ESPN’s tagline is the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” but this week, the network has come under fire as a Tweeter exposed a little known issue in the “contact us” page on ESPN’s website that specifically asked if someone wanted to complain about a female commentator on their website.
Now, the first question you probably would ask yourself is “well did they have a complaint tab about disliking male commentators” option? And the answer to that is somewhat. Because, as you see below, ESPN has the options laid out as to “Compliment” or “Complain” and then featured another drop down box to included the words “Commentator/Announcer”
So why the need for a “Commentator- dislike female commentator” option on the drop down menu in the first place? It's one thing to dislike a female commentator, it's another to do so solely on the basis of her gender.
Turns out, this option has been available for over 10 years on the ESPN site but was only recently brought to light when @msois saw the option, took a screen shot of it, and sent it to ESPN female anchors to ask if they knew the option existed.
To ESPN’s credit, they almost immediately removed the option as soon as the story was brought to their attention stating:
“We apologize for the mistake on the viewer response form template. We’ve been an industry leader for more than 30 years and are extremely proud of the leadership role we continue to play in providing high-profile opportunities and assignments for female commentators — from SportsCenter anchors to play-by-play announcers, analysts, reporters and more. We appreciate that this matter was brought to our attention and it was addressed and deleted immediately.”
Upon first hearing about the story, to be honest, I wasn’t shocked. Being a female in a male dominated field like sports comes with some excess baggage and you frankly know what you are going to get.
You will either be the pin up sports girl who reads from a cuecard or you can be the girl with the looks and knowledge and just take a little grief here and there from your male sports counterparts. But it’s the Linda Cohns and Robin Roberts of the world that paved the way and dealt with real sexism as to why this option on ESPN’s website even existed in the first place. The blame lies in all of us, both internally at ESPN and externally that this stayed on the website for so long.
Sure, it’s sexist in this day and age to see something like this, but give credit where credit is due - ESPN immediately removed the option as soon at it was brought to their attention and you can bet that every single item is being closely examined as we speak for more instances like this.
Which is exactly how we all get better as a society. Become aware, address it and move on. Bravo to ESPN for handling this brief PR nightmare as professionally as they could and immediately addressing and apologizing for the decade old issue. Hopefully in the future, female commentators will only be judged solely on their announcing ability.