media

What happens when a female sports reporter is sexually harassed?
Working in sports media seems glamorous. But what happens when a female sports reporter is sexually harassed? (USA Today/Kirby Lee)

The recent spate of highly-publicized, mass mediated instances of sexual misconduct has brought attention to a culture in which men have been permitted to harass, humiliate, fondle, and even rape women – and men – with impunity. While the narrative surrounding this culture has been mostly bound to the entertainment, news media, and political industries, the recent firing of Gregg Zaun, television analyst for Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, shows that the sports media are also implicated in a system that turns a blind eye toward sexual misconduct.

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Two basketball teams go head-to-head in an esports competition, with spectators cheering them on. (Photo: Dan Steinberg/Invision for NBA 2K/AP Images)

In late 2016, a sports championship event was held in Chicago, drawing 43 million viewers during the series finals. That was 12 million more people than watched the 2016 NBA Finals.

It wasn’t soccer, or football, or even the World Series of Poker. Instead, it was the “League of Legends” World Finals, an esports competition.

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University of Minnesota football players stand behind senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky as he reads a statement about the team’s boycott to media members. (Photo from the Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Sexual violence in college sport represents an important problem that coaches and administrators must address. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the government has conducted 365 investigations of colleges for possibly mishandling reports of sexual violence since 2011. A simple search in the Chronicle’s Title IX database using the terms “football” and “sexual assault” yields around 250 matches for currently open investigations and 49 matches for cases that have been resolved. Further, roughly half of the student athletes surveyed in a recent study admitted to committing coercive sexual behaviors. Scholars have been investigating the relationship between college football and sexual violence for a long time, and the problem has not gone unnoticed by journalists, critics, and higher education administrators.

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High school senior Jamire Calvin announces his commitment to Oregon State University during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7, 2017.
High school senior Jamire Calvin announces a commitment to Oregon State University during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7, 2017. (Photo from USA TODAY Sports)

Each year, universities in the United States spend millions of dollars and college football coaches invest countless hours in an effort to lure top players to their schools. The recruiting process culminates with “National Signing Day,” on which high school seniors are officially able to sign National Letters of Intent that bind them to attend a particular university. As National Signing Day 2017 approaches this Wednesday (Feb. 1), millions of people will visit recruiting websites, such as rivals.com and scout.com, to follow who signs with which school. College football fans will alternately experience joy when a top prospect commits to their favorite team and devastation when a recruit goes elsewhere (this is often how I’ve felt as a fan, at least).

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CNN discusses Donald Trump's Impact on Journalism
Photo from CNN.com

As Donald Trump assumes his new role as President of the United States after a bitterly divisive campaign, it is increasingly relevant to examine the ways in which politics intersect with sport. While much attention has been given to the proliferation of national anthem protests by athletes and spectators, and the modest group of NBA coaches speaking out against Trump’s rhetoric, no examination of politics and sport would be complete without discussing how this intersection is brought to bear on those who report and/or comment on sporting news for a living.

Although sports journalism has long been viewed as the “toy department” of the mass media, rarely reporting on serious topics such as political corruption or healthcare reform, sports journalists play an important role in society, working to meet the demands of a seemingly insatiable appetite for sports news. In spite of this appetite, sports journalists and sports media personalities are increasingly discovering that some of their patrons don’t want the extra side of politics that sometimes comes with the sports news entrée.

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