September 25, 2020

UJC MADRID

Sports Infomation for you

In Their Own Words: Women in sports media speak out

Sexual harassment is something you’re typically told you will simply have to put up with...

Sexual harassment is something you’re typically told you will simply have to put up with when you enter the sports media industry as a female. I was warned of it right out of the gate when I began my career at 16 years old. The majority of it, though, we really just brush off.

All of the grotesque direct messages, comments with sexual innuendo from fellow male reporters that made me feel uncomfortable, and comments about my appearance being the reason why people looked at my work or praised my talents — I let it all slide for about four years.

Then June came.

Publisher’s Note: All ad revenue generated from these stories will be donated to the Association For Women In Sports Media (AWSM). The Association for Women in Sports Media is a 501(c)(3) organization whose female and male members support the advancement and growth of women – both professional and student – in sports media. 

My recent experience of sexual harassment in sports media

Working in sports, especially for as many places as I contribute to, you’re always busy and getting notifications around the clock. But one day in June, my phone started going off even more than it usually does.

I had messages across all social media platforms and via text – some from people I knew well, some from people I had never heard of in my life – telling me that there was a message board thread written about me, titled, “Have You Met Crissy Froyd?”

At first glance, it seemed a little funny that someone had taken the time to put together an anonymous posting about me. As a public figure at the point I’m at in my career, it’s not totally unexpected, but it seems a bit comical considering I’m no Erin Andrews yet as a college senior.

The amusement lasted for only a fleeting second, though, as I dove into a thread in which people had stalked my social media profiles and pulled pictures to describe what they liked about my body, what they would change about it, and to what degree they wanted to have sex with me.

I’ve always been a very confident person, and I was happy with myself and my appearance in each photo they pulled for the seemingly in-depth analysis they were doing on my level of attractiveness, broken down by body part.

I blew it off at first, but I couldn’t help coming back to check it to see how much it had progressed. When it reached several pages, and my friend told me that it had gotten to the point that they had zoomed in to dissect and offer their opinions on the contours of my crotch, I couldn’t handle it anymore.

There’s a certain level of disgust and derangement that crosses a line to where it becomes mentally damaging for even the most sound people. The feelings of wondering if there’s really something wrong with you and how many times you should check the mirror start to seep in.

And I was far from sound at that point in time. I was just finally getting over the depression and anxiety I was dealing with from a former relationship, financial ruin, my own and my dog’s medical issues, and coming to terms with the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic as it related to my job.

It was also around this time that one of my close relatives was dying, and I recall trying to handle some of the fallout of the situation while I was in the middle of a cremation garden mourning her death.

The whole message board incident had me on the verge of snapping again, and I didn’t want to feel that way – and I knew with certainty that I absolutely did not want to see any more of those nasty postings.

To make matters worse, they had also posted about a bar I frequented, and I almost didn’t even feel safe returning to Baton Rouge now that I knew people had been watching me and that I had come to the attention of a much larger audience at this point.

I spoke with one of my close friends about how I should address it, and she encouraged me to speak out. I was reluctant to, but I did it for me, mostly for not having to receive any more texts or direct messages about what the keyboard warriors were rattling off about me online.

Other women in sports media share their stories

The effects of this astounded me, as I saw my words resonate with several women from all over the nation. And now, these women are compelled to speak out and raise awareness for an issue that has long been swept under the rug.

Hundreds of people were angry for me, and I hope that all of those same people, and more, continue to put that level of emotion into supporting other women and supporting this cause that I’ve felt a strong need to adopt since it hit home for me.

Here are some of the accounts of these brave women – both anonymous and not – who have chosen to go public with their own experiences of sexual harassment and sexism in the sports industry.

Jordan Cicchelli | Twitter: @jordancicchelli

Being a woman not only within the sports industry, but one that played collegiate softball, I have been exposed to sexism several times in my life. Though I could go on for hours about the different scenarios, a few, in particular, come to mind.

The first time I really felt uneasy about a comment made towards my involvement in sports was when I was talking to a guy when I was 20 years old. I was really into this guy, and of course, being so young, whatever this guy said, whether it be negative or positive, was going to affect me.

We began talking about sports, and with him having played a few years of baseball growing up, I had told him I was a softball player. Expecting to maybe then talk about my playing career, I was faced with laughter and him referring to me as a dyke.

There were a few reasons I was upset. First, obviously being interested in someone romantically, them referring to you as homosexual sat weirdly with me. Secondly, this guy has homophobic tendencies within his vocabulary, so big red flag. But overall, the perceived notions of softball players and their sexuality just infuriated me.

Why do we need to label any person in sports? Who cares what your sexuality is? Needless to say, I never spoke to him again, but I think that’s when I first began realizing there was an unlevel playing field between genders in sports, and I was more open to discussing these issues.

Another scenario I encountered, which actually ended up kickstarting my Ball Girls podcast, was during a direct message conversation on Instagram. Some guy messaged me and was interested in getting to know me more. Regrettably agreeing, I had told him how I was a graduate from a sports management program and continuing my studies in sports journalism.

Not sure if it was a pickup line or his giant ego causing him to be stupid, but he referred to me as a sports geek and told me to prove it by him asking a question. He told me I could Google the question if needed but asked me, “Who won the MLB World Series this year?”

I could not believe that he asked something so juvenile after telling this guy my education in the sports field. He then threw three options at me – Houston, New York Yankees, or Los Angeles (he didn’t specify Angels or Dodgers). I answered his question, but being so in shock, I ended up going off on him because it was belittling to me that he would do that. He ended up asking me to go to a Toronto Maple Leafs game, and I left him on read.

Within the industry and especially as a sports journalist, not everyone will agree with your opinions. For male journalists, they’ll typically get called idiots or what have you. But for women, we get torn down based on literally being women. I’ve had so many guys tell me to get back into the kitchen or stick to watching the Kardashians (a show I have literally never watched), creating a hostile environment for women in the sports media industry.

Lucy Rohden | Twitter: @lucyrohdenTV

I’m not quite sure how to start this. Do I start with the message boards of older men debating whether I was hot enough for them to have sex with, or do I talk about how I’m 21 years old and have already had a stalker? Or maybe I start with the death threats and internet harassment that almost made me leave the industry?

I haven’t even gotten my first official job in sports media yet, and from what I’ve experienced with harassment on the internet and even in person, it makes me at times want to quit the job I love. I’m a recent college graduate, and during my time as a student reporter, I built a significant following for the school I covered, but I had no idea what that all entailed.

It started when a man that is my father’s age began to stalk me after becoming infatuated with me and my work. I was a young sports reporter just trying to make a name for myself, and he took advantage of that. It started with harassment and uncomfortable comments on the internet and directly to me, and then it transitioned to in-person stalking.

I was terrified to go places by myself, and I didn’t want to go into work. I was afraid to do anything. The phone call I had to make to my Dad to tell him that I had a stalker was the most gut-wrenching conversation I’ve ever had. I cannot get into too many specific details because he still keeps tabs on what I do, and there is a good chance he will read this.

Because of this experience, my former employer and my university connected me with someone specializing in threats like this, and my situation has calmed down. My specialist taught me other signs to look for when it comes to potential threats like this because I know my first stalker is not my last.

I hate that I have to know what to look out for when it comes to a fan who might love me too much, and I hate even more that I see it all the time. I get direct messages from random men of all ages, telling me that I’m the love of their life and want to marry me. I had someone tweet at me constantly to ask me out on dates, and when that didn’t work, they created a fake identity and emailed me so that they could try to find another way to get access to me.

On the other end of the spectrum, the nasty messages, tweets, and message board posts are just as awful. The content I make is usually pretty satirical, so I make fun of many teams, coaches, and athletes and expect to get some heat back. I’m okay with that until it turns personal – and it always does. I’ve been called every name in the book – whore, slut, bitch, ugly, cunt, etc…you name it.

I’ve been doing this long enough now that the words don’t bother me, but its volume is alarming. It’s not just one or two bad tweets from losers in their mom’s basement. It’s hundreds and hundreds of tweets and DMs from strangers telling you how ugly you are, that you’re a desperate whore, and that you should kill yourself over a sports joke you made. God forbid if you try to be a funny woman in sports.

The mean tweets usually all have something in common. You can go to their Twitter profile, and their bio usually has one of the following phrases: proud dad, proud parent, proud Christian. Every time. When old men tweet at me that I’m ugly, talentless, and a slut, I just hope they don’t talk to their daughters in their profile picture the way they speak to me.

But it doesn’t stop with the tweets either. You get the mean tweets where you’re called a diseased skank, but you also get the people who go far enough to DM you that you’re a disgusting whore. From there, you get people who create fake Instagram accounts to comment on all your pictures that you’re ugly. I’ve had people find me on Venmo, Snapchat, and Facebook to tell me how much they hate me because I made a two-minute sports video where I made fun of their team.

It’s so hard to have someone who doesn’t know you at all say those things about you so publicly. It’s even harder to know that the people close to me have to read those things about me. It makes my stomach hurt, knowing that my dad has read things from men older than him, calling his daughter a whore. I hate that my friends have to check in on me because another person on the internet told me to kill myself. I hate that my little brother and sister might open up Twitter and see strangers say the awful things they’d do to me.

The first time I saw someone on the internet say what they would do to me if they got the chance, I cried. When I found the first message board about me (there are more than one), I was mortified. I had to read numerous posts from people with no names or faces about how ugly I was but that they’d slum it to fu$% me.

Those comments still make my stomach turn to this day, but what’s even worse is that people would respond and add their opinion on whether I was ugly or not and whether they’d sleep with me. They encouraged each other to reduce me, my identity, and my work to nothing.

I’m hesitant to share these stories with people outside the industry because I always get the response, “well that’s just part of the job.” But it doesn’t have to be. I didn’t sign up to cover sports because I wanted to have older men objectify and stalk me. I did it to talk about sports. All I want is to post a funny video and not have to worry about some dude with 52 followers tweeting at me to take my top off.

This stuff sucks and will never stop sucking, but I’ve learned how to deal with it with time. I’ve got a harassment specialist, a good support group around me, and I have taken full advantage of the mute button on Twitter.

With all I’ve dealt with, there were so many bright spots of other women and men in the industry offering their advice and help, nice fans who fought off the mean ones, and so much love and support. To anyone out there dealing with stuff, my DMs are open if you need to talk about it, and I promise you that one day this stuff won’t phase you anymore.

Ashley MacLennan | Twitter: @90feetfromhome

A couple of seasons back, the Detroit Tigers decided to sign alleged domestic abuser Derek Norris to a minor league deal. At the time, his former fiancee’s accusations had been investigated, and MLB had suspended him and held him accountable (minimally).

I wrote an article about the signing, which I knew would be received with mixed responses, but I felt it was important to point out that the team did not have to sign him, and the risk was not equal to the reward.

In that post’s comments, amid some generic push back and annoyance from readers that I was unfair, one reader took it a step further. In the span of one comment, he managed to call me a c*nt 3-7 times (it’s hard to remember the exact number now) and ultimately suggested that I was the one who deserved to be beaten for taking my stance.

The user was ultimately blocked, and I have to be honest, I think my male colleagues were more upset about it than I was, wanting to find his employer and send them a screencap of the comments. But I wasn’t unaccustomed to the response men have had to my opinions and just referred to it as getting angry commenter bingo.

When I first started sportswriting, a female friend suggested I should use a male pseudonym to keep hate comments at bay, but that idea never crossed my mind. I think it is important that female writers are seen and heard, so maybe the next generation of women writing about sports will have it just a bit easier than us.

I do wish I could have a dollar for every time a man called me fat, though, as if it somehow impeded my ability to write about baseball. I’d be pretty rich.

Leah Vann | Twitter: @LVann_Sports

Last summer, I was 23 when I worked as a sports editor for the local paper in a small town in Colorado. The father of an athlete and I had a casual chat at a track meet, but then I ran into him again at a workout class. We talked again, but it got uncomfortable.

He told me my body certainly looked fit and stared at me the entire class. Then, he called my office phone a week after, saying he hadn’t seen me lately and that I had a “rocking body” with a lot of “natural gifts” and that he would like to take me “fishing.”

I’m closer to his son’s age than his own.

Alexis Chassen, Bleeding Green Nation | Twitter: @Lovelybuckeye

I don’t read the comments.

I absolutely love my platform and the fanbase that I report to, but I learned very early on that my mental health and anxiety is always triggered by something in the comments – whether it’s people talking about my appearance, if I’m married, or calling me a bitch.

However, staying away from the comment section doesn’t always protect me from having to hear from opinionated readers.

It was early spring, and I was covering the talks between Malcolm Jenkins and the Eagles – a topic I’ve written about in-depth, and numerous times over the past couple of years. Then I received an email with the subject line, “Malcolm Jenkins.”

The body of the email was short, but it didn’t need to be long: “Go suck a n***** dick you filthy whore. Malcolm Jenkins doesn’t deserve sh*t. Fu$% you.”

If the message was just the last two sentences, I would have read it, rolled my eyes, and moved on. But the first sentence was filled with so much racist and sexist viciousness; it was like a punch in the gut. The words are seared into my brain and something that still draws my ire even months later.

Anonymous women who also came forward to share their stories

Unfortunately, due to the nature of how this industry works in certain places, some women fear speaking out, though they know there is power behind the name. Below are the accounts submitted anonymously by women who hope to inspire change, but could face negative consequences if they published their name.

Anonymous #1

I was an intern for a minor league basketball team in college for two seasons. The internship was only supposed to last one season, but myself and another intern (who was also a girl) were promoted to a leadership position where our roles were extended through another year.

While at a restaurant a few weeks after, I ran into a male employee of the organization who informed me he had not been asked to return for the coming season. When I told him that my female counterpart and I had been rehired, he immediately became angry and defensive.

“You know why you two got that job, right?” he asked. “[Supervisor’s name] only hires people who have vaginas. I’m out because I’m a guy, you’re in because you fit those criteria.”

I was embarrassed, offended, and uncomfortable. He laughed and continued talking about his next endeavors while I was in a fog. My roommate and I spent the rest of our meal talking about the misogyny and brash stereotyping he had just so matter-of-factly said in retaliation for being let go. It was hurtful and has made me doubt my worth in sports ever since.

Even though I know I have a rightful place as a woman in sports – and as someone who received a contract extension because of the work I was doing – it was still enough to stay in the back of my mind years later.

Anonymous #2

I worked on a podcast a few years ago, and I was so new to the industry at the time. The guy who ran it acted nice to my face. When we were going to have player interviews, he would give me the job of reaching out to them because “they’ll say yes to you.” Keep in mind that I was doing this podcast once a week after my regular full-time job and driving 45 minutes one way to do it for free. He never paid me.

And then after almost two years of doing it, I just had too much on my plate – I was moving, my dad was in the hospital, and it was around the holidays. So I said, “Hey, I need to skip this week. I just can’t do it.” He basically said I wasn’t dedicated enough and so I quit.

Since then, he’s done nothing but trash me online, spread lies about me to anyone who will listen (which is a lot, unfortunately, because many people hate me), and make stuff up. Since then, I’ve become more successful than him, and he hates it.

Since I left, he tried to make it seem to everyone else like he wanted me to leave anyway, and I wasn’t good at it. But he has since asked me to come back and start writing for him again.

Anonymous #3

I can recall my first experience with harassment dating back to my days as an intern for a national sports blog. I wrote a blog post for them, and my name was attached to it. I remember readers searched for me on Facebook and said nasty comments about how I look and even took the time to discover I was still a college student and said, “Oh, she’s just a college student. She doesn’t know anything about sports.” Hmm. Yikes.

Unfortunately, the harassment of that nature only got worse when I got my first TV job. I remember I wore a black dress with a zipper up the front one day. A viewer emailed in and said that I didn’t belong on TV and to start looking for jobs as a stripper because that’s where I looked like I belonged.

I once wore a dress that showed my shoulders when I was anchoring and was told it was too revealing by a viewer. It’s just insane. They didn’t know that I was in a toxic relationship and struggling with my weight due to the stress, so clothes already weren’t fitting me right at the time.

I’m in my second TV job, and, luckily, I haven’t gotten any messages about my appearance (yet), and I’m in a much better place physically, so their comments wouldn’t get to me as much. Still, I showed up to a wrestling meet one day, and a coach remarked, “We need more like you around.”

Knowing where he was going with this but wanting to hear him say it aloud in public, I asked him what he meant. He said, “You know, attractive females.” I walked away. That coach no longer works there.

Sadly, I could keep going on and on, and I know my colleagues face much worse than I do, but sharing our stories is important. Maybe it’ll shut up the keyboard warriors and the real-life idiots.

Anonymous #4

This is probably 1/1000000 of the comments we get as women, but the ones that stick out to me.

“Reason #4588 why women shouldn’t cover sports.”

A DM because a guy was mad I wrote a story about a major topic everyone was writing a story about.

“You better not get fat or ugly; no one wants to look at a woman like that talk sports.”

“I hope you can read a teleprompter. No chance you actually know what you’re talking about.”

I was harassed by someone working closely with me at the Super Bowl for the entire week. Laughing at me at dinners, saying I didn’t deserve pay, snickering with other guys and mocking me, telling me I had no talent, and wondering why they even sent me.

I had never met this man before the game and was working 19+ hours a day. He kept calling me a fangirl, even though I had extensive information on a topic. And if I had to look something up, even if it was something no one in the group knew and was a small piece of info, he used it as grounds to push me aside and say I knew nothing about football.

I took him aside and explained that he didn’t know my resume and hadn’t worked with me, and his thinking and actions were alarming for anyone, but especially someone meant to be a veteran in the field. He told me I should be lucky to have a job (note: I had graduated college with honors, worked for over a year post-grad for radio stations, the Red Sox, newspapers, etc., not taking holidays or weekends off and sometimes sleeping in the radio station or napping in my car because working hard and earning my way was important to me) and said he thought the national minimum wage they were paying me in the internship to do more work than some full-time employees was too much.

Again, I gave him no reason to say any of this. I kept to myself other than doing my job. It got so bad I had to tell some people a lot higher than me, and thankfully, I was believed by them, but there was little they could do. I was thrilled to be working my first Super Bowl at just 23 years old, and he actively tried to take that away from me. He also got his friends working alongside me to snicker and laugh in front of my face to belittle me and make me anxious and nervous.

There are the comments we all get as well, that disbelief in a bad way when we tell someone where we work. This also includes the sports quizzes we all get sick of.

I mentioned once at work (Red Sox) that I was excited to watch the Warriors play that night, and this guy who was about 6’5’’, a foot taller than me, got in my face demanding I answer these random questions about Golden State.

I refused because I was so tired and already didn’t like him, and I said, “I’ve gotten to a point in my career where I don’t have to prove my worth or knowledge to someone like you,” and he kept on. What was worse is that it was in front of everyone, and I was super embarrassed. But I stood my ground because I wasn’t about to be compliant.

Anonymous #5

I had just been hired for my first job, and, naturally, I couldn’t have been more excited. I went through the typical growing pains that come with a new job. However, there was one I had not been expecting within the workplace.

I worked as a weekend sports anchor and reporter. One of the weekend members was particularly nice to me at first. I was new to the area and didn’t know many people. Unfortunately, the niceness wore off the more comfortable he became with having me around.

He started making comments in the workplace here and there about how he felt I was attractive. I remember one day, and I’ll never forget it, he told me, “The viewers must like watching you so much more than the guys before you – especially the men.” He said that in a fully-staffed studio. I had dealt with those comments throughout college, so I was used to shrugging them off.

The more I sat with it – it bothered me. Finally, one day, out of nowhere, again, he reiterated how I was hot. He didn’t care that we worked together. He didn’t care that I had a boyfriend. He didn’t care that I was new and had no job security. I felt uncomfortable.

I was scared to say anything. I was the new girl happy to be there. I didn’t want to be the person already stirring up drama. Luckily, I told my direct supervisor, who took it upon himself to handle the situation. 

Unfortunately, afterward, that weekend member became mean. He told me how nobody cared to watch me and how my work didn’t matter. I felt there wasn’t much I could do about the situation after that except to brush it off.

I wish I could say that was the first and last time a male coworker has made a pass at me or made me uncomfortable in the workplace. It wasn’t.

I’ve had security guards make passes at my appearance at professional games. I’ve had high school coaches be persistent with me because “I wasn’t married.” I’ve had to ask not to be sent to certain games where I know I don’t feel comfortable or safe. I’ve had men ask me at games if I live alone, and high school players have come up to me while doing stories to tell me I’m attractive and ask me on dates.

Don’t even get me started on the viewer DMs on professional social media accounts. One man consistently comments towards my appearance, and every time I block him, he creates a new account to continue.

While some of these incidents might not seem extreme enough to qualify (even though none are okay), understand that it’s the consistency that builds up and eats at you over time. I sit and wonder if there will ever be a day where I can just worry about my job and not have to think about my safety as a woman. I hope so.

There are so many stories I could tell over my short experience in the industry. I’ve tried to erase a lot of them from my memory over time.

Anonymous #6

There are far too many of the so-called ‘nice guys’ in sports media that just ‘want to help’ and ‘want to support women in sports’. No, you want to prey on innocent women who are working hard to get better at anything and everything.

As a woman, it is not enough to be great. You have to be better than your male counterparts. Some do genuinely want to help. But there are, in fact, not nice guys who will take advantage of a situation.

What you say about me when I am not around matters way more than when I am. All the nice things you say to my face are completely forgotten when I hear what disgusting things you chose to speak about fellow female employees and me with your boys – often the very same boys I work with.

Under no circumstances should you be talking about my personal life, what you think I’m like on weekends, and especially my body. Period.

“I would hit that.” “You know she just loves a good time.” I have learned of far too many male peers who chose to talk about me in a sexualized way.

A scary part of this is I don’t want to make a fuss at work because I don’t want that kind of attention, and they are usually professional at work. I don’t want to be labeled a liar and stir up a fight I know I cannot win.

I know better, and I have to sit there in silence knowing what they chose to say about me.

I absolutely love what I do – no question about it. Sports media is the only thing for me. Most college students fall head over heels in love in college. This is true for me, just with a profession, not a person.

I look around my office, and I see almost all-male head staff, coaches, and production assistants. I see polos and khakis, nicer tennis shoes, maybe a couple of belts if it is an important day in the office. I report to our manager, and he smiles happily to see and hear from me. I report to our big man on campus (Athletic Director), and he says thank you for the edit I made. I report to my department and am encouraged and trained by yet another male.

I report to work and am happy to be there. That doesn’t mean I always feel like I belong. It feels like I’ve always struggled to feel like I belong somewhere. Not because I don’t love it and people don’t welcome me, because they do.

However, growing up interested in sports, I never felt I could relate 100% with my female friends. And to the males, they see me as one of the guys. But it doesn’t matter how many video games I play or sports games I watch with them. At the end of the day, I am not literally one of the boys.

I walk into work, and I feel appreciated but not necessarily valued, as if something is holding me back from reaching my full potential. I’ve never been able to put my finger on it, but one day, everything changed.

A male superior at work who I greatly admire and look up to asked me about my appearance on gameday. I always proudly don our colors, so I was confused by his question. An argument ensued about why it matters and if he also feels it necessary to comment on male employees’ attire on game days. My heart started racing, my fingers curled in frustration, my eyes burning with the words echoing in my head.

It did not go well, and I left, feeling my head start to get light, and my hands starting to shake. I needed to calm down. But why was I so mad in the first place? Was it that he had told me what to do? I know I hate that, but what’s the big deal? Was it that he said he didn’t approve of my appearance?  Or was it that I felt he was seeing me as a girl and not a content creator?

Was dressing nicely with a full face of makeup overshadowing all the hard work I put in every day to work at what I love? I swallowed some tears away before heading back to my work area. A lot of people are in the office; I race to the bathroom, pacing around. I can’t stop them anymore. I’m too frustrated. Tears roll down my face, betraying me.

I take deep breaths to calm down. You’re crazy, I think to myself. I didn’t know it yet, but he had changed my life forever. From that second, I would never stop wondering, was that because I’m female? Am I not taken seriously because I am a girl? Will I always be just a dramatic girl and never a Sports Media Content Creator?

The hardest part is that I look crazy to them – absolutely overly emotional, crazy.

But the hard truth is they will never understand. They are rarely tested in knowing sports, barely questioned in being jersey chasers, and never accused of knowing nothing about a sport.

Conversely, I never feel like I’m not being watched.

It doesn’t matter that I can talk shop all day long about almost any sport. It doesn’t matter how much I improve. It doesn’t matter how good the video is. At least it feels this way sometimes. At the end of the day, I will always be a silly college girl, and nothing more.

The scariest part of it all is that the more I think and face, the more I start to believe it.

Anonymous #7

I used to work in tennis. I was an intern at a tournament and continued to work on and off for the event as an independent contractor. Towards the end of my time there, new leadership took over the front office. Whether advertently or inadvertently, this person created a “bro culture,” and it started by excluding female staffers from meetings that they should have been apart of.

The impact of this was female staffers being told what to do by the male staff members and not being able to give input on these decisions. When the women of the office brought this up with higher management, it did not go well.

A leadership survey was sent out to the small staff, and higher management reviewed the survey results with the group. The female representative stood in front of a group of people (half women) and said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I am a champion of equality for women. We would not have hired a ‘new leader’ if they were sexist. I do not believe this person is sexist, so stop talking about it.”

This was the moment that I knew I probably would need to leave. The fact that our concerns were not addressed and were told, “We say there’s no problem so there’s no problem,” was alarming to me. Going forward, it basically meant that if I had an issue with anyone, I most likely wouldn’t have support.

Because of the bro culture that this new leader created, I knew that if I had an issue with any male staffer (which I did, and one person in particular), I couldn’t go to this new leader because I felt he wouldn’t take it seriously. Or that if the new leader went to discuss it with the person I had a problem with, they would probably have a good laugh about how I’m dramatic or demanding or whatever, and the problem would go unsolved.

The problems I tended to have with other male staffers would be if they needed me to work on a project for them or complete a small task for them. In these instances, I would get sent an email with the request with very few details. When I would ask for further details, I would get no response. If I didn’t go and physically seek these people out, I wouldn’t get the answer.

Often, because I had a ton of work to do, I didn’t have time to hound grown adults for information. When they realized they needed whatever thing they wanted me to do, they would storm over to my desk and verbally attack me for not having whatever it is done. Or I would get emails in all caps demanding something be done right now. I am not a mind reader. I cannot pull your deadline or important details out of thin air.

This happened constantly. The person who did this the most threatened me that if I ever brought up in a meeting that I needed some information from him or needed him to do something that could make him look bad, he would make my life miserable. This man would put off work that greatly affected my work out of pure laziness. But I couldn’t say anything unless I wanted to face hell.

I privately begged this man for weeks to send me information but got the, “Oh yeah, I’ll send that after lunch” and no information. For example, this affected a section of the printed tournament program. When he viewed this section of the tournament program, he pointed out all the ways it was inaccurate. My blood boiled, but I couldn’t say anything.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I followed the correct procedure for reserving sponsorship tickets for marketing partners. Because a male staffer was not keeping up with his duties to update available inventory, a conflict arose when someone else needed the tickets I had already sold to a partner, and it was exclusively my fault.

I needed to go to my partner and get the tickets back that I already shipped to them months ago and get them a replacement for different tickets. I needed to jump through all these hoops even though it was not my fault that the male staffer didn’t do his job, and the tickets got double booked. They offered no assistance because it wasn’t their problem. It was apparently mine alone.

Being in an environment where you’re always verbally harassed and gaslit into thinking that if you work harder and continuously follow up with everyone (read as pull teeth to get important information), and walk on eggshells around certain people, then everything will be fine is incredibly unhealthy and damaging. Once I left, it was like I had PTSD from that toxic environment.

I realized just how much I had been on guard, how much I was always ready to defend the validity of my work, or how I always had a mountain of proof and stats on why a particular decision should be made because everything was a battle for the women of that office. When I was finally in a healthy work environment, I practically had to deprogram myself and realize that all those habits were not normal.

If there’s a silver lining to this story, the new leader no longer works there, but many other problematic staffers still do. One of the unfortunate side effects of all this is that the organization lost many good, talented employees who rightly did not want to put up with that crap. While I was never physically or sexually assaulted during my time in sports, the verbal abuse and mind games played by male colleagues is something I will never forget.

A note from Pro Football Network

We are incredibly proud of Crissy, Jordan, Lucy, Ashley, Leah, Alexis, and those who remained anonymous for being courageous enough to come forward to share their stories. Here at Pro Football Network, we are committed to helping change the culture and stereotypes that exist in sports media, especially when it comes to women working in sports.

As noted at the top of the page,  all ad revenue generated from these stories will be donated to the Association For Women In Sports Media (AWSM). The Association for Women in Sports Media is a 501(c)(3) organization whose female and male members support the advancement and growth of women – both professional and student – in sports media.

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