These are just some of the lighter statements I sometimes hear when I cover games. Some moments are harder, like when a former coworker slowed his car down to shout catcalls at me when I walked to The Daily Tar Heel office, or when a photographer made crude comments about my appearance while covering a game.
But I’m not alone. Last week, Jasmyn Fritz, a sports radio host and content producer for The Sports Shop, tweeted out a thread containing screenshots of inappropriate sexual messages from a fellow UNC beat reporter.
Initially, she thought, “Is this a joke?” But as the messages kept coming and the individual did not apologize in the morning, Fritz took action.
“I felt disrespected,” Fritz said. “... I was so shocked that he really thought maybe I wasn’t going to do something about it.”
Fritz said she felt that the individual had done this before to others because if it was the first incident, he would’ve been apologetic. Instead, he stated he was drunk.
Marilyn Payne, a Digital Host for USA Today’s Sports Media Group and the anchor/host of Carolina Postgame Live, confirmed the man was a repeat offender in a Twitter post of her own.
The next morning, Payne tweeted about how sexual harassment towards her has been handled in the past. Once, when a manager asked why Payne didn’t report the harassment sooner, she said that she “was used to it.”
In the past, random men familiar with her work have approached her with a compliment, only to turn conversation to ask how many athletes or coaches she’s used her job to sleep with.
“I just want to ask, ‘Who in the world approaches someone, men or women, and says, ‘Hey, are you sleeping with your colleagues?’” Payne said. “Who does that?”
For Brooke Pryor, an ESPN NFL Nation Pittsburgh Steelers reporter and former DTH sports editor, the experiences she endured became a major talking point on social media. Last summer, Pryor reported on the Tyreek Hill investigation while working for The Kansas City Star, and fans took to social media to harass and threaten her.
“People felt that I had an agenda to push about Tyreek because of his background with domestic violence because I am a woman reporting about it,” Pryor said.
“...All of a sudden, I became a target for trolls.”
The harassment eventually escalated — one account threatened to release her personal information, such as where she lived and what floor her apartment was on.
“It really, really shook me,” Pryor said. “To that point, I had been pretty strong and reading things people are saying about me...
“The attacks when you're a woman and you're a journalist get very personal, very quickly. And in the same way that in one breath you can be objectified by another reporter or a player or coach, just as quickly, people will turn around and talk about how ugly you are or that you look fat in that dress or you have a double chin or you look like a bitch.”
Sexism and sexual harassment change how one goes about their life. For Pryor, she changed how much of her life she would share on social media. For Payne, she became more observant. For Fritz, she remained fearless and outspoken.
For me, I’m still trying to figure it out. The sports journalism industry and society as a whole are broken systems. Individuals think this type of behavior is okay, but we all know it’s not. At what point do we stop saying it’s not okay and start doing something about it?
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