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Double Standard: A look at the world of women in sports media

The life of a sports media member is often filled with thrilling games, interesting interviews, long hours and breathtaking moments.

It can also sometimes be filled with harsh criticism from the consumers of one’s work, appearance or even gender.

The experience of women working in the sports media industry is often a mixed bag, and at its worst, can be filled with double standards, an emphasis on appearance and a barrage of gender-based insults.

Carley McCord, an on-air personality and executive producer for ESPN Radio 104.5/104.9 FM said that although sports fans are becoming more accepting with of women in sports media, there is still is a lot of sexism in her industry.

“A lot of people discredit me and discredit my opinion just because of my gender,” McCord said. “It is something that I have to battle everyday in the work place. It’s one hundred percent something that absolutely exists.”

For McCord, criticism often comes in the form of social media barbs, including on ESPN Radio’s mobile app, “The Huddle,” which allows listeners to interact with the on-air hosts and guests via Tweets and text messages.

“People get in (The Huddle) all the time and dog me,” McCord said. “For example someone called me a ‘cleat chaser’ today, and I responded back, ‘I dated one athlete three years ago if that makes me a cleat chaser.’ I get ugly tweets. I get ugly messages. There was a TigerDroppings(.com) thread about me that was five or six pages long a few weeks ago about how terrible I am in sports media.”

The other half of the mixed bag is the experience of Amy Gill, sports director of WVLA-TV/WGMB-TV.

Gill said she has never experienced sexism with any players or coaches she’s covered during her career, but has received some gender-based comments from viewers.

“When I first moved here I did have a few viewer emails saying they didn’t want to watch me because I’m a girl, but that will happen in some places,” Gill said. “Some people aren’t accepting, but for the most part I’ve always gotten positive feedback from viewers and the people that I cover.”

McCord said one of the obstacles women in sports media are faced with is not having played certain sports and thus being labeled as having no knowledge or authority to speak on said sport.

“Men can usually be a former athlete and can comment on the subject matter more so than I can from a personal experience,” McCord said. “I’m just an outsider. I have to work even harder to do research. It’s not from experience of physically playing the sport. If I don’t know something, and I ask, I get called an idiot (by sports fans).”

In sports media, much like society at large, appearance plays a large role in how strangers perceive someone. McCord said this is especially true for women, who are scrutinized (and sometimes criticized) for their appearance by male sports fans.

“I do feel that pressure that I have to look a hundred percent all the time because you’re in the spotlight, whether you like it or not, it’s part of this job,” McCord said. “It’s part of this industry. It’s one of the things that I have to take into consideration every day when going to work.”

Both Gill and McCord are the only women currently working in their respective fields of sports media in Baton Rouge, and point to current co-workers as big supporters of them in their careers.

“My fellow co-workers are nothing but respectful,” McCord said. “I have a great boss. They really have my back. They watch to make sure that if I’m being bullied in The Huddle they try to stop it. They’re wonderful!”

“I’ve always had really fabulous co-workers,” Gill said. “I’ve always pretty much gotten along with most media members as well.”The old adage of “sticks and stones” is certainly applicable to the life of any sports media member who has received taunts or criticism from sports fans, but especially true for women in the sports media field.

When given the option to ignore or engage social media trolls, both Gill and McCord said they often choose the former.

“Most of the time when they say I’m annoying or my bump music sucks or I don’t know anything about sports or that I need to go put makeup on and stop trying to be on the radio, I ignore those people,” McCord said. “If those people are taking time out of their days to criticize me, most of the time anonymously, then I’m not going to stoop to their level and respond back to them and entertain them and let them know that it gets to me.

“There’s a guy who frequents The Huddle, and he tells me everyday that I belong in the kitchen and that I need to leave the show and make everyone sandwiches, which is really, I think, degrading and awful on so many levels.”

“I have no idea what it was like for the women who really paved the way many years ago for the women in sports media,” Gill said. “Anything we encounter these days is nothing compared to what they encountered way back when.”

Despite the negativity she receives from some ESPN Radio listeners, McCord is very grateful for the opportunity to work in sports.

“I love what I do,” McCord said. “It’s just unfortunate that I have to face more scrutiny than most women have to going to work each day. I don’t know if that’s something that will ever change, but I’m proud to be able to say that I’m a woman in this industry doing what I love.”

Gill said her main priority is focusing on her quality of work.

“Definitely women have it harder with people judging their appearance and everything like that, but it’s not really something that I focus on right now,” Gill said. “For me it’s focusing on me doing the best job that I can in my current role.”

 

Follow Andrew Alexander on Twitter @TheOtherAA.

 

 

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