too.
Thanks for posting this!
Thanks for sharing your experience, Christina. As a fan, I do enjoy hearing former athletes share their insider knowledge about a particular sport. But the vast majority of them are not great journalists or broadcasters. And as you say, most journalists and broadcasters have never played the sport they cover beyond high school. But anyone can learn about a particular sport (or whatever other subject they cover) regardless of gender. I was particularly shocked in this case, since Mendoza seems to be the best of both worlds: a former world class athlete AND an articulate and insightful broadcaster.
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