During Saturday’s Brigham Young University-Gonzaga University game in Spokane, Wash., ESPN threw its viewers a 180 and placed two women, Beth Mowins and Kara Lawson, as the game’s commentators. Despite the fact Mowins is a laudable play-by-play announcer and sports journalist, and Lawson is an established WNBA star and sports analyst, ESPN received a lot of criticism over their choice to hire two female announcers.
Misogynists such as Twitter user @joeybrinkley23 took their anger to the Internet and voiced their remarks against these two more-than-capable female sports broadcasters.
@joeybrinkley23 tweeted, “Won’t be watching the BYU game because there’s 2 women announcers and I can’t deal with women announcers lol.”
Well, “lol” to you Mr. Brinkley, because ESPN is making the honorable move toward integrating more women into the press box. In addition to Mowins and Lawson, ESPN has hired several women commentators across the board, such as Linda Cohn, Doris Burke and Sage Steele.
Though ESPN may lose “valuable” viewers such as @joeybrinkley23 by increasing female presence on its program, they will slowly help break the notion that women are inept when it comes to playing and commenting on sports.
“Slowly” is the key word in this push for acceptance among female commentators, however. Since ESPN has only recently begun moving women from reporting on the sidelines to the press box, viewers grew up listening to male commentators like Joe Buck and Mike Tirico. They are used to hearing a man’s voice, and for some reason, replacing that voice with a women’s has really seemed to throw people out of their comfort zone.
Viewers who get too wrapped up on stereotypes and mute the game based on the gender of the commentators are feeding into the idea that sports should be a strictly masculine endeavor as opposed to a competitive one. If this mindset persists, sports media will remain yet another area where women are marginalized in society, and women’s sports will thus remain in second place compared to men’s sports.
But with Danielle Adams and Candace Parker throwing alley-oops in the WNBA, this common notion of sports, basketball in particular, being a male-dominated endeavor should be broadened and revised — it is 2014, after all.
Yes, there is a difference in the vocal infliction and tone between male and female commentators, but other than that, is what men and women have to say about a game really all that different?
One could argue women are not capable of commenting on men’s sports, because if they haven’t played it they don’t know what they’re talking about. But what about Marv Albert and Mike Breen, neither of whom has ever played professional basketball but are still prominent NBA broadcasters? Albert is even commonly referred to a “the voice of basketball.”
It seems as though we as a society have to justify why a woman is in the press box in the first place. Kara Lawson? Well, she won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing while in the WNBA. Beth Mowins? She was captain of the varsity basketball team for two seasons at Lafayette College in the 80s. Their experience seems similar enough to Charles Barkley, retired NBA star and current analyst for TNT’s “Inside the NBA”.
In reality, sports commentators aren’t always saying the most groundbreaking things when they are in the box anyways. A woman could comment on the player’s hustle in the same way that Charles Barkley could.
The point is about the honor in and dedication to the game, and people should not lose sight of that. Regardless of gender or race, all that matters is that the commentators are good at commenting, simple as that.
After the BYU-Gonzaga game @Byrdman4811, also known as DJ Byrdman, tweeted, “Two women announcers in a men’s basketball game? How about no. #mute.”
How about yes, DJ Byrdman? Let’s #unmute the TV and finally give women the fair shot they deserve in the sports industry.