Sports Broadcasting No Longer A “Boys Club” Thanks To These Pioneer Women

Michelle Kwan

Sports is no longer a man’s game or a boys club. Women are knocking on the door, changing the landscape both on the field and off, and setting new benchmarks. It is exciting for us to bring you news of how these extraordinary athletes and broadcasters are becoming “the first woman to…” but pretty soon there will come a day it will be normal for everyone to see women all over this industry.

Fox Sports announced recently they made a pretty big acquisition for their new cable channel Fox Sports 1 and for their 2014 Olympic Coverage. It is none other than US figure skating legend Michelle Kwan!

Kwan is a two-time Olympic medalist, and has already reported for ABC covering the Vancouver Games. But the Olympics will be a huge stage for this new step in her career, and we cannot wait to see her shine.

“There is no bigger name in the sport of figure skating than Michelle Kwan, and we are delighted to welcome her to Fox Sports,” said Rick Jaffe, Fox Sports senior vice president of news.

Kwan will be doing a lot of insider reports, not just commentating which she is excited about.

”When they asked, they were really encouraging to me to try it out. Reporting and storytelling is what they want, so for me, it will be interesting to kind of let the public know about the stories of athletes, or their perspectives on the Olympics.”

Michelle is just the latest addition to a slew of women already firmly entrenched in the sports broadcasting world. But it hasn’t been easy, and these gals still put up with a lot of crap to get where they are today. The Hollywood Reporter  spoke with some notable sportscasters to find out how they overcame bullying, hate from fans and sexism to cement their path in this industry. The experiences were varied, but eye opening. Shows how brave and focused these women are.

THR says it was 40 years ago that a woman was first allowed into any professional sports locker room but now every major cable and broadcast sports news show has multiple female reporters! There are some notable achievements amongst this group of women who are no doubt pioneering the way for the gate to widen.

ESPN’s Hannah Storm became the first woman to solo anchor a network sports show when NBC put her on Major League Baseball coverage in 1994. Rhonda Glenn was the first woman to anchor ESPN’s iconic SportsCenter franchise in 1981, and CBS Sports anchor Lesley Visser is the only woman enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But these achievements don’t come easily for women, but perhaps one day it won’t be as tough.

“The women who have become stars in the industry have two things in common: a passion for sports and a high tolerance for belligerence.” says THR’s Marisa Guthrie.

“We all have scar tissue,” says Lesley Visser. “I always tell the young women coming up, ‘You can have a long career, but you better have a tough skin.’ ”

Fox Sports 1 broadcaster and Dancing With The Stars Season 10 runner up Erin Andrews says: “I came along right when the Internet was blowing up, right when the sports blogs started. So I was baptized into this world where these sports blogs dubbed me the ‘Sideline Barbie,’ the ‘Sideline Princess.’ And I was not only worrying about the questions I was asking, but then I had men on these blogs critiquing what I was wearing.”

Erin-Andrews

Suzy Kolber who is a reporter and commentator for ESPN says she grew up watching football in her home town of Philadelphia. She says how she loved the image of how tough and gladiator-like thee football players were and that is how she approached her career in broadcasting. “It was where I wanted to be. It was natural for me. I would be at a press conference, there were 250 men and I was the only woman. I was in the front row and I asked the first question.”

Rebecca Lowe is an NBC Sports host covering the English Premier League soccer has had different barriers to break through. “In this industry, some women aren’t always as encouraging as you’d like. Women are very competitive. We have to stop kidding ourselves that we’re all sisters. If there were more women in this industry, I think that would be less [prevalent]. But because there are so few of us, it really is [competitive]. I was the first woman to present the FA Cup Final, and I’ll keep that for the rest of my life.

“I’ve had my backside pinched, I’ve had people screaming at me and using terrible words,” says Lowe (pictured below).

“But I would love there to be a day when there is no more use of the phrase ‘the first woman to …’ because women have done everything.”

Rachel Nichols, anchor for CNN and Turner sports says its about how to show the men you are serious about your career. “It takes a little longer to prove yourself — you have to work a little harder, and the “assists” from the boys’ club aren’t there. And when a female sports journalist gets a great story, you can almost set your watch by how quickly whispers start that she must have slept with the player to get it. But that’s all manageable, and it fades the longer you’re in the business. I’m aware that just a few decades ago, those opportunities didn’t exist.”

Hannah Storms talks about how as a young girl starting out in the sports broadcasting industry, she received a lot of hate mail from fans, but it was one superstar basketball player who turned it all around for her, Michael Jordan. “And he treated me, the only woman covering the franchise, with such dignity. When Michael Jordan, a guy whom everybody looks up to, basically says I’m going to treat this young lady who is just doing her job with respect, well, he set the tone, I think, for the entire NBA.”

Charissa Thompson, anchor on Fox Sports 1 says it was another female sportscaster who made her feel welcome which made all the difference. “My very first day [in 2011], I remember walking from the parking lot in Bristol, Conn., past these little windows that I now know was a conference room. And Erin Andrews must have seen me, because when I got into the lobby, she came running out and gave me a big hug and said, ‘I am so happy you are here!'”

It is evident there are quite a few women forging out serious careers in the world of sports, so perhaps rather then just getting the job, it’s about the media’s coverage of them and treating them as serious journalists rather than just possible sex symbols.

Around the world women still need the support of the media, and their fellow women to become more prominent in this field and become the “norm”. Popular Australian lifestyle website Mamamia were so fed up with the lack of coverage of the amazing achievements from women in sports, they have created their own “Sport on Saturdays” series where they report on everything that is happening on the female side of things in Australia sports coverage.

Let’s hope these broadcasters, reporters and websites will encourage all the young women out there who have a passion and love for ANY game to pursue their dream. Don’t let the lack of what’s between your legs stop you from using what’s between your ears in an industry where women can offer something different and unique.

Instead of a “boys club” or “men only” mentality, perhaps the sport industry should from now on include everyone who does it “for the love of the game”. Period!

Rebecca Lowe

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Erin Andrews: A Woman Dominating A Man's World

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