Kat O’Brien, a former sports reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, has come forward with allegations that a Major League Baseball player raped her when she interviewed him in 2002.
O’Brien recounted her experience in a Sunday opinion piece for the New York Times, writing that she had not told anyone about the alleged assault for 18 years. She said she felt moved to speak publicly about it for the first time when she heard news that the Mets’ general manager, Jared Porter, had been fired for sending explicit text messages and photos to a woman reporter four and a half years ago.
According to O’Brien, the incident happened when she met the player—whom she chose not to identify—in a hotel room for their interview. She said she only got through a few questions before the player began trying to kiss her: “I said, no, no, I don’t want that, but he pushed me over to the bed.” She said she continued saying “no” and “stop” and tried to push him away as he got on top of her, pulled off her skirt, and raped her. She remembers leaving the hotel room shaken up, driving home, drinking an entire bottle of red wine, and throwing up onto her carpet. She didn’t tell anyone:
I knew that if I told anyone what happened that it would ruin my career. I was 22 with no track record, and at that time—nearly two decades ago—most people in baseball would have rallied to protect the athlete. So I blamed myself. I must have been too nice, too trusting, too friendly and open. Even though I said no, it must have been a misunderstanding. I lived in fear the story would get out.
O’Brien said she spent the rest of her career worrying that the player had falsely claimed they had consensual sex in order to make “himself out to be a stud” and making her seem like “some girl who was there to pick up ball players instead of do [her] job.” She turned down assignments to cover his team and decided against applying to jobs in cities whose home teams she knew he played for.
O’Brien managed to avoid her alleged rapist—aside from occasionally having to travel to the city he played in for games—but as a woman sports writer she was subject to the kind of sexual harassment that is almost pedestrian in the industry. Among the instances of harassment: a coach who nicknamed her “legs”; players who speculated about what kind of underwear she had on; players who asked her what sex positions she liked; a team manager who kept a blow-up doll in his office.
“My fingers are trembling as I write this,” O’Brien wrote in the Times. “I love sports, I was good at my job. And the sports industry loses out when talented women question whether it’s worth it to work in an industry that brings with it so much harassment.”
The allegations O’Brien details are upsettingly familiar. Women sports reporters are routinely the targets of inappropriate sexual comments, advances, and harassment that sometimes occurs right on camera. O’Brien said she’s seen these stories spark “an occasional burst of outrage,” but she hopes to see the response to them coalesce into a broader movement that results in substantive changes to sports culture.
“I wish things had changed dramatically in the last decade, but the stories of harassment and mistreatment that have emerged recently suggest otherwise,” O’Brien wrote. “What I feared losing before—my job in sports journalism—is long gone. But I have found my voice.”