It’s nearly fall, which means it’s time for outlets that carry football games to dazzle us with their broadcast teams and assignments!
Let’s take a look, starting with CBS (right).
Well that seems, uh, not great. Every woman involved is listed third, and Beth Mowins is consigned to “additional play-by-play.”
Later down on the list, we dispense with the women entirely and go with men-only broadcast teams.
Not what we were hoping for.
But hey! There are other outlets, like FOX!
Let’s see what they have in store for us this football season:
Ah … huh. One white woman. No women of color. Twenty-two men. And Clay Travis. This is exactly what the NFL broadcasting teams looked like when I was a small child. We haven’t made any progress in 35 years?
But wait, we still have ESPN’s college football coverage! Surely, the self-designated “Worldwide Leader” will also be leading the way in diversity, right?
It’s difficult to imagine what person in their respective marketing departments took a look at these graphics and gave them the thumb’s up. “Almost all white men. That looks great. Send it out.” But here’s some small advice: If your football coverage graphic has an (almost all white) “ladies” section, you’re doing it wrong.
Last year, a couple of different women at ESPN, in casual conversation, pointed out to me that women on the sidelines are referred to as “reporters” while men on the sidelines are “analysts.” Watching a few games that weekend, I found they were absolutely right. Seems like two people doing the same job should have the same title. But that’s not the way things have ever worked in sports media when it comes to anyone who is not a straight, cishet, white male.
While how we label men and women in the job is certainly part of the larger problem, it’s not as big as women being limited in the roles they have in football in the first place. Being a sideline reporter is a tough job. One that calls for just as much preparation and knowledge of the teams on the field as the guys in the booth have. It’s a high-pressure job that isn’t easy, even for veteran broadcasters. And it’s a great job. But it’s not the only one women should be able to get in broadcasting.
“Stop making something out of nothing!” the men on Twitter yell. “Women aren’t analysts because they never played the game!”
Well first, believe it or not, lots of girls have grown up playing football, even if it’s just pickup with the boys in the neighborhood. There are also girls playing organized football on “boys” teams, and you can see them every Saturday in youth leagues all over America. And we also grew up watching college football and NFL, just like our brothers did. So to assume we don’t have a history, with or stake in the game, is just plain ignorant.
But more to the point, football is not brain surgery. It’s not something so mysterious that one can only understand it after having done it. In fact, some of the best football minds I know are women who studied the game on their own and can hold court on schemes and offenses with the best of ’em. And, if we’re talking play-by-play, someone will have to clue me in on the storied football careers of Al Michaels and Howard Cosell. Cosell’s autobiography was literally called I Never Played the Game.
When women say they want to be included in sports, we don’t mean we want to be moderators for the men or “social media reporters” or even sideline reporters. Or at least we don’t want to be in those roles exclusively. Women want to call play-by-play and get into the Xs and Os of the game, as well. We want to talk defenses and schemes and who is more effective in the slot. And we want to hear those who sound like us in the booth. And we don’t just want it during Women’s History Month. After all, women make up nearly 50 percent of the NFL audience and control 85 percent of consumer spending in the household. How is it that the NFL isn’t falling all over itself to get in our good graces?
So while we love seeing women on the sidelines during games, we’d love to see them in the booth even more. We want to see them called “analysts” and sitting at the desks at halftime with all the men. Because you can’t tell me there aren’t women out there who are just as good at this as Phil Simms. Or Clay Travis. I mean, my God, CLAY TRAVIS. Or any of the other retired players that look like they had to be woken up for the halftime conversation.
And, until we achieve broadcast teams that are reflective of the fanbase and not a Ben Shapiro fan rally, maybe stop tweeting out the visuals.