Being a female sideline reporter just gets more fun all the time — on Friday, ESPN announcer Rod Franklin's sexist comments to reporter Jeannine Edwards got him pulled from a bowl game. And it's not his first offense.
According to Sports by Brooks, Franklin, Edwards, and fellow announcers Ed Cunningham and Rod Gilmore got into a discussion before Friday's Chick-fil-A Bowl about Gilmore's wife's election as mayor of Alameda, CA. When Edwards tried to add something, Franklin said, "Why don't you leave this to the boys, sweetcakes." She stood up for herself, replying, "don't call me sweetcakes, I don't like being talked to like that." His response: "okay then, asshole."
To their credit, ESPN officials tried to pull Franklin from the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but they couldn't find a replacement. They did succeed in pulling him from the next day's Fiesta Bowl. The network wouldn't directly comment on his future employment status, but they said in a statement, "We're not going to get into specifics other than to say adhering to our personal conduct policies and showing respect for colleagues are of the utmost importance to our company and we take them extremely seriously." But Franklin continued to work for the network after another sexist comment back in 2005. Here's ESPN ombudsman George Solomon's account of that event:
On Oct. 1, according to the Chicago Tribune, sideline reporter Holly Rowe lauded Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack for using all three timeouts on defense despite trailing by four touchdowns late in the game. "If the coaches are giving up," Rowe added, "what does that say to the players?" Play-by-play commentator Ron Franklin responded: "Holly, it's not giving up. It's 49-21, sweetheart." Franklin's comment, and demeaning tone, in response to Rowe's legitimate observation was disrespectful to the audience and to a colleague. "It was an inappropriate comment, and we've communicated that to Ron," said Mo Davenport, senior coordinating producer for college football. "There's never a reason to say something so mean-spirited. Ron apologized. We dealt with it internally."
Clearly whatever internal action ESPN took wasn't enough to keep Franklin from offending again. And his second offense wasn't just a slip of the tongue — he was clearly trying to shut down a female reporter and keep her out of the conversation (the fact that it was a conversation about female mayor makes the whole thing extra-bizarre). Back in 2005, Solomon said, "Play-by-play commentators need to take sideline reporters — many of whom are women — more seriously. So does ESPN, which needs to give these reporters more airtime and more serious issues to address."
Obviously they still have a ways to go. They could start with a zero tolerance policy for announcers who don't respect their female colleagues. They also need to take a serious look at the culture of sports reporting and what they can do to improve it. ESPN has screwed up in the past, but now they have an opportunity to acknowledge sexism within their ranks and actually change things. For the sake of all women in sports journalism, let's hope they do so.