Mac Engel

When it comes to sexual harassment, sports not immune

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is selling the franchise after news reports indicated that he has been accused of sexual misconduct in the work place.
Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is selling the franchise after news reports indicated that he has been accused of sexual misconduct in the work place. AP

Jerry Jones expressed sadness at the news Jerry Richardson is selling the Carolina Panthers, when the Cowboys owner should have prepared for such a scenario months ago.

There are likely dozens of other sports executives, scouts, coaches, staffers, and sports TV personalities right now who are scared to death of that phone call and joining this list:

The list: Jerry Richardson, Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump, Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein, Brian Singer, Roy Moore, Morgan Spurlock, Tavis Smiley, Mario Batali, James Levine, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Glenn Thrush, Russell Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor, Louis C.K., Steven Seagal, Brett Ratner, Dustin Hoffman, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Spacey, George H.W. Bush, James Toback, not to mention Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton and a slew of others.

For months not one name from the sports world joined this frathouse of men who used their power, cash and celebrity to imply sex with girls or young men.

However badly D.C. and Hollywood can bully a woman, the sports world has been their equal, or worse.

News from last week that NFL Network analysts Marshall Faulk, Warren Sapp and Ike Taylor were suspended after a former colleague accused them of sexual harassment and assault is not a surprise; the surprise is that an accusation in sports media took this long to come out.

This report from Deadspin describes the culture at the network as a toxic cesspool.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said this matter will be investigated. He has yet to comment on the news that former Carolina Panthers employees accused their big boss, Richardson, of treating them like sexual objects who partially exist to sporadically arouse him. According to a report by Sports Illustrated, Richardson handed out multiple payouts to ex-employees who accused him of sexual misconduct.

Their stories sound like a dirty old man from a different era, who simply had no clue. Or he has so much money he doesn’t care.

Either way, he cared enough to avoid any NFL investigation and now intends to sell the team.

Assemble a collection of females with a group of retired jocks who were accustomed to, or expected, certain behaviors from the young women they previously surrounded themselves with for the better part of a decade and here you go.

Men can be dogs and pigs, and in the sports world we routinely cross the line. Every guy knows the line, too. What might begin with nothing intentions morphs in a direction the other person does not want, but will play ball out of fear. Or the men in power just blast forward without fear of consequence.

A man can/will turn the slightest bit of attention into an unwanted advance.

When I have spoken to young adult females who aspire to enter the business, I just warn them that it’s a mostly male dominated profession, and that while it can be fun as the only woman invited into boys’ tree house it comes with certain realities, and often humiliating obstacles that are not worth it.

In 2017, at least five prominent Texas politicians were accused of sexually harassing or assaulting women. The list includes two U.S. congressmen, two state representatives, and a former U.S. president.

Most of the realities are typical frustrations of a workplace that can be irritating, but benign, until they’re cruel.

Why are the sports sideline reporters almost exclusively females held to a different standard for their weight, physique and appearance? Start with the people who do the hiring; they ain’t women.

There was a PR director of a major league franchise who was renowned for hiring females as interns based on one qualification — and it wasn’t their work ethic or intellect. He would hire one male to do the “hard work,” while the other young interns were all attractive females who were assigned tasks such as making copies. He was not the only one to follow this strict hiring process.

All of these “old school” workplace norms - combined with enabled dudes with an increasing number of women in the workforce - is a nice recipe for Lawsuit Pie.

Women in the workplace are now coming forward with their own horror stories about behaviors that, whatever the rationalization, were cruel, antiquated and demeaning the moment they were accepted.

Once O’Reilly, Weinstein and the others started to go down, it was only a matter of time before the sports world was exposed for its many flaws in this area.

So while Jerry Jones is sad his friend Jerry Richardson is selling his team, it was only a matter of time before the consequences of “old school workplace norms” were felt in the sports world.

The only surprise is that it took this long.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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