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Coverage denotes importance

Lack of airtime for women’s sports saddening

On April 26, 2014

  • Comet first baseman Byron Buckley loses control of the ball as a Mustang outfielder runs into first base during CCC’s game against Los Medanos College on the Baseball Field on Thursday. The Comets fell 8-2 to the Mustangs. Qing Huang / The Advocate

The amount of women's sports that is broadcast by major television networks is dwarfed in comparison to their male counterparts.
The few events that are covered are often done so by old, white men who demean or sexualize women athletes.
A report titled "Gender in Televised Sports," researched and written by Mike Messner from USC and Cheryl Cooky from Purdue University, points out that nearly 90 percent of game commentators are male.
Most male commentators disregard skill, tactics or the precise movements made by women athletes during a game because they would rather focus on the color of their sports bras or how good a particular player's hair may have looked during the game.
The language used to describe women by commentators today, however, has become less sexist and misogynistic than it was 15 years ago.
The world of sports and sport journalism, however, has remained a bastion for male commentators, coaches, athletes, managers, fans and reporters who continue the marginalization of women on the field.
Radio sports analysts and talk show hosts like Damon Bruce are a perfect example of the twisted perception that many men still have toward women in sports today.
Earlier this year, Bruce was suspended for a week from KNBR radio after he managed to turn a rant about Miami Dolphins' Richie Incognito's locker room scandal into a bashing of women athletes and sport reporters.
Bruce started off his talk show with, "To some of you this will come off as very misogynistic. I don't care because I am very right."
He followed it up by saying that the world of sports is a man's domain and there is no place for women in his "sandbox."
He also said that many "sensitive men" have been convinced otherwise by "ultra-feminists."
He then brings his bigotry into full context when he demeans women commentators, fans and sport reporters who react with concern for injured male athletes.
"If any of this gets too gruesome for you, go write a restaurant column," he said. "Go write a housekeeping column. Get out of the world of sports.
"Go cover politics, go cover the school board, go cover whatever is an interest to you," he continued.
"If you like sports you have to accept a certain amount of Neanderthal being served with it."
In fact, fans of sports do not have to accept that poor judgment call.
The number of women who watch sports has been growing ever since Title IX passed in 1972, when more women began participating in high school and college sports.
Major network coverage of any women's sport, however, is at an all-time low, according to the "Gender in Televised Sports" report.
The report shows the decline of broadcast time women's sports receives from major television network affiliates. In the report it states that ABC, CBS and NBC combined only devoted 4.7 percent of airtime for women's sports in 2009.
Airtime includes any televised coverage of sporting events, commentaries or even highlights.
The amount of broadcast time these networks gave women's sports rose from 5 percent in 1989 to about 9 percent in 1999, before plummeting to 1.6 percent a little over a decade later.
ESPN is the worst offender of minimally covering women's sports, only devoting 5.7 percent of its total airtime to women's sports since 1999.
The particular spike of attention that came about in 1999 can be directly correlated to Brandi Chastain.
Chastain scored the game-winning penalty kick for the United States women's national soccer team during the World Cup final against China.
She was so overcome with emotion that she took her jersey off and began to celebrate with her team.
Her historic goal, however, was not the most important topic for major media networks.
The clip of her taking her jersey off in celebration was considered more newsworthy and was aired on every television network for weeks.
Chastain was criticized by many male commentators who wondered why she "exposed" herself. Many audience members watching across the U.S. had no idea who she was until the celebration received excessive coverage.
The bottom line is coverage denotes importance.
If major network affiliates continue to demean women athletes by denying them airtime, then no one will take women's sports seriously.
And the time that these networks provide for women's sports coverage should not be used to demean women, but to celebrate their athletic accomplishments.
Men are not the only ones capable of playing sports and should certainly not be the only ones celebrated for doing so. 


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