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Sports Journalism: The Uphill Climb for Women

There are few industries that are as male dominated as the sports media industry. Over the course of time, journalists who have been assigned to cover sports have been overwhelmingly male.

Women entering the field of sports journalism are often not taken seriously, as viewers have more of a tendency to comment on their appearance rather than the content and analysis that these professional journalists produce.

Unfortunately, when people do focus on the work rather than the looks, they are often critiqued more harshly than their male counterparts. Many fans dismiss their opinions and analysis on sports simply because of the fact that they are a woman in a man’s world.

One of the most criticized female sports media personalities is ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Analyst, Jessica Mendoza. Mendoza, a gold medalist and First Team All-American softball player, joined the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew in 2016, and became the first ever female analyst for a nationally televised game in Major League Baseball (MLB) history.

Mendoza, clearly qualified due to her success on the softball field, and a pioneer for aspiring female sports analysts, faces consistent mockery on a weekly basis, more so than her male broadcast partners, Matt Vasgersian and Alex Rodriguez.

 In 2016, Atlanta-based sports talk show host Mike Bell sent out a derogatory tweet regarding Mendoza’s broadcast and said, “You guys are telling me there isn’t a more qualified baseball player ESPN can use than a softball player? Gimme a break!” Later that year, Mike North, a sports talk show host from Chicago said of Mendoza, “ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza is the worst. If she was a man, she’d already be fired.”

These are just a few of a plethora of negative tweets regarding Mendoza as a broadcaster, saying that Mendoza is not good at her job as a baseball analyst because she is a woman who never played the game herself.

Along with criticism from fans, female reporters can also have difficult relationships with the players that they cover. Players, like fans, have also been guilty of being ignorant towards female sports journalists.

In October, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton audibly laughed at and dismissed a question asked by female reporter Jourdan Rodriguez, regarding the physicality of routes run by wide receiver Devin Funchess. “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes like — it’s funny.’’

To Rodriguez’s credit, she did not back down from Newton’s remarks and said on Twitter, “I don’t think its ‘funny’ to be a female and talk about routes. I think it’s my job.” Newton was rightly blasted for his sexist comments, and even lost his endorsement deal with Dannon Oikos Yogurt. He eventually apologized for his use of “degrading and disrespectful” choice of words.

While there will always be obstacles for females trying to enter the sports media industry, whether it being criticism from fans or players, there has been a lot of progress over the course of the last few seasons.

This past year, Sarah Kustok of the YES Network was announced as the full-time color commentator for the Brooklyn Nets, the first in the history of the NBA. Likewise, Doris Burke of ESPN became the regular NBA analyst for nationally televised games. Now, more than ever before, female voices are being heard through television sets.

We are in the middle of a revolution in terms of equality amongst men and women, and women breaking the glass ceiling and entering the sports media industry is a major key to closing the gap. Now when girls sit with their fathers and brothers to watch sports, they are not just hearing male announcers analyze a sport being played by males.