Sports journalism: Why is the onus only on men to “straighten up” but not women?

Note: The following is a generalized opinion of the writers’ based on her observations and experiences. Not to be construed as “expert” opinion; rather, should be viewed as an “as I see it” rant. Thank you. :)

Earlier, I was reading a couple of different articles about the allegations against NFL legend/Vikings QB Brett Favre. In case you haven’t heard, here’s the story:

The X-rated photos included in the video posted on Deadspin Thursday afternoon claim to show legendary quarterback and devoted family man Brett Favre like you’ve never seen him before: naked from the waist down.

The wisenheimer website posted three pictures of private parts it says the Minnesota Vikings quarterback sent to Jenn Sterger in 2008, when Favre was with the Jets and the sexy TV personality was a Gang Green sideline reporter. “It’s a good story for us,” Deadspin editor-in-chief A.J. Daulerio said. “We cover the dark side of sports.”

Daulerio also posted voicemails he says that Favre – a 40-year-old grandfather – left on Sterger’s phone in a clumsy attempt to woo the 26-year-old model, actress and television host.

“Send me a text,” Favre said in one voicemail. “Love to see you tonight.”

Favre declined to comment on the Deadspin post while meeting with reporters at the Vikings training facility Thursday. “I’m not getting into that,” Favre said. “I’ve got my hands full with the Jets.”

As I posted on Twitter earlier, the fact that Favre won’t deny the allegations is troubling and speaks volumes – but I’m still going to wait for more facts to come out before forming a definitive opinion. I’m hoping the allegations are not true, because not only is Favre married with children AND grandchildren who look up to him, but as a public figure he has always come across as kind of a clean-cut, all-American, respectable and upstanding (if indecisive) sports legend in an age where sports figures are more spoiled, irresponsible, and out of control than ever. If the texts and photos are part of some elaborate hoax against him, then all of those responsible should be held accountable in a court of law. But if they are genuine, not only will so many in his family be hurt and devastated, and Favre become the equivalent of Tiger Woods in the NFL, but it’ll also be another black mark on the protypical sports figure role model type.

If you’re interested in a good column on what is known so far about the Favre story and how the NFL should handle what is being alleged, make sure to read provocative sports columnist Jason Whitlock’s take on the allegations and his suggestions for how the NFL should respond. Pretty fair and balanced, IMO.

Reading about the allegations made me think back to the recent controversies over the last couple years or so regarding female sports journalists and the public debate over how they should conduct & present themselves.

Oh wait – there really hasn’t been much of a public debate on the issue of female sports journalists and how they should behave in a journalistic capacity, what they should wear, etc. Everytime there’s been an issue with allegations of too much attention being paid to who Whitlock calls “sideline Barbies” by male sports commentators and sports figures, the “discussion” has always been – with a few exceptions – primarily about how men in sports are “animals” who “can’t control” their actions and comments around a beautiful woman. To be fair, in some cases that’s true. Sports is still a mostly-male dominated industry, and when beautiful women are around surely some male commentators and sports will either go out of their way to get the woman’s attention, or make suggestive comments about said women – and in the latter instance more often than not it won’t be when she’s around. In the Erin Andrews case, you had an extreme instance in which a depraved jerk violated her privacy by filming her without her permission through a keyhole in a hotel room. In Favre’s case, if the allegations are true, you’ve got a situation where a married man decided the “pasture” was greener on the other side and decided to take his chances on it – probably and stupidly not thinking he would very likely get caught. He had a choice to make and, if what’s being reported is true, he made the wrong choice which will have consequences in both his personal life and professional career.

But the vast majority of men in America, in sports and elsewhere – contrary to the worthless opinions of NOW and the politically correct crowd in sports journalism – are NOT “animals” who “can’t control” their words and actions around women. But they are HUMAN and naturally are going to take a second glance at a woman who gets their attention on the sidelines, in the sports booth, etc. The guys in the stands are gonna be checking out these women – what makes anyone think the guys on the field or fellow sportscasters won’t be doing the same? Of course, keep in mind – like in the case of the woman who Favre is alleged to have texted – some women are not really hired for their jouranlistic talent but whether or not they can stir the crowd up with how they dress when they are “reporting” on sports. Bleh.

Anyway, let’s take the controversy that struck the Jets a few weeks ago regarding a female sports journalist:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (WJZ) ?It was a rough start to the regular season for the Jets as the Ravens won 10-9 Monday night.

But the Jets have other things to worry about.

Jessica Kartalija reports the NFL is investigating the team for sexually harassing behavior toward a female sports reporter from Mexico.

Inez Sainz, a former Miss Spain and Miss Universe contestant, was on the sidelines during Saturday’s practice when players and coaches appeared to throw footballs in her direction.

Then, later as she waited in the locker room to do an interview with quarterback Mark Sanchez, she was reportedly the target of catcalls and rude comments.

She tweeted in Spanish, “I’m so uncomfortable! I’m in the Jets locker room, waiting for Mark Sanchez and trying not to look around me. And a few moments later, I want to cover my ears.”

The Gothamist reported:

The self-described “hottest sports reporter in Mexico” who said she was “embarrassed” by the locker room-mentality on display in the Jets, um, locker room is sending mixed messages. Over the weekend, TV correspondent Ines Sainz created the impression, via Twitter, that she was the victim of sexual harassment while waiting to interview quarterback Mark Sanchez in the locker room. Now she says, “In no moment did I feel attacked or subjected to anything really offensive.” And though Sainz insists her tight jeans were “appropriate” attire, she now concedes, “My body type might be the type that could stretch jeans a little.”

But in an interview before last night’s game, which Sainz attended wearing a black minidress with a plunging neckline and matching black stilettos, the reporter said that in the locker room, one Jet shouted to her, “I want to play with a Mexican,” and, “Eres muy guapa” which means “You are very beautiful,” in Spanish. “I didn’t want any part of it,” Sainz, a mother of three, said. “I heard the noise. I knew they were talking about me. I was just focusing on my job and hoping that [quarterback] Mark Sanchez was coming soon so I could interview him.”

Of course, the comments shouldn’t have been made but take a look at the photo of Sainz and how she typically dresses for her “job” and then you’ll understand why she was so easily noticed. More respectable female sports journalists noticed, too, and responded with little sympathy for Sainz:

One might be wondering, “Who is Emily Warner to call this professional sports journalist not a professional?”

Well, I’m someone who believes that I take my job more seriously than she does.

If I were to go to the Super Bowl to interview professional football players, I would research like I’m trying to win a Pulitzer Prize, so when it came time for me to interview a player I would be on top of my game.

What did Sainz make sure she did before the Super Bowl in 2009? Pack a tape measure.

This “professional” conducted a “strongest man” competition by measuring the circumference of players’ arms. She needs to figure out if she is a serious sports journalist or a serious joke. I’m leaning towards the latter.

Along with the competition, Sainz conducted it while wearing jeans and a low cut, black spaghetti strap tank top. Yikes.

I would never dream of wearing something like that, regardless of the temperature. A modest dress would have been appropriate and much more comfortable than a suit.

Those who have played devil’s advocate in this situation involving Sainz have often brought up the reporter’s dress.

After looking at various pictures of her game-day outfits, I’d say the most appalling fall somewhere between her tight jeans and spaghetti strap shirts and her short black dress paired with knee-high black boots. Classy.

Sainz said on “Good Morning America,” “It’s my style…It’s my style for all my life.”

Well that’s great. My style is sweatpants and a t-shirt from when I was in high school, but I’m not about to show up to sit on press row at an ISU women’s basketball game wearing a “Class of 2008” shirt and oversized sweatpants.

I’m surprised it only took the catcalls for Sainz to feel uncomfortable; it would only take her attire to make me feel out of place.

Warner is right here. She’s not saying that Sainz or any other female sports journalist “deserves” catcalls and rude comments, but instead “don’t be surprised” when it happens, and she hints around at a larger point which is: Dress respectfully. If you’re a woman in sports journalism who doesn’t want to be judged solely on the basis of your looks, then don’t go out of your way to emphasize your “womanly parts.” I can’t tell you how often I’ve read about or seen on TV female sports journalists wearing teeny tiny skirts, knee-high boots, form-fitting leopard print skirts, tight tops designed to show off and emphasize cleavage, short, thin sundresses worn in the summertime where a wind blowing by or the sun shining through it would give other people around you a view you probably don’t want them to have. This is not dressing smart. This is not being wise. Most importantly: This is not dressing professionally. It irks me to no end to hear women talk about how they want to be taken seriously in male-dominated industries, and then they turn around and complain that they are not taken seriously even though the reason they aren’t is pretty obvious to everyone around them.

Men in sports definitely have an obligation to be respectful and courteous around female sports journalists much in the same way they’d want a journalist – male or female – to respect them. And if they’re not, then the appropriate action should be taken depending on the situation, what was said, etc. But by the same token, female sports journalists reporting from the sidelines, in locker rooms, and in the sports booth also have an obligation to dress professionally – not like they’re going out to a nightclub with the girls. As I wrote in my post on the Andrews controversy:

I admit, if I was in her line of work, I wouldn’t wear about 75% of what she does – I would tone it down quite a bit. She’s working in a male-dominated business, and in that situation – whether we’re talking about a sports-related field or in corporate America, the idea – at least in my view – is to try to blend in so as almost to be viewed as “one of the guys” while still maintaining your femininity and individuality. Ideally, you want to be recognized for your ability and talent first and foremost, not your sex – although sometimes that is unavoidable. That is why I frown on women who don’t know how to dress in a corporate environment (scroll), who wear outfits that are barely suitable for a club environment, let alone an 8-5 on the 35th floor of a major banking company. You can almost never go wrong by dressing professionally.

It’s ok to want to cute and feminine while still making sure your professionalism is front and center and the first thing to get noticed. And in some cases, even dressing completely appropriately won’t change how some people will react. I had a situation recently at my work where a Fed Ex pick-up driver was being extremely inappropriate towards me and I wasn’t even close to wearing anything that would encourage his behavior (jeans, a respectable cotton top, and sandals). But there is a pretty clear cut line between dressing femininely and dressing in a way that clearly will invite/attract attention that is unwanted, and if you conduct yourself – including how you dress – with dignity and respect in professional environments, then odds are the chances of you receiving the unwanted attention/remarks will lessen greatly. That advice is no different from advising your sister not to wander around the streets alone at night, or telling your daughter she’s not walking out of the house in that outfit. Erring on the side of caution in a business environment, as well as personally, is almost always the safer bet.

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