There are questions a female sports reporter is often asked when she first meets someone and her career is revealed.
"Do you go in the locker room?" "Have you seen naked players?"
Those questions let us know that it's still not considered fully acceptable for women to be in this male-dominated field, and when we are, there incorrectly and oddly is a sexual element presumed.
That's what made it so infuriating to watch a Fox Sports1 segment on House Party by the Bay where Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski performed a lap dance on co-host Julie Stewart-Binks. Stewart-Binks prompted and encouraged Gronkowski, throwing bills at him as part of a bit referencing Gronkowski's recent anecdote about stripping for a bachelorette party.
There are many questions that should be asked here. Did Stewart-Binks feel pressured to take part? Did she know how far Gronkowski would take it?
Or was she really okay with this?
I really hope not.
While Gronkowski crossed a line and her male colleagues yucking it up in the background were out of line — why am I not surprised Jason Whitlock was hosting? — the issue many women in sports media are appalled by is how offensive it was to all of us.
Did Stewart-Binks consider that every time a woman in sports media acts inappropriately or unprofessionally it unfairly reflects on all women in sports media?
Judging by her tweets, this has not registered with Stewart-Binks.
There's an unspoken and unfair burden most women in sports media work with, an understanding that we are not to undo the painstaking work of women decades before us who had to break down locker-room doors for equal access and credibility.
Women in this career are far more likely to be subjected to vile online threats than male colleagues. Our work is questioned merely on the basis of our gender. Simply stating on Twitter that she found the Gronkowski's segment offensive invited nasty insults at ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil.
So when a woman in sports media purposefully denigrates herself on TV it hurts us all. It's a double standard, but it's reality.
Yet, I know why it happens.
There is an all-too-common model for fast-track success for women in sports TV: Be young, pretty, blond and skinny. Wear club attire. Get comfortable with being a sideline sex object who knows about sports. It's a slap in the face to the majority of women who do these jobs well and professionally. It's insulting to the women who don't get hired in the first place for being older than 40 or larger than a Size 2.
Let's not entirely blame women here.
This system — big shocker — was created by men who overwhelmingly hold leadership in sports media and professionally reward women based on sex appeal. Mostly, they ignorantly don't believe that male viewers will watch qualified women discuss sports without also being a sex object and they still haven't wrapped their head around the idea that women watch sports on TV.
Instead of an apology after the lap dance, Fox Sports1 replayed the clip as a promotion. Gronkowski is considered a laughable frat boy, which is quite ironic given the criticism Cam Newton receives for his G-rated touchdown dances. Whitlock's response was to tweet that anyone offended was a "fraud." But this isn't about Gronk or Whitlock.
The sad part is that Stewart-Binks didn't mind being the prop here. And the maddening part is that she doesn't seem to understand she made us all part of the joke.
— Chicago Tribune (TNS)