By Claire Goldberg
It is no secret that I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan. I religiously follow their games and always try to keep up with stats and deals and changes to the team. But the sad truth is that being a women in sports, whether as an announcer, just a fan, or even a player, comes with discrimination and doubt in your dedication.
There were no female announcers in baseball until last fall when ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza called a Cardinals/Diamondbacks game. Only in the last decade or so have females announced or been commentators for professional sports where there are also women’s teams, as male commentators for women’s sports continue to be more than expected. So it is no wonder that women have a hard time seeing themselves in the world of sports broadcasting. The sexist stigma continues to be pushed by men who believe that women don’t deserve to be involved.
Man men still live in a world where women have no place in sports. There are those who think women shouldn’t be broadcasters, and those who think women shouldn’t be paid the same as their male counterparts. With the recent challenge to the gender pay gap by the US Women’s Soccer Team, there has been backlash on social media from men who really don’t believe that women should receive equal pay, despite the fact that the women’s team has won more championships than the men. In tennis, where Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova dominate the courts, women make considerably less than men make. In both of these sports, it is incredibly common to see men announcing for women, whereas it is almost surprising to see women commentate on the men, even though the rules and regulations are the same for both genders.
One of the worst parts about being a female in the sports world, though, is the sheer disbelief you get from men who are fans of the same sports. When I tell a guy that I’m a baseball fan, it is almost always met with doubt about my knowledge or my commitment. “Can you even name five players in the MLB?” or, “Have you ever actually watched a game without looking at your phone the whole time?” are unfortunately questions that I have heard before. But when guys share their love of baseball, its rarely followed by an inquisition, unless they’re asking about each other’s favorite player. And even if I can’t tell you who won the World Series in 1988, that doesn’t mean that I’m not a fan.
This demeaning behavior and the lack of fairness in professional sports have to end. Men need to stop doubting women’s abilities and start treating us as their counterparts. I’ve seen and heard Erin Andrews on the sidelines of countless pro sports games, and there isn’t a thing she can’t do that a male sportscaster could. Women like Lisa Leslie don’t have any less knowledge than men like Charles Barkley when they’re doing post-game coverage. So why can’t women be seen as equals yet? Why can’t women be taken seriously in the world of professional sports? For now, we have to keep fighting, because women don’t belong on the sidelines, except as a reporter or a cheerleader. I am so grateful for the women I’ve mentioned here and the many more that are pushing for equal rights in sports, because their efforts are going to pave the way for a future generation of women leading in this field.