The Real Issue Underlying the Sainz/Jets Incident

17 09 2010

I have refrained from weighing in on the Ines Sainz/NY Jets issue thus far because it is complicated and I needed to think about it fully. Many have shared their view points arguing the issue from many angles. Last night I gave a TV interview with our local FOX affiliate and finally weighed in on this subject. To see the interview click here.

The real issue is not whether women should be allowed in male locker rooms. In 1985 the NFL dealt with this issue and granted equal access to credentialed female sport journalists, despite the fact a belief persists among some that females should “stay out.”

The real issue is not about what Sainz was wearing. While it can be argued Sainz was not “dressed appropriately or professionally” that does not give permission for males to harass or act boorishly. I liked Jelisa Castrodale’s take on this issue, she writes, “Disturbingly, the most frequently cited justification for the Jets’ behavior is that Sainz ‘deserved’ whatever comments or catcalls that were launched in her direction, both because she is an attractive woman and because she chose to wear something that fit more snugly than a shower curtain. The ‘she’s askin’ fer it’ excuse has been a longtime favorite of COPS co-stars, domestic court defendants and frat guys on the wrong side of the honor code.”

However, I think that Sainz does not do female sport journalists as a whole any favors by consistently showing up to the workplace/football fields in “clubbing attire.” According to a 2008 report commissioned by the AP Sport Editors, females comprise less than 10% all sport reporters. Given that female sport journalists are statistical tokens (< 15% of a population) they are under constant scrutiny, have to perform above and beyond their male peers to be deemed competent, and are subjected to overt and covert forms of discrimination. The few women who “make it big” and are given access to professional male sport arenas have a responsibility to act professionally above and beyond what is expected so that all females in the industry are respected. As one of my colleagues pointed out when discussing this issue, “Dress for Success” is a cliche for a reason.

I think the real issue underlying the Sainz/Jets situation is that workplace harassment occurred, and we have laws that protect against that. Some of the best pieces I’ve read and agree with are the following:

1. USA Today columnist, Christine Brennan summarized it best when she argued the real issue was workplace harassment. Brennan writes, “Was a credentialed reporter harassed in the workplace by the team that gave her that credential? Everything else about this story is extraneous.” To read her piece, click here.

2. The Association for Women in Sport Media also released position statements which debunked myths and outlined why this is a harassment case. In an open letter AWSM stated, “AWSM sees this as a simple issue: Sainz was granted a media credential by the New York Jets. She was working in an official capacity for her employer, TV Azteca in Mexico. Once she was credentialed, she deserved not only equal access but also the right to a work environment free from harassment and hostility.

I also found it interesting that some tried to explain away, justify, or excuse the behavior of the Jets players and coaches by saying “boys will be boys.” If harassment of women in the workplace by men is explained as “boys will be boys” than that is a sad reflection of the sign of the times. Unfortunately this language is used repeatedly to normalize or minimize the bad behavior of males. Most importantly these were not boys, they were grown men. Why is it still a common occurrence that some men still think nothing of  treating women as sexual objects in the workplace…it is 2010 right?

Advertisements




The First-ever Ice Hockey Summit: Action on Concussion

15 09 2010

October 19-20 The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN will be hosting the first-ever Ice Hockey Summit: Action on Concussion.

The prevalence and consequences of concussion at all levels of ice hockey are concerning. Reduction of concussion risk, as well as improved concussion diagnosis and management require a collaborative effort from medicine, psychology, sport science, coaching, engineering, officiating, manufacturing, and community partners. This quality scientific program focuses on education and generates an evidence-based action plan designed to make a difference. For the rationale on why this summit is important and needed click here.

For more information, to register, or to view the brochure which contains the full line-up of top experts on concussions from multiple disciplines, or visit the website.

This conference comes none to soon as the growing concern over concussions in the NFL and college football mount. A recent story about a former University of Pennsylvania football player, highlights the need for this conference and other educational efforts. In the story it was reported that, “A study of the brain tissue of Owen Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania football captain who committed suicide in April, reportedly revealed the beginning stages of a degenerative disease that is believed to be caused by repeated head trauma.

To read a previous blog post on the NFL and concussions which contains many excellent links to data-based information, click here.





Things That Make You Go Hmmmm…More on Social Media & Women’s Sport

30 10 2009

Following the  Tucker Center lecture and new blog about the impact of social media and women’s sport, it didn’t take too long for me to be in the middle of a real life example. Life works in ironic ways sometimes, doesn’t it? This example is meant to continue the conversation about this emerging and important topic.

9uwom0322w.lOn Tuesday I was at my computer and looked over the TweetDeck and saw that WNBA player Janel McCarville was live on her UStream channel JMACTV. I’d heard about Candace Parker using UStream but hadn’t checked it out yet, so clicked on the link and….ta dah!…there was Janel. As a Minnesotan, two-time Gopher Alum and now Gopher faculty, huge fan of women’s basketball, and advocate/scholar of women’s sport, I’ve been a long time fan of Janel McCarville (no hate Janel, only love!). Who can forget the Whalen/McCarville dynasty in The Barn!

Janel !I thought, “This is really cool… instant access to an elite female athlete“, as I watched her looking at and responding to the comments and questions from the 60+ fans watching her. I shouted through my office door to my two graduate students to “check this out”. Then I took a harder look and wrinkled my brow, “Is she in the bathroom?” I asked them, “and is she really cutting her own hair?” (see screen shot)  Somehow I was a bit disturbed by this. I immediately wasn’t so sure this was cool anymore—or good for women’s sports. So given this subject has been top of mind, I tweeted about it—twice (see screen shot below).mccarville tweets

I continued to watch for about 10mns, and then shut down for the day. I continued to think about it over the next day or so.  In the course of “doing my warm up activities” for the day (aka surfing), I looked at my @ replies on Twitter and saw that my tweets had incited quite a bit of outrage, and a direct response from Janel herself! (see screen shot right, it will enlarge if you click on it).mccarville tweet responses The tone of the responses was “lighten up, this is just silly and fun and everyone but YOU thinks this is great”. Fair enough. I responded to Janel via Twitter:  “@JanelMcCarville No anger, just continuing conversation re: women’s sport & social media, both pro/con. See http://bit.ly/352s8T“. But I felt badly for criticizing her and it bothered me.

I learned a few valuable lessons which may be instructive as we all move forward and think about how to use social media effectively to positively promote women’s sports.

First, if social media is truly a two-way conversation, then I should of phrased my tweet “What is your opinion about @JanelMcCarville’s UStream videocast?”

Second, attacking people on Twitter is just in poor taste and not classy. My apologies Janel. This has played out for KC Chiefs NFL player Larry Johnson this week, as he is paying the price literally and in the media and  for using a homophobic slur. It will continue to occur with increased frequency as social media becomes part of the way we communicate.

Third, shortly thereafter I read a great piece by Q McCall of www.swishappeal.com on Feministing.com titled,  Is there a “feminist responsibility” to support women’s sports? It put into context some of the guilt I felt. Why was I attacking a female athlete?  I’m supposed to support women’s sport. But on the other hand, as a feminist, scholar, and advocate of women’s sport  I often feel I have the responsibility to wave the red flag and point out when I see something that may not be a “good thing”.  Perhaps my role is to raise the issue, provide an alternative viewpoint, and promote respectful discussion.

It also got me thinking about where female athletes and women’s sport might be headed in terms of social media. If everyone  “loves it” (all 66 viewers)—is this our new model of promoting women’s sport? Is that what fans really want to see? Is this how fans want to interact with athletes? Where is the line between “good access” and access that, to borrow from C + C Music Factory,  “Makes You go Hmmmm”? As was pointed out to me,  Ron Artest of the LA Lakers, got his hair cut that same day…which garnered media attention. But if the men do it, should the women follow? Should we always be trying to emulate our male counterparts? (I’m not suggesting that is why Janel chose to UStream, she’d have to tell us the inspiration). Is it possible male athletes use social media differently because of disparate patterns of traditional media coverage? What are the similar and different ways elite male and female athletes use social media? How can female athletes take control and use social media in positive ways to combat sexism, inequalities, and disparities that are well documented in sport contexts? Is this a responsibility they should bear? In conclusion, I highlight Janel not to criticize or judge, but to provide an exemplar real-life issue to promote discussion about social media and women’s sports.

I don’t have the answer, only a lot of questions. What do you think?





Brains & Beauty: The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

28 09 2009

dallas_cowboys_diamondBlog reader S.C. sent me a story about the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (DCC’s). Evidently the DCC’s have to take and pass a 100-question test in order be on the squad. Questions include “everything from the governor of Texas to a country that borders Iraq.” Rick Reilly, the author of the story for ESPN.com, poses a great critical question: If the Cowboys football players had to take the same quiz to make the team, how many would pass? To see some of the questions, which have nothing to do with football, see Reilly’s piece. After reading the GQ story on brain trauma of NFL players, it might be less likely that players would fare well on the exam.

Kelli Finglass, the DCC Leader says, “We want our cheerleaders to be knowledgeable and well-spoken in interviews…If they’re not, it’s a deal breaker.” To follow Reilly’s line: Is a non-literate or ill-spoken football player a “deal breaker” for the Cowboys? Who is more likely to be in the media spotlight and give interviews on national television (or any television for that matter!), cheerleaders or football players?

The bigger question may be, why are the DCC’s held to a different standard than the players? Share your thoughts with me.





Social Media & NFL on the Brain

23 09 2009

BrainGiven the upcoming Tucker Center Distinguished Lecture on social media and women’s sports I’m helping plan, I’ve had social media on the brain. Here a few interesting tidbits I thought to share:

1. Did You Know 4.0 (video on YouTube produced in conjunction with the Third Annual Media Convergence Forum). This is a very cool piece (thanks to ASC!).

2. Blogs about social media and women’ sport on the NEW Tucker Center blog. The first is an intro piece written by TC staff about social media and why it matters to women’s sports, followed by Dave Zirin’s piece on Double Standards.

3. Marie Hardin, contributing panelist for the TC Distinguished Lecture posted a Sports, Media & Society blog today about the topic. Look for her guest TC blog in the next day!

GQ brain injury footballLATE ADDITION: Speaking of brains, a just colleague sent an interesting piece over the NASSS listserv from GQ. The story is on the NFL, brain trauma, concussions and cover up. As my colleague explained it, “Good insight as well on the commodification of athletes and institutional denials of medical conditions.”

update: ESPN.com ran a story this week on the higher incidence of dementia in NFL players compared to the general population.

Update October 13, 2009: Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink, wrote a piece for The New Yorker titled, Offensive Play: How different are dogfighting and football? Great read.





The invisibility of female professional sports

18 04 2009

This might seem insignificant to some, but it is another example of how female professional sports are erased. Last night I was at the Sugarland concert at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Near the end of the concert Sugarland played a cover of the Bon Jovi song “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” that Jennifer Nettles and Bon Jovi recorded together.

During this song on the giant screen behind the band they showed logos of all the local professional sport teams in Minnesota….except one. Any guesses which one was left out? If you guessed the WNBA franchise Minnesota Lynx—you would be correct. The Twins, Vikings, Wild, and Timberwolves were included and when each logo appeared, fans in the audience cheered loudly for their favorite team. What made this omission even more ironic was the fact the Sugarland concert was held in the Target Center where the Lynx (and Timberwolves) play!

lynx
I’m sure Sugarland and their producers didn’t intentionally leave out the Lynx, but it is an example of how womens’ sports get erased—telling the public what is valued and important, and what is not.





Marketing Sports: “Wine & Pampering” v. “Beer & Back Waxing”

16 04 2009

So after posting my last blog “Are Women Sport Fans?” I had a couple conversations with colleagues about female sport fans and how we “market” sport to women which spurred some additional thoughts. As I mentioned previously, females comprise 53% of WNBA and one-third or more of all MLB, NBA, and NHL fans.

Have you ever wondered about the typical ways women are “enticed” to attend professional men’s sports(i.e., “wine & pamper yourself events” that also teach women the rules of the game? This assumes that women don’t attend sports purely because they love the game, know the rules, follow the stats, or are passionate about their favorite team and player(s). Women ARE sport fans…but we so seldom see them in the sport media it is assumed they don’t exist. It also assumes that women don’t know the rules of the game and therefore don’t attend for that reason. If women just KNEW the rules it would increase their likelihood of attending! Women have to be lured to attend sports through things society tells them that women like…manicures, being pampered, wine tasting, and hanging out with the girls.

So let’s apply similar logic to attracting male fans (the coveted sport demographic) to women’s professional leagues, for example the WPS or WNBA. Are parallel events like “beer & back waxing” days offered for men? Or days that teach men the rules of the game? No? If not, then it must be assumed that all men are already sport fans and KNOW the rules the game. But this hasn’t translated into increasing numbers of male fans….yet. What do you think is the most effective way to increase the number of male sport fans at womens’ sports?

Key point: one-third or more of sport fans are comprised of females….men’s and women’s sports NEED female fans to survive! What if that one-third of the female fan base stopped attending men’s sports? To ensure the survival of women’s pro leagues that many of us are passionate about, is not the sole responsibility of female fans. Men’s pro sports rely on both male and female sport fans for sustainability, the same applies for women’s pro sports.

I still believe we haven’t gotten it right….yet. What does effective sport marketing to females look like? What does effective marketing of women’s sport look like? To get us started in answering these questions I think back to the May 26, 2006 and an October 9, 2006 Sport Business Journal articles written by a former colleague.