A Brief History of Women in Sports Broadcasting
A long-time bastion of men, sports broadcasting has been the exclusive club of the male for a very long time. Men watching men and men reporting on other men being competing in an athletic way. What could be more manly?
Even when it became more popular for women to be amateur and professional athletes, men still dominated the sidelines, reporting booths and TV studios.
However, recent times has finally yielded a little to the feminine way. Decades ago, in the 1960’s, Jane Chastain was a play-by-play announcer for CBS. Along with Chastain, Donna De Varona and Jeannie Morris were also among the earliest female sports announcers.
Lesley Visser, who has worked for both ABC Sports, CBS Sports, and ESPN, became the first female NFL beat writer in the 1970’s. Vissar is considered by many to be a pioneer among woman sports journalists. And Lesley Visser was the first woman NFL analyst on TV.
Women have had a hard road becoming accepted as sports announcers and reporters. By the tide has been changing.
A New Problem for Women in Sports Broadcasting
Today there are more serious and talented female sports broadcasters than ever before. Women like Hannah Storm, Gayle Gardner, Robin Roberts, Andrea Kremer, Bonnie Bernstein and Pam Oliver come to mind. And you can also see them broadcasting live on TV on the sidelines or if you’re at a live college or pro game.
However, just like how Roger Ailes and FOX News figured out that young, gorgeous female broadcasters gets viewership, the world of sports broadcasting has also stumbled upon that pathetic formula. Lost of sports on television today include youthful, drop-dead beautiful women prancing around the screen. They are not journalists. They are often not professional anything, but they are pretty.
For example, Anne Doyle remarked in her article It’s Time For Sports Broadcasting To Stop Relegating Women to Sideline Eye Candy that Brent Musburger was creepy (and this author agrees!) for his comments about a beautiful young woman in the crowd back in 2013:
Were you as creeped out as I was by ESPN broadcaster Brent Musburger’s on-air drooling, during the BCS National Championship, over Katherine Webb, the gorgeous girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron?
Do you know what happened to Katherine Webb? She’s now on TV! According to Wikipedia, after coverage of Webb on the BCS National Championship Game catapulted her popularity and sparked mass interest in her, Donald Trump, owner of the Miss USA pageant, offered Webb a position as a Miss USA judge. She accepted an offer from Inside Edition to cover Super Bowl XLVII.
So the new problem for female sports broadcasters is that many of the opportunities available for serious, talented, female sports journalists are being taken by pretty, but often talentless and inexperienced women.
What We’re Missing by Leaving Women Out
Of course sports has suffered by this dearth of female talking heads. President Obama once cogently remarked to an Arab audience that they are seriously handicapping themselves by only allowing half their team to play. In other words, it is all too common in the Arab world to leave women on the sidelines when it comes to doing anything meaningful. And that is a stupid thing to do.
The same is true for excluding women from reporting on sports. The audience is missing an entire viewpoint when women are silent.
Why is it that there has been such resistance to allowing women to contribute to sports broadcasting? It may be because there is resistance to women doing just about anything in this patriarchal society in which we find ourselves (and I’m talking about the West now, not Arabs!)
It may also be because men are insecure, especially about their “manliness” and especially in America. When they start to see females infiltrating their man caves, the lines between men and women begin to blur, and that obscurity can threaten an already-weak and fragile male ego.
Certainly being a beautiful woman should not be a prerequisite for becoming a sports broadcaster. But equally so, being a beautiful woman should not exempt one from sports broadcasting, or being taken as a serious journalist either. Ideally, one’s looks shouldn’t affect anything. Maybe that is unrealistic. But think about some of the popular male sports broadcasters. They aren’t so hot and they have had long and successful careers in sports broadcasting. I’m looking at you Marv Albert and Brent Musberger!
The History of Women Sportscasters & Their Struggle for Equality
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10 greatest female sportscasters of all time
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The Credibility of Female Sports Broadcasters: The Perception of Gender in a Male-Dominated Profession
By Amanda Gunther, Daniel Kautz and Allison Roth
Huffington Post’s Section on Female Sports Reporters
Women in Sportscasting: A Brief History
By Lou Schwartz, ASA President