What constitutes manhood in sports culture is archaic. As if the sports world has been frozen in time – Neanderthal time
By Ken Reed
What former New York Mets general manager Jared Porter did to a female reporter is despicable. He certainly deserved to be fired after admitting to sending dozens of explicit text messages and photos to the reporter in 2016.
The sad part is almost everyone inside baseball – most notably women in baseball – know this wasn’t an isolated sexual harassment incident. Far from it.
“In my fifth year working in baseball, I’ve lost count of how many sexist comments have been made directly to me while working,” says Deesha Thosar, a reporter who covers the Mets for the New York Daily News.
Sure, these types of incidents unfortunately happen in all industries in society. But they are more prevalent in the sports world, which historically has been dominated by males, too many of whom are in a state of arrested development, stuck at the adolescent stage. The understanding of what constitutes manhood in our sports culture as a whole is archaic. It’s as if the sports world has been frozen in time – Neanderthal time.
And I’m not just talking about the players.
“It’s so exhausting,” says Molly Knight, a senior writer for The Athletic who has covered baseball for 15 years. “It’s executives; it’s players; it’s PR people; it’s writers. It’s everywhere. It’s the culture.”
Yes, it’s the culture. Sexual conquest has long been part of the male sports culture, especially in baseball, where players spend so much time on the road. To be sure, not everyone in baseball is a sexual predator. Most aren’t. But this is a cultural issue within the sport that needs to be addressed.
Experts say it takes seven years to change a culture – and that’s if the key leaders and influencers in the culture are on board with a comprehensive change effort.
Baseball needs a serious culture change initiative. It needs to be led by commissioner Rob Manfred, and truly embraced by every owner and senior executive in the game. It has to be more than someone from the PR department talking to the players in spring training and saying, “These are things you shouldn’t do,” while most of the players look at their phones.
“In sports media, we know that stepping forward could mean the loss of sources or having to leave the beat we’ve reported on for years, so you put up with a general manager asking to go back to your hotel room with you, smiling and firmly telling him no and hoping it doesn’t go any further,” says Shalise Manza Young of Yahoo Sports.
Step one should be the appointment of a highly respected woman, who has been in the game for multiple years, to the position of advocate for women in baseball. This person would be a trusted go-to resource for any woman in the game who’s dealing with a sexual harassment problem or a gender discrimination issue of any type.
“You wonder how many people have left the business because they didn’t want to deal with it, especially if they’re young or just starting out,” says Knight. “They might have an incident and think ‘Yep, this is not for me.’”
It’s time for baseball to start extracting itself from the Stone Age.
— Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans, a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.
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Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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