Today we learned that the Washington Redskins forced their cheerleaders to be topless in 2013 just for the pleasure of their sponsors and suite holders—all of whom were male. This is just a horrific story of misogyny that makes you wonder what century we are living in (Hint to Daniel Snyder it’s 20+1) You can read more about this disgusting story by clicking here.
Let me explain why why this story matters to sports radio. Yes, there are still some Neanderthal hosts out there, but guess what—there are a lot of female sports fans, too. Have you been to a sporting event lately? 40-50% of the crowd at a baseball or football game is female.
A more specific sports radio example happened last week and was roundly panned on social media (Thankfully!). A radio station in Chicago decided to flip to all-sports. As part of their launch the “bar sign” promoting the new station had a troubling phrase on it. See if you can find it.
With this type of marketing WCKG alienates and loses women before they’ve even had a chance to listen. “Men Welcome”? Imagine if the sign had said “Whites Welcome”? It’s so appalling to see this in 2018. The sign immediately alienates potential female listeners by saying—we don’t want you here. This is a huge problem for a brand new station facing two strong and entrenched sports radio properties in The Score and ESPN 1000. It also puts the high profile hosts on the station—Dan Patrick, Rich Eisen, Clay Travis, and Colin Cowherd in an awkward spot.
Across the country a number of sports talk stations are succeeding in the overall 6+ demographic, which used to be unheard of. You can’t do that with only male listeners. There has been some progress for female hosts including ESPN adding Sarah Spain to its regular lineup and Maggie Gray at WFAN. Yet sexist segments and website features continue to be produced by sports talkers.
103.7 The Buzz in Little Rock, Arkansas came under fire earlier this year for “The Babe Bracket”, a long-running March Madness promotion which pitted female reporters and anchors against one another with the audience deciding who wins based on attractiveness.
“The “Babe of the Day” online feature which I had hoped was gone for good, is still alive and well on popular heritage sports stations like The Ticket in Dallas and The Sports Animal in Oklahoma City. For those unfamiliar, it’s a photo or photos of a scantily clad woman for the sole purpose of getting more clicks to the station’s website.
Crazy, right? It has nothing to do with the station brand or mission statement or an effort to garner big ratings. Is it worth degrading women and harming the station brand all for some clicks on the website? Remember it is 2018 not 1958.
In my career, I have worked with three women who have made significant on-air contributions to sports radio: Julie Swieca at The Score in Chicago, Rhonda Moss at 610 Sports in Kansas City, and Rachel Baribeau at SiriusXM.
Julie Swieca made her name reporting from the field—especially baseball. But it was her part-time hosting that really cut through. A native Chicagoan and White Sox fan, Julie connected with listeners through her vast baseball knowledge based on years of experience covering baseball clubhouses.
Rhonda Moss was a force to be reckoned with. I hired her from Detroit to be the station reporter at the launch of 610 Sports in Kansas City in 2003. I’m still not sure the market was ready for her (or is today.) Rhonda was a bulldog reporter who was not afraid to ask the tough questions and stood her ground when challenged. In fact, in 2006 the Kansas City Royals revoked her credentials for asking critical questions of Royals owner David Glass.
Rachel Baribeau was a talent in college sports that could not be avoided. She was everywhere. With her background at Auburn, her knowledge of college football, and her nationwide connections there was no reason for her not to be on SiriusXM where she still works to this day.
In conclusion, it’s time to say goodbye to the cavemen, and goodbye to low brow click bait like the “Babe of the Day”. As an industry, sports radio and its leaders are better than this. To the Program Directors and Corporate programmers I offer this challenge—find the next Jessica Mendoza, the next Sarah Spain, and the next Anita Marks. You’ll thank me for it later.
For more on the state of opportunities for women in sports media, check out Jason Barrett’s piece entitled “Making Sports Radio Better: Why Women Deserve More Opportunity”.