Thu. Sep 20th, 2018

On The Record

It cracks me up when the NFL introduces a new “experimental” rule aimed at making the game safer. There is nothing experimental about it. The league isn’t going to reverse course and change a rule back to its original, more violent past. They’ll never say, “Ehh, screw it. The original way, which led to more mayhem and injuries, is actually better.”

The toothpaste isn’t going back in the tube.

The same holds true in the workplace. Our standards are becoming higher. The list of things that won’t be tolerated any longer by co-workers is growing. We aren’t going to revert back to the way it once was. Like Denzel said in Training Day, “That day’s dead, dogg. We don’t roll like that no more.”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, free passes for inappropriate behavior are no longer being given away. Allegations of misconduct have been aimed at well-known men including Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and Matt Lauer to name a few. The broad allegations have been directed at members in the sports world as well.

Back in July of this year, FOX Sports National president Jamie Horowitz was fired during a sexual harassment investigation. Seven men from NFL Network, including Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, were implicated in a sexual harassment complaint last week. On Sunday, news broke that Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson will be selling the team following allegations of workplace misconduct. Goodness.

On a lighter note, Sean “Diddy” Combs announced that he wants to be the new owner of the “North Carolina Panthers.” I will either refer to the team as the North Carolina Panthers, or have a sound bite of Diddy saying “North Carolina Panthers” each time the team is discussed because, well, that’s just plain hilarious. Okay, back to business.

There is a great piece on written by L. Jon Wertheim and Viv Bernstein which reveals new details about the Jerry Richardson fiasco. A part that jumps out to me are his comments on Jeans Day. Many employees at the team office would wear jeans on Friday. Richardson would use a few common lines such as: Show me how you wiggle to get those jeans up. Did you step into those jeans or did you have to jump into them?

After reading these comments by Richardson, my mind immediately went to sports talk radio. The standards are becoming higher for workplace behavior and treatment toward women. The standards for on-air conduct will soon be higher too. We aren’t far away from comments being out of bounds like Charles Barkley saying San Antonio women are overweight due to eating churros. That day is coming.

Look, I love to laugh as much as the next person, but you don’t have to be a valedictorian to see where things are headed. Inappropriate behavior will continue to be punished. I love a good sports radio topic with edge. I also love a good sports radio bit that makes me roar in laughter. However, edgy and humorous comments can’t come at the expense of appropriate conduct.

I’ll be honest, I initially didn’t think Jerry Richardson’s comment about stepping in jeans or jumping into them was that bad. Then, I considered what my reaction would be if he made the same comment to my mom, sister, or fiancé. I’d be making a half circle with a sword like Wesley Snipes in Blade. There is absolutely no way I would tolerate a question like that toward a loved one.

If you’re a sports talk host who’s about to make a comment you consider to be harmless, this is a great way to double-check the remark before opening your mouth: How would you feel if someone else made the same comment about a female that you love dearly? Would you be okay with it? Or would you look like Michael Jackson turning into a monster in the “Thriller” video?

If you’d take offense to the same comment, you shouldn’t be making the remark yourself.

Something else that’s very important to get in your head — there is no such thing as “off the record” anymore. It appears the seven men named in the NFL Network complaint forgot that their alleged comments were very much on the record. It wasn’t a private conversation with a co-worker. It was a conversation that the world knows about now.

It’s no different in sports radio. Sometimes it’s easy to get so comfortable on the air, that you actually forget people other than the crew are listening. Comfort is fine as long as listeners aren’t made uncomfortable. Understand that every remark made in private or on the airwaves is for the entire world. Instead of those signs that say “On The Air,” they should be replaced with “On The Record.” That’s exactly where each comment ends up.

I hate to sound like one of those uncomfortably stiff videos on sexual harassment, but this stuff is important. No company wants to lose money and see its reputation suffer. No employee wants to lose everything they’ve worked for due to bad behavior. Just treat women and your co-workers with respect. It really isn’t that much to ask. A little common sense goes a long way.

My dad will sometimes end our phone calls by saying, “…and look out for the knuckleheads out there.” The last thing you want to do is become one of those knuckleheads yourself.

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