Female Sports Reporters Erin Andrews and Hannah Storm on Rampant Sexism and Fashion Faux Pas
It's never been easy on the sidelines, but, as the veterans and newcomers with whom THR spoke testify, it's always been worth it.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
It has been nearly 40 years since the first female reporter was allowed into a professional sports locker room. Today, every major cable and broadcast sports division has multiple female reporters and anchors on its roster. But if they have cracked sports TV's glass ceiling -- Rhonda Glenn was the first woman to anchor ESPN's iconic SportsCenter franchise in 1981, and CBS Sports anchor Lesley Visser is the only woman enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- they still are a minority of the voices covering big-ticket TV sports: the NFL, MLB and NBA.
"It didn't occur to me that I wasn't going to be allowed to that party," says ESPN's Hannah Storm, whose father was a commissioner of the American Basketball Association and GM of multiple teams including the NBA's Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks. "When it wasn't a school night, we were at the games."
But Storm and her fellow trailblazers -- in 1994, NBC executives made her the first woman to solo anchor a network sports show when they put her on MLB coverage, which would include three World Series -- succeeded not because they aspired to be on TV, but because they loved the game.
"My first job was with the Boston Globe," says Visser. "I was covering the lowest division of high school football and thought I was the luckiest person in America."
When Mary Carillo -- who won the 1977 French Open mixed doubles championship with her playing partner John McEnroe -- segued from the court to the broadcasting booth in 1980, the United States Tennis Association would not allow her to cover men's tennis, only the women's matches. Says Carillo, "That was when I first realized that it might not be easy to be a woman in this profession."
And it still isn't.
Rebecca Lowe -- who in March joined NBC Sports from ESPN and in 2012 became the first woman to present the FA Cup Final from Wembley Stadium -- has had hot dogs thrown at her by the U.K.'s infamous football hooligans.
"I've had my backside pinched, I've had people screaming at me and using terrible words," says Lowe.
If blatant sexism no longer is tolerated in corporate America or sports media, indifference persists; women's restrooms on the field are rare.
"Any woman who goes on the road with an NFL team or is on the sidelines will tell you that you'll be putting on your mascara next to a urinal in the men's bathroom [because there won't be a women's room on the field]," says Charissa Thompson, who will anchor Fox Sports 1's signature nightly news and highlights show, Fox Sports Live.
The women who have become stars in the industry have two things in common: a passion for sports and a high tolerance for belligerence.
"We all have scar tissue," says Visser. "I always tell the young women coming up, 'You can have a long career, but you better have a tough skin.' "
Host, Fox College Saturday (Fox Sports 1)
I came along right when the Internet was blowing up, right when the sports blogs started. So I was baptized into this world where these sports blogs dubbed me the "Sideline Barbie," the "Sideline Princess." And I was not only worrying about the questions I was asking, but then I had men on these blogs critiquing what I was wearing. The sidelines aren't as glamorous as everyone thinks. When halftime happens, you do the interview, and then you've got to grab a coach or a player. You don't even have time to go to the bathroom. So I'm having a hot dog on the sideline, and people are taking photos and submitting them to the sports blogs. And it's like, "How does she look eating a hot dog?" It wasn't about my reporting, it was, "What is she wearing, who is she dating?"
Host, The Crossover (NBC Sports Network)
It's definitely a business where if you're self-conscious at all, you either grow a thick skin or at least fake like you have one. It's stupid to make women feel awkward for doing a job that a dozen men are doing at the exact same time. But I don't think anyone should be in the locker room. That's where I stand. I did several years for the NBA. So I was in locker rooms. I would always make sure that my cameraman went first and that I looked down until he said it was OK to look up. There's got to be a better way to grab players. I don't think men should be in the locker room, either, because you certainly can't [exclude] one and not the other. For people who have never been in a locker room … there's nothing fun about it.
Correspondent, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, HBO Sports, Tennis Channel
Al Trautwig and I were working together on USA Network [in the early 1980s]. And I was only there to do women's tennis. It was the first night of the U.S. Open, and Chris Evert won her match in 42 minutes. So I was unemployed for the rest of the evening. But a guy I really loved watching, Yannick Noah, a Frenchman, was going to play next. So I hung around in the booth. And I started handing Al Trautwig notes about Yannick. I loved this guy; I knew his game well. And Al would read the note and just tuck it away. He wouldn't use my stuff. And I handed him like a fistful of notes. And then I stopped because he wasn't using any of them. And I'm thinking to myself, "Man, does this guy really think I don't know anything about men's tennis?" At night's end, he grabbed all the notes and took me by the wrist and said, "Come with me." He brought me to our executive producer, put the notes on his table and said: "Mary wrote these notes to me. But I didn't use them because they should be coming out of her mouth." And the next day, I got to call men's tennis at the U.S. Open.
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