On Tuesday morning, Steve Cohen, owner of Major League Baseball’s notorious underdogs, the New York Mets, announced that the team’s general manager, Jared Porter, had been fired. Cohen didn’t spell out the reason for Porter’s sacking, stating, “There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior.” But the “behavior” was all over baseball Twitter after ESPN published a story on Monday night detailing Porter’s harassment of a foreign reporter in 2016. The reporter, who was visiting from another country, fielded unwanted sexually suggestive text messages from Porter, the story revealed, cumulating with a dick pic. (In a separate story from ESPN Porter “acknowledged” that he had texted with the woman, although he initially tried to downplay the photos.) Rightfully, Porter was dismissed for his conduct, but the story is illustrative of the unequal balance of power that still reigns in the sports world, allowing one man to push a woman reporter out of the business entirely while his career continued to rise.
The woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous, had a limited grasp of the English language and says she wasn’t aware of the flirtatious nature of Porter’s texts when he first started sending them. In her native country, “it’s very common for friends of the opposite sex to send each other photos,” she told ESPN. But as Porter’s flirting continued, the photos got more suggestive. Fearful of what might happen to her job if she was rude to a powerful figure in baseball, a person who could control access to teams and players, the woman responded with laughter. She noted that she was uncomfortable but didn’t think it would progress any further.
At one point, Porter sent a photo of himself from the waist down lying in a bed with a bulge in his pants. The woman stopped responding, but Porter reportedly continued, sending a photo of his “erect naked penis.” “Porter would send 62 unanswered texts — including seven photos — between July 19 and Aug. 10, the day before a final flurry from Los Angeles that included the nude photo,” ESPN reports.
Unsure of how to respond to the explicit messages and wanting them to stop, the woman shared the photo with a baseball player from her native country and his interpreter, who helped write a response to Porter. “This is extremely inappropriate, very offensive, and getting out of line,” she wrote. “Could you please stop sending offensive photos or msg.” Porter apologized and said he would stop but sent six more messages to the woman.
The woman told ESPN that she’d considered talking to the team that employed Porter at the time, the Chicago Cubs, but was afraid of repercussions. Her job in the states relied entirely on being given access to players, coaches, and other staffers on teams. She was concerned over what would happen both in the states and in her native country if she were to accuse Porter of harassing her. She said that in her native country, “Women get dragged through the mud if your name is associated with any type of sexual scandal,” and she did not want to be ridiculed or blamed for receiving the texts. The reporter attempted to continue her sports journalism career in the US but said it became difficult as she turned down trips to cover teams for fear of running into Porter. At one point, she says she did run into him at the Diamondbacks’ stadium and hid from him, “While I was hiding, I was frustrated. Why do I have to hide,” she told ESPN in 2017.
It is almost a running joke that to be a woman in sports media specifically is to be constantly questioned, doubted, and treated as an anomaly. Katie Nolan played with this dark humor in a video on the fictitious secret society of women in sports media, released in 2019. But this story provides a ready example of one reason that women are so underrepresented in the sports world, designed to support, enrich, and enshrine men as athletic and moral scions of goodness. The tide is now starting to turn; after all, it was ESPN’s resident football expert and perfect human Mina Kimes who wrote Monday’s story along with Jeff Passan. But considering that sports outlets that feature women largely use a rotation of caucasian blondes who merely facilitate conversations about sports between four or five men, the road ahead still looks incredibly bleak.
Eventually, the woman returned to her home country and left journalism all together stating that Porter wasn’t the only person who had harassed her. “But [Porter] was a tipping point for me,” she told ESPN, “I started to ask myself, ‘Why do I have to put myself through these situations to earn a living?’” The woman now works in finance and says she has no plans to pursue legal action against Porter.