Treating Women in Sports with Respect is Bigger Than Mo’Ne Davis

maxresdefaultThe latest case of sports-related foot-in-mouth disease comes from Chicago sports radio personality Dan Bernstein.

Recently, Bernstein took to Twitter to question the professional abilities of Comcast SportsNet Chicago reporter Aiyana Cristal. He woke up the morning after he made his callous remarks about Cristal with a Twitter hangover. But unlike the young man who called Mo’ne Davis a slut, so far Bernstein has gotten off scot-free.

The Chicago Tribune reports that “Bernstein admitted on air he didn’t realize he was in the middle of a blazing social media firestorm until he woke up Thursday morning. Only then did it hit him that making Twitter comments about a woman sports anchor’s appearance probably wasn’t a good career move.” Ya, think?

What was his offending tweet about? Boobs.

Bernstein has now apologized for his remarks, but in a way that doesn’t matter.  Because there is something bigger to examine in connection with this one white sports guy making remarks about an African American woman’s body as if it’s his right.

Since he joined the radio station in 1995, we can assume that he is not a teenage boy unaccustomed to seeing women or women’s body parts. So what would make a grown man say something, never mind it was on Twitter, about a colleague’s appearance in such a gross manner?

Power.

As a white male in a white male dominated industry, he has immense power. He has also been the co-host of his current show since 1999. That means that the powers that be at WSCR know him very well and appreciate his work. That gives him more power. This type of institutional power exhibits itself in many ways in other arenas – this is what gives people the sense of invincibility and they are often correct. We are far more a society of forced apologies than having real conversations about what the offense really was about.

This is why the Starbucks “Race Forward” campaign was such a flop. As a society, we have few skills to talk about racism, sexism, homophobia and all the other “-isms” at a rational level that does not involve those in power (usually white heterosexual men) to be offended.

As someone who studies organizations and why some continue to be safe havens for racism and sexism, the first thing I wanted to see was if there were any women on-air at the station. Here are the line-ups:

OK…maybe not hosts. I get that women are often the side-kick or side-line reporter, let’s see what that looks like:
Oh.

And then I noticed a link above the hosts line up for this WSCR EEO Report.

Oh….So yes, I clicked right on over. In a simple PDF form, you can see how the CBS Chicago hired for all their openings for one year. I restricted my quick research project to WSCR. Over the course of July 23, 2013 – July 22, 2014, they hired eight individuals. The report also allows you to see where they got their interviewed candidates:

(1) Local Sales Manager (WSCR(AM)) Internal Candidate/Promotion
(2) Account Executive (WSCR(AM)) Referral (Employee, Industry, Personal)
(3) Account Executive (WSCR(AM)) Referral (Employee, Industry, Personal)
(4) Account Executive (WSCR(AM)) Referral (Employee, Industry, Personal)
(5) Promotions Manager (WSCR(AM)) Internal Candidate/Promotion
(6) National Sales Assistant (WSCR(AM)) Referral (Employee, Industry, Personal)
(7) Board Op Sounds Producer (WSCR(AM)) Internal Candidate/Promotion
(8) Content Producer (WSCR(AM)) Internal Candidate/Promotion

And where did WSCR get their interviewees from?

28 from internal applicants
17 from personal referrals
9 from the CBS job website
1 from an outside job website

I could not find information on their actual resume pool, but given what we know of the job market, I think it’s safe to say there were more than 54 applicants for eight openings. And 100% of the jobs were filled with people who were referred to the openings or internal candidates. It is true that it is who you know!

So, Back to Bernstein. People are now wondering what should happen. Should he be fired? Suspended? Whichever is fine with me. But what we really should be talking about is how did a radio station, even a sports radio station, get to where there are NO women on their photo staff roster? Well, I think I just showed you.

When you rely on internal and personal networks to fill open positions, you often replicate what you already have. The way humans works is that we too often associate with people who look just like us. It is comforting. Which is why some organizations make it harder for those in hiring to hire who they know. It does not always work, but at least it pushes people to reach outside their inner circle to look for applicants. And given the long list of diverse organizations that the ads were listed in, there should had been applicants who were good enough for an interview.

Organizational culture is very hard to change. But it can change with enough will from the top. I know some will wave off this incident as just more frat boy sports radio antics and they could be right. But it does not mean we should ignore it. Women are sports journalists and they deserve a workspace that is respectful of them as human beings. It can be done, but not if we focus on apologies instead of actions.

Veronica Arreola writes the blog Viva la Feminista, where she tries to navigate and understand the intersection between feminism, motherhood and her Latinadad. You can follow her on Twitter @veronicaeye.

To contact Veronica for an interview or to book her as a speaker, she can be reached at veronica.arreola@gmail.com.

Image via YouTube

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