Major League Sexism
In the history of sports journalism, there has never been more women reporting on televised American sports then there are today, according to the Women’s Media Center. Erin Andrews hosts Fox College Football for Fox Sports and here in the Bay Area, Amy Gutierrez is a sideline reporter for Comcast Sports Network (CSN) Bay Area, reports on the San Francisco Giants, Chelena Goldman covers the San Jose Sharks for Bay Area Sports Guy, and Susan Slusser former As’ beat reporter for the Chronicle and former top ranking baseball writer as president of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
“I loved it every time I did it,” says Melissa Ludtke, former Sports Illustrated reporter and researcher, about her time reporting on baseball and being in the locker room. “In the tunnel I began to see beams of lights and green, and every time you came out it was like a mosaic, beautiful. It never seemed old.”
When it comes to sports and journalism, women are on it. From reporting on-the-field, to doing in-depth reporting, even being anchors, female reporters are more prevalent than ever. Look at Jeannie Morris, who was the first female winner of a Ring Lardner Award for excellence in sports journalism; however with every step forward, we have two steps back. Ludtke, who has been in the business for four decades, sued Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1977, when she was banned access to either locker room during the World Series, after MLB announced that no women reporters would be allowed to report from inside either team’s locker room. Ludtke won her case with the court ruling that women sports reporters are at a severe disadvantage.
But why are women still not taken seriously as sports journalists? Female sports journalists are winning awards, just like the men, and they are out on the field reporting, interviewing the players, and bringing the stories to their fans. Why are women not at the “roundtable of experts” giving their two cents about a professional game, but instead being bullied? In 2005, while covering the Saint Louis Cardinals, Paola Boivin was approached by a player and asked if she was there to cover sports or to stare at a bunch of naked penises. The bullying continued when a sweaty jock strap hurled into the air, hitting Boivin in the head. Stunned, she ran out of the locker room. That incident alone almost made her end her career in sports journalism.
Goldman says she would love to do a radio spot before a game or a pre-game talk on a television, using different outlets to report on the sports she loves but to also continue writing.
“The same thing happen to women in science and video games,” says Ludkte. “It’s invading a territory that belongs to a man. And when that happens, they turn women into sex objects, it’s an automatic reflex.”
In 2012, 90 percent of sports journalists were white males, according to the Women’s Media Center. One-hundred and fifty sports newspapers and websites received a failing grade for their hiring practices because did not hire enough women as editors, columnists, copy editors, or designers. Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) is one of the few news organizations increasing the number of women, and racial minorities, in their industry, according to the Women’s Media Center. Without their statistics, only 4.6 percent of the sports media industry would be made up of women.
“I actually haven’t had many instances where I was judged for being a woman in sports journalism,” says Maggie Pilloton, co-editor at Golden Gate Sports. “There was one time where I felt that my presence on a blog’s staff allowed the site to brag about having a female sports writer on staff. I generally find though that if you know what you’re talking about, you do your research, you work hard, and you’re confident and consistent, that people will give you the respect you deserve.”
Pilloton also adds that there are always going to be people criticizing you, but you cannot take it personally. She says that you have to believe in yourself, your talent, and your work ethic.
Sports journalist Amy Gutierrez, known on Twitter as @AmyGGiants, likes to report the “emotional, non-technical side of the game” to attract more viewership. Gutierrez has her own webcast on Comcast Sports Network (CSN) called Amy G.’s Giants Xclusive, where she interviews Giants players and produces short webcasts including Buster Knows Squat. The show features one of the Giants most popular players, Buster Posey, and incorporates the athlete’s funny side with the professional side of sports.
“A couple months ago, I did a story on a day in the life of Amy G.,” says Pilloton. “I was able to shadow her for a Giants game to see what a normal day was like for her.” “That was an unforgettable experience, and I feel so grateful that I got the opportunity to do that. I love being able to interview someone or attend an event, for example, and find the storyline. Writing human interest stories like that are so fun for me, especially since I got the chance to interview a role model of mine, Amy G.”
Pilloton went on to say that Guiterrez was an extremely hard working person, and humble and professional. It is clear that she loves her job and her family. Pilloton says that she learned so much from Guiterrez and loved being able to connect with her on a personal level, as they are both alumni from University of California, Davis.
“A normal day can be pretty busy and hectic for Amy, as she has to balance being a mom and wife with being the in-game reporter for the Giants,” says Pilloton.
“Her day is full of planning the hits she will deliver on the in-game broadcast, staying up to date on all Giants news, speaking with Giants players and coaches, interacting with fans, taking notes during the game, etc. She handles her busy schedule with incredible grace, humility, and patience.”
Amy Gutierrez is not as loved by the Giants fans on Twitter as one might think. Instead, Twitter is filled with hate and people tweeting that they want her off their television because they cannot stand her voice or the way she reports. Some fans have even adopted the hashtag #muteamy, while others call her names like “horseface.” Rene Godoy, @feenixgavredux on Twitter, a die-hard Giants fan, is one of the many people on Twitter who harasses Gutierrez and her work. Godoy says that in his eyes, her reports have no relevance to the teams’ progress and he would rather just listen to [Giants broadcasters] Kruk and Kuip talk.
Gutierrez takes her insults well though, replying to tweets saying “that’s nice! Thanks, lol!” or even joking that she needs to do a Jimmy Kimmel-like segment called “Amy G. reads mean tweets,” adding that she would crush it.
“It’s a little too much for the male comfort zone,” says Ludtke. “They turn it into hate. It doesn’t just happen in sports; it is challenging, difficult, and sad. It’s unbelievable that in four decades, this is still happening.”
In July, Erin Andrews was called a “gutless bitch” by Boston radio host Kirk Minihane, after asking Saint Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright if he was “throwing easy pitches” to Derek Jeter. Minihane apologized for his language but then bashed Andrews again, insulting her intelligence and saying “Fox only hired her because she was good looking; if she weighed fifteen more pounds she would be a waitress at Perkins.” Instead of Minihane apologizing and leaving it at that, he personally attacked Andrews again.
Chelena Goldman, who reports for Bay Area Sports Guy, describes herself as very girly for someone who likes sports; she has her own uniform for games — dresses and tights. Goldman says no one has personally attacked her because she is a woman. She has had a scout or two talk down to her, though. Goldman added that the Bay Area has a lot of women in sports journalism.
“I love what I do, it is my dream job,” says Goldman. “This is what I went to school to do and I am lucky and happy to be doing it. It is cool to sit and watch a game.”
Women still have a long way to go in the male-dominated field of sports journalism, but they are bridging the gender gap and it does not look like they will be stopping anytime soon. Although there are only about 5 percent of women covering sports in this country, they are still kicking ass doing it.