Is there any real, tangible way female football fans can show Roger Goodell how grossly offensive his handling of Ray Rice's domestic violence was? Fox Sports' Katie Nolan starts out this video, posted today, with that tricky question. Then she diverges into deeper territory.
That's because Nolan realizes the problem isn't that the NFL doesn't respect women. It's that there are still so many men—including those at the top of the NFL—who don't respect women, and plenty of them in the sports media industry in which she works. These men don't respect women enough to get upset when a woman is punched unconscious; instead, their moral outrage is reserved until video evidence emerges. These men don't respect women enough to think they can handle the same play-by-play duties, instead relegating them to sidelines and social media. These men don't respect women enough to believe their reporting can be on the same shows and the same websites as their male colleagues.
Why should Roger Goodell feel any pressure to respect women when the sports media that allegedly holds him accountable doesn't do the same?
Nolan opens up with a story I can relate to. Earlier this year, Nolan had the chance to ask the NFL commissioner why he didn't levy Rice a harsher punishment—but she backed out, seized by fear that asking a tough question "wasn't my place." Learning to ask difficult questions as a reporter is tough—I'd argue, even tougher as a woman—because it requires reprogramming yourself from years of being told to act proper, polite and to never cause trouble.
Nolan didn't ask her question then. But she's asking tough questions now, so I'll cede the floor to her.
Fear crept in. I started thinking, well, the commissioner is here as a guest of Fox, and if offend him in some way, I'm definitely going to hear about it from my bosses. And it's really not my role. I make sort of funny videos for the Internet that are watched by a handful of people. This wasn't my place.
So I stayed quiet. I didn't ask. I played the role that had been assigned to me.
Women in sports television are allowed to read headlines, patrols sidelines and generally facilitate conversation for their male colleagues. Sometimes, they even let us monitor the Internet from a couch. And while the Stephen A. Smiths, Mike Francesas, Dan Patricks and Keith Olbermanns of the world get to weigh in on the issues of the day, we just smile and throw to commercial A lot of people like to justify women's supporting role in sports media by saying, well, they've never played the game so they just aren't qualified to speak about it. Because, God forbid, someone misspeak about the game. But topics like domestic violence and racism and corruption? Let's let Boomer handle those between downs.
It's time for the conversation to change, or at least for those participating in the conversation. It's time for women to have a seat at the big boy table, and not where their presence is a gimmick or a concept—just a person who happens to have breasts offering their opinion on the sports they love and the topics they know.
Because, the truth is, the NFL will never respect women and their opinions as long as the media it answers to doesn't. I'm ready when you are, Fox.