Being a woman and a sports fan means looking at your phone first thing every morning and steeling yourself for the repeated punches to the gut.
Actually, that’s just being a woman in general these days, as we all look on in horror as a bunch of ancient white men who couldn’t find a clitoris with a head lamp and a map make ever-more restrictive laws about our reproductive parts. Systemic rape as a tool of war is increasing in Ukraine, but it’s been a problem for women around the world for centuries, probably millenia, especially in countries whose violent conflicts don’t make the nightly news. We watched a bunch of below-average men in the United States Senate put on a blinding display of misogynoir for the ages when confronted with a brilliant candidate for the Supreme Court. Louis C.K. won a Grammy. Ben Shapiro … exists.
But the sports world is nothing if not the “hold my beer” of online societies, and so it’s into this Instapot of misogyny and marginalization that sports offered up their candidates to make things even worse: Cam Newton and Alex Rodriguez.
Newton, as you know, is no stranger to being a sexist jackass. Back in 2017, he made a comment to NFL reporter Jourdan Rodrigue, in the midst of a media scrum, that it was “funny to hear women talking about routes.” Given that the first women went into NFL locker rooms nearly 40 years ago, it’s hard to imagine that it’s the first time Newton had ever heard a woman talk about Xs and Os. He didn’t say it because it was true, he said it to be a jerk and because he knew (let’s be honest) that he wouldn’t get called out by the other men in the room for saying it. He knew that because men almost never get called out by other men for being sexist asshats. It was a power move. Look at what I can do to you in a room full of people. Look how small I can make you feel.
Fresh off not being a quarterback anyone wants to hire, Newton really one-upped himself, going on a podcast to advise women, who have borne the brunt of the economic hardships of the COVID pandemic, who are watching our fundamental rights being eroded daily, and who have to walk in parking garages with our keys between our fingers, what we’re doing wrong in terms of landing a man. I’m not going to dignify his idiocy by quoting him, but you can check out this piece by my colleague, DJ Dunson, who wrote about it just today.
So let’s tell some truths. Cam Newton can keep saying things like this because men (especially men working in sports) almost never comment or push back on sexism in any way. Go to your Twitter timelines and check out how many dudes covering the NFL said “Cam’s statements about women were WRONG and he was wrong to make them.” Let me know how many you find, I won’t hold my breath.
It seems like it should go without saying that the out-in-the-open misogyny is something no woman should have to contend with to do her job. But if you work in sports media, it’s simply part of your life. Complaints about sexist coworkers and colleagues are usually met with an eye roll and little else. Your co-workers will keep writing glowing puff pieces about terrible men. You watch as more and more men are hired to take over an industry that’s never been controlled by anything but men.
The fact that Cam Newton thinks women are rolling out of bed each morning trying to figure out what they can do that day to find and keep a man is sad and hilarious in and of itself. But there’s another kind of misogyny that pervades sports, and that’s the continued promotion and celebration of men who have allegedly harmed women.
I’ll bet if you ask A-Rod, he’ll say he considers himself a great ally to women, but that didn’t stop him from having convicted domestic abuser Floyd Mayweather on his podcast (did anyone ask for an A-Rod podcast? Ugh) to talk about, of all things, the rehabilitation of Antonio Brown, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than one woman, including forcible rape. Brown denied the allegations and settled a civil case accusing him of sexual assault last spring. And yet it took him storming off the sidelines like a toddler throwing a tantrum for people to decide he might be problematic.
Here’s video of A-Rod greeting Mayweather like a long-lost friend, rather than a guy who has gone to prison for beating women. And if you aren’t familiar with the incident that landed Mayweather in the clink, you should take a few minutes to read the statement his young son wrote about watching Mayweather beat his mother at 4 a.m.
So why is Alex Rodriguez “Going Deep” (gross) with Floyd Mayweather? I literally have no idea, other than that men just don’t get canceled for harming women. It just doesn’t happen, and it happens even less in the world of sports. Sure, someone should have been there to tell Cam Newton that associating with a Barstool podcast in and of itself is problematic (Google it), not to mention keeping his thoughts on women to himself was the way to go. Someone should have told A-Rod that having a convicted domestic abuser on to rehab the image of an alleged rapist is not a great look. But here we are. Again. Because in the world of men’s sports, women do not matter.
Women can yell and scream and jump up and down about this stuff until we all age out of the business and a younger group takes up our collective angst. But none of it will matter until men in the industry decide they won’t turn away and let this stuff go. It’s true that everyone’s voice is not needed in every conversation, particularly when marginalized groups are talking about their experiences. But this is one situation where we NEED our male colleagues and male sports fans to step up and say something.