photo credit: The Sun
by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount at gmail
Good morning sports media fans. Lots of stuff to talk about this week so let’s get right to it. With TSM posting more I’ll probably trim down the size of my weekend column going forward, but not this day …
Good Week for Gender Equality in Hockey
One of the first things I started writing about in this space was the lack of women in prominent positions in Toronto sports media. We spent a lot of time discussing that issue, with many people chiming in on both sides. My own opinion is that the persistent paucity of women on either radio station and at the papers reflects poorly on the state of the media in Toronto. Simply put and with apologies to Rosie DiManno, women are not really part of the sports conversation in Toronto.
This past week I have had plenty of debates with a range of people, both in sports media and outside of the industry, about the high profile firings of Steve Lepore and Adrian Dater for their conduct towards female bloggers.
Lepore was a relatively high profile hockey blogger (i.e. one with a press pass) for several outlets, including Awful Announcing. He privately asked several women with whom he publicly interacted on Twitter to pose for sexy photo-shoots, and then continued to write to at least one of them when she asked that he stop. He was fired by AA. Dater was a high profile hockey writer for the Denver Post. He asked for revealing pics from a woman who he previously insulted by saying that he wasn’t “going to argue with a woman.” His sexual overture prompted her to post the screenshots of his DMs. He was fired by the Post and posted a lengthy comment on Facebook, which to my eyes reads more as “sorry I got caught” than “I am sorry for what I did.”
At the risk of oversimplifying, people tend to fall into two camps: 1) those of us who think these firings are a sign of progress with respect to the social equality of women, and 2) those who think the incidents in question are overblown. Note that people in the 2nd category don’t think gender equality is unimportant; they just think that people shouldn’t have to lose their jobs over their private correspondence.
(Side-note: you’ll recall that privacy was an important aspect of the Donald Sterling saga, and I voiced a lot of support for him suing to keep his team on grounds of due process. In my opinion, these cases are different for reasons I’ll explain below)
For an example of the latter, see David Shoalts of the Globe:
So to that Beliveau end, you outraged Twitterites re Adrian Dater, he said sorry, he'll seek help. Cut him a break. Others have done worse.
— David Shoalts (@dshoalts) December 4, 2014
There is a reasonable debate to be had here, but I think that this camp is fighting a battle not worth winning. Here is why: the common theme in the Lepore and Dater cases is that you have people in a position of power exploiting that position to try sexualize a professional relationship.
I don’t want to overstate the power angle but I do think it’s an important part of this story. In both cases you have female hockey bloggers trying to gain credibility in their favourite sport. In both cases they develop working relationships with people who are respected in the field. And in both cases the guy tries to make things sexual, implicitly leveraging the power differential.
I’m not saying Twitter is a professional environment — surely not — but what I am saying is that the power dynamics matter. The lesson here is that if you are a man in a position of power you can’t just throw sexual comments around to your female audience and think there will be no blowback. That, to me, is progress. This is a roadstop along the path towards equality. Previous stops included being able to playfully slap a female co-worker on the ass. That is highly inappropriate in retrospect. So is this.
The one point many people make in response is that if either guy had tried this act in a bar no one would have complained. That’s precisely the point in my opinion: they didn’t meet these women at the bar. Rather, both guys lobbed these comments in the context of what was, to the other party, a professional relationships. That’s what makes this kind of behaviour inappropriate.
Now, do they deserve to be fired? I think that is a separate discussion. That is entirely at the discretion of their employers. Many people have expressed indignation at the amount of “piling on” that came from the Twitter “outrage enthusiasts” and “social justice warriors.” I can understand why people complain about this. There are a lot of people who look for any opportunity to remind everyone just how progressive they are when it comes to equality. I agree this is annoying. It’s like slapping a “support the troops” sticker on your car and thumping your chest about patriotism. But this shouldn’t weaken your disdain for the initial offense.
I’ll close by making this point: incidents like Dater and Lepore make all men in the industry look bad. The reason why sports media (and other industries) look like a giant misogyny machine is because of precisely this type of behaviour. By getting rid of offenders everyone gets to inch slightly closer to meaningful gender equality. That’s why it’s not worth parsing the nuances of whether what they did was worse than some other bad thing someone else did. If these guys grow into better people as a result of all of this, great. In the meantime, good riddance to people who were holding the rest of us back.
Katie over at PPP had some thoughts worth reading.
Good Week for LGBT Equality
MLB umpire Dale Scott casually came out as gay this week. This is a pretty cool development. While there are no openly gay baseball players yet, this will undoubtedly make that process easier. I would love for MLB to mic him up this season. I’m willing to bet we’d hear some profoundly human exchanges. It will be interesting to watch if this affects his career going forward.
Bruce Arthur has a nice story on the COC moving the cause of equality forward. After the awful display of hatred for homsexuals displayed by Russia’s political leadership this is a great and overdue statement. “Nine months later, the Canadian Olympic Committee is poised to become a leader rather than one of the silent crowd.” This is something of which we should be proud as Canadians.
The rain on this week’s parade came courtesy of Tony Dungy who took this week’s reinstatement of Ray Rice as an opportunity to double down on his “principled” stance that homosexuals have no place in sports but that he’d welcome Rice on his team. Cyd Zeigler has a note perfect response.
Some players on the St. Louis Rams acknowledged Ferguson by coming out of the tunnel with their hands up indicating “don’t shoot!” The local police are not happy. Sports always wins these fights, and I think more players should use their platform to speak out on social issues.
After last week’s suspension of Keith Law by ESPN, Professor Curt Schilling continues to embrace debate by clarifying that evolution within species happens all the time but that it cannot happen across species, which explains why humans didn’t come from monkeys.
Zelkovich confirms the anticipated low television numbers for Grey Cup. If this repeats itself next year then it will be a trend. Until then, I’m done talking about this issue. The CFL has seen the darkest of days and come through.
Shoalts has a very impressive piece of journalism on Rogers missing their viewership targets and what this means in terms of the promises they made to advertisers. It’s worth nothing that Shoalts is one of the few free agents in Toronto journalism. Not sure this article gets written if he regularly appears on either network. As an aside, Shoalts has been delivering the journalistic goods lately after a period of being in the wilderness. He’s on my “must-read” list. Who is currently on yours?
Westhead has a detailed and thorough story on the Arland Bruce CFL lawsuit. Pretty critical article from someone working for a CFL broadcast partner. Good on TSN for letting him write the story.
Andrew Stoeten (ex-DJF) announced that he will contribute to the National Post’s baseball coverage this coming year. I know his writing is not for everyone, but anyone who gets John Lott’s seal of approval has to be doing something very right. Congratulations to Andrew.
Low Hanging Fruit
- Simmons called out Bob McCown for not reading the book that Bob and Naylor co-wrote. Perhaps the issue in question was covered in the, surely very small, section of the book that Naylor wrote by himself. Simmons fights with fans and athletes quite a bit, nice to see him set his target on the media every now and then.
- If you only have time to listen to one interview this week, consider Naylor & Arthur talking to ESPN The Magazine’s Don Van Natta on the Ray Rice situation. No obnoxious interruptions, and no disingenuous arguments. Just great back and forth among three professional journalists. Find it here, or during the 3rd hour of TSN Drive on Dec 3rd in iTunes.
- New Blue Jay Josh Donaldson appeared on Blair then Macko&Cauz in consecutive segments on Monday Dec 1 during the 9am hour. I challenge you to listen to both interviews and then argue with me that Blair doesn’t needs a cohost. Blair has lots of good thoughts on baseball but there is way too much dead air on his show. A co-host would solve that. Why hasn’t this happened yet? Surely Ennis or Sammut or Rusic or Wong have earned a shot at a regular gig.
- AA on PTS a day before the AJ Happ trade: “It is highly unlikely we will trade any of our current starters.” Was this a lie or did the trade materialize out of the blue the next day?
- Don Cherry called out Nazem Kadri on Brady&Walker on Monday. It’s amazing how these guys always get the most newsworthy quotes from their guests. How do they do it?
thanks for reading and commenting,
until next time …
mike (not really in boston)