All of the Women I've Ever Known Who Wanted To Be Sports Journalists Stopped

All of the women I've ever known who wanted to be sports journalists stopped.

They quit, and thought it better to go do something else. Because pursuing the dream job just wasn't worth all the other stuff.

I'm not going to deal with specifics here, because those stories are their own and not mine to tell, but I will state the obvious: this is a problem.

It's been a nauseating few days to be a hockey fan on Twitter. And maybe days is not the right metric of time there, but whatever has been percolating over the past however long has come to a significant boil of late, with both the Denver Post's Adrian Dater and Awful Announcing's Steve Lepore being outed as major creeps. [Ed: They have both since been fired.] This comes on the heels of Harrison Mooney's dismissal from Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy over the summer. All of these incidents stem from harassing Direct Messages via Twitter, which I won't link to (but shouldn't be hard to find, should you so choose).

It is difficult to know how to respond to these things as a white male. My voice seems irrelevant as someone who is not being victimized in these situations, and anything I say just seems like plain common sense. On Sunday, I wrote two tweets: 1. "Ya know fellas, it's really not that hard to not be a creep. Instead of sliding into her DMs with an amateur photography proposal: don't." 2. "Think of her as a human being with her own problems who doesn't want to deal with you and go from there." They both are still sitting in my Drafts, unpublished, because why should I have to say what should be abundantly obvious? Why should I make this issue about me? I'm not looking for a pat on the back for being on the right side of an issue, and saying nothing avoids being accused of saying the right thing for the wrong reason.

But that just makes me part of the problem. And I am part of the problem. When Mooney was dismissed from Puck Daddy in August, it made me angry with Greg Wyshynski (and not for the reasons women are angry with Greg Wyshynski). Harrison's transgressions struck me as a desperately lonely dude being bad at girls. Wyshynski championing himself as a paragon of virtue for his decision to turf the guy, instead of going to bat for him as an editor and backing a writer who gave him years of service, left a sour taste in my mouth. I don't know Harrison personally, but I sympathized with him.

Lepore seemed different. He was repeatedly using the same scenario in an attempt to lure women into sexualized photo shoots to build his own private spank-bank. The predatory nature of these messages, the utter skin-crawling skeeviness of them leaps off the screen. There is a palpable danger to his messages, because he's not talking to girls, he's aiming at targets.

But it's a fine line determining what is awkward and what is dangerous, and it's really not my place to determine what makes a woman feel unsafe. What I want is for hockey to be inclusive, to be a friendly space for all who love the game. This is not just limited to Hockey Twitter, either. These problems extend into the world and workplaces they represent as an online space. Hockey Media, Hockey Twitter, these things are old boys clubs because Hockey itself is an old boys club. It's astonishing how much bigotry and misogyny we're willing to hand-wave away because the person spewing it is "old school hockey". 

I don't want to work in a game that tolerates this. What I do want is to work in a game where a coach doesn't walk away from a reporter for "asking stupid questions" because she has a vagina. I want to work in an industry where Cassie Campbell or Andi Petrillo have a seat at the table and PJ Stock or Mike Milbury or Doug MacLean do not. I want to work in an industry where a woman on a hockey broadcast has a larger role to play than reading tweets. I want to work in an industry where you can count the women in a typical NHL scrum on more than one finger. But there's a reason that they're not there: they're not welcome.

This isn't always an easy job, no matter how fun it can be. Awful people will find a way to be awful to you, whether it's discounting your opinion for having never played the game or threatening to cave your face in for accurately describing what their kid did on the ice. I find these things difficult enough to deal with as a man, without my every move being put under the microscope from a gendered perspective. And my own issues, heavy as they weigh, don't even begin to approach the mountain of awful that comes with sexual harassment -- especially harassment from colleagues in the media.

In my limited experience in this industry, I have privately called out bad behaviour against women from both hockey people and sports journalists that I still consider friends -- people who've said and done terrible things, but can be redeemed yet. But doing these things quietly in back-room conversations, while publicly saying absolutely nothing, doesn't help. It didn't fix those situations, and it doesn't make that behaviour any less acceptable to on-lookers if I implicitly condone it through inaction. I have a voice, small as it may be, and I have to start using it to do what's right.

Because all of the women I've ever known who wanted to be sports journalists stopped.

And that has to stop, too.

Posted on December 3, 2014 and filed under Editorial.