Katie Nolan, who hosts the show “No Filter” on Fox Sports twice a week, released a You Tube video that focuses on her reaction to the NFL’s stance on the Ray Rice situation and the broader issue of women’s role in professional sports.
This amazing piece of commentary really got me thinking.
As someone who was raised by a single mother with two siblings (both sisters), I have never really bought into the gender roles that seem to define American society. It’s something I simply didn’t think a whole lot about growing up. When placed in that bubble as an adolescent, one simply becomes tuned-out from what is happening in the larger aspect of society.
Since I made the transition from part-time blogger at Niners Nation (a SB Nation site that focuses solely on the San Francisco 49ers), to a full-time career in sports writing and editing, one thing has become pretty obvious to me.
The hill for women to climb in order to be considered legitimate sports journalists is so much steeper than men. As a representation of the more macro issue of gender inequality, which still exists in a widespread nature in modern society, the sports journalism world seems to be defined more by men giving their opinions and being allowed to utilize that forum to make some pretty ridiculous statements.
Katie talks about the Stephen A. Smith’s of the world in the video embedded above. And maybe it’s individuals like him that give men in this industry a bad name. Then again, he could very well be just a talking head for the powers to be in the sports journalism world. The powers to be that forces an amazing Pam Oliver from the sidelines of NFL action in order to replace her with men’s version of what a women is supposed to represent in this industry, Erin Andrews.
That’s where the question comes into play. Are we all enablers in what has become nothing more than a machismo culture in the sports journalism world? Katie talks about a specific situation in which she considered asking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a tough question. In this circumstance, she decided to hold off on the question because she was simply given an assignment to cover the Q&A session. An assignment that was given to her by a male power elite. Would Katie have been this hesitant to ask a tough question if her role wasn’t defined as it is by the larger sports journalism world? That’s something that stood out to me big time.
As someone who has worked with (and continues to work with) female sports journalists, I have found the dynamic to be somewhat interesting. They are no less talented then the men who work with and under me. They have strong opinions and takes. They represent what is good about those attempting to get into this industry full-time.
They are also subject to continual harrassment and questions on social media. This has led some who have worked underneath me to even question whether this is the right career path for them.
This is also the disgusting reality that we live in today. And in some cases, it’s men like some of you who are reading this who are to blame.
Just because a woman is handed specific role based on her perceived gender identity, it doesn’t mean that she is any less equipped to handle the issues of the day or speak the truth in a candid manner. This is something that seems to be lost within the sports journalism world today.
As it realtes to the professional sports world, specifically the National Football League, there is a major problem that needs to be addressed.
This problem is rooted in decades and decades of male dominance in this sports. Roger Goodell’s seemingly half-assed attempt to sweep the Ray Rice situation under the rug speaks volumes about this domination and the perception that power elites within the NFL itself have towards female fans and journalists.
In the context of the larger American society, football is seen as a barbaric sport played by super-masculine men, who in turn are violent in nature.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Ray Rice situation is an exception to the rule. The NFL may have many problems, but compared to the larger American population, domestic violence pales in comparison.
The issue here is how the NFL has previously responded to domestic violence issues, pretty much indicating that such incidents aren’t as serious as a DUI arrest of positive marijuana test. Prior to the release of Rice’s video, the NFL stood its ground on his two-game suspension. And only once the video was released, it decided to act.
It acted based on the public backlash from women and men alike. It acted based on its own PR issues. It acted simply because there wasn’t another choice in the matter.
If Rice, who obviously committed a disgusting act of violence against a women he supposedly loves, wasn’t caught on tape, he would still be looking at a two-game suspension instead of an indefinite ban from the league. Heck, he suited up and played for the Ravens this past preseason.
That in and of itself should tell us what we need to know about the philosophy of those in power at the league office in New York City.
As long as something isn’t so damning, like a man being caught knocking his now wife unconscious in a hotel elevator, the NFL is fine with sweeping it under the rug.
And by ignoring the larger issue of violence against women in American society, the NFL is exhausting any capital that it might have had with those of us who refuse to ignore the issues it has failed to address during Goodell’s tenure as commissioner.
Changing the domestic violence policy after the fact might very well allow Goodell to receive props from those not connected with the sport on a daily basis. But make no mistake about it, this action isn’t a larger ideological shift from the commissioner and his chronies. Instead, it’s a reactionary measure based on the NFL being worried about its public image.
Speaking to CBS Nightly News in an attempt to save face isn’t going to push this to the back burner, Mr. Goodell. Attempting damage control will be seen exactly as what it is…another PR ploy by a man that seems to be completely out of touch with reality and more focused on his own popularity.
All of us have women who we love dearly. All of us were impacted by the video that was released on Monday. And all of us are players in this current scandal that could plague the entire 2014 season. Meanwhile, the vast majority of men covering the NFL or playing the game are caught in the crossfire.
It’s high time that we (all of us) address this issue, not only of violence against women in American society, but the treatment of women in the sports world.
If we are ever going to create gender equality within the sport, the time is now. Don’t hold back because you’re afraid to upset a boss or make a controversial statement within an article or video. Stand true to what you believe in and fight for those around you who deserve a helping hand.
While doing all that, refuse to buy into the machismo culture that continues to plague those within both the NFL and sports journalism community.
Katie helped me write this article by taking a stand herself. And hopefully this piece might act as a precursor for some of you to start taking a stand moving forward.
That’s my unfiltered take.
Photo: NY Post