The Elephant in the Room

My first week into the sports writing field has been an eye opener. Not because I wasn’t aware of the lack of representation in the sports writing field, but because it is still an issue that seems to have no urgency in being addressed.

This week I saw how a male writer jumped on another female writer for encouraging women to apply to a job, making the assumption that only woman could apply. That male writer got a well-deserved backlash on Twitter (battleground for keyboard warriors) for attempting to override the fact that the sports writing arena is dominated by white, male voices.

This incident lead to another thread where another person suggested that writing for sites like ESPNW (ESPN’s site dedicated to women’s sports and point of views) was unnecessary and even of “lesser” quality. I was so incensed with this exchanged, that I needed to walk away from the computer and remind myself that Twitter is also a place where anonymous cowards thrive, and that Twitter was not a reflection of the bigger world out there.

The last incident came late last night in an exchange between two national baseball writers and the issue of covering athletes who have been suspended or facing charges of abuse or violence. As you might assume, the female writer was holding her male counterpart accountable in his article regarding the suspension of Roberto Osuna by MLB for violating the league’s domestic violence policy.

It is to note that Osuna is still pending trail for these charges in Canada, so much is still in the air as to what will the Toronto Blue Jays determine to be the fate of the 23 year-old. The male writer could not understand why the female writer was signaling him out for not bringing up the issue of domestic violence in the article. The article just focused on the sad baseball executives that were hoping to make a deal for Osuna, but with the new suspension, seemed very unlikely; at least for this season. And this is what the problem is and why the female writer was right to call her counterpart out.

Issues regarding domestic violence or “non-male issues” in sports have often been overlooked. Voices of dissent in the way these issues are covered are often shunned or kept to the margin. Athletes are reinstated and rewarded with multi-million dollar contracts, because teams still believe that their personal lives do not play a factor in whether than can produce wins for the team.

As a fan with purchasing power, I decide when and how to financial support my favorite players and teams. In exchange, I do have certain performance expectations from them in order to keep me involved. Those expectations include performance on and off the field, and if enough fans demonstrate to the front offices that off-field incidents do matter in the level of investment in their organizations, than they will have no choice but to listen and take action. The reality is that the current rules and practices do not reflect the change that is needed in sports, and thus, it is why players are allowed to be reinstated as long as an organization is willing to pay the price.

Change is coming, but it is slow or non-existent is some arenas. As a woman, I’m very familiar with the issues regarding equality and treatment, even in the sports arena. I just wished it wasn’t something I had to deal with in my first week as a writer. The most encouraging thing in all this? The amount of women (and men!) that are speaking up against this, and that encourages and strengthens my decision to go down this path.

So there, the elephant in the room has been addressed, and I’m glad I finally addressed it myself.

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