Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Why Can’t Female Reporters Make — and Correct — Bad Mistakes?

with 8 comments

Folks, I’m frustrated right now. I just read the story of former major league baseball sideline reporter Emily Austen (see link here from the story at AOL: http://www.aol.com/article/2016/06/10/mlb-sideline-reporter-fired-after-making-several-inappropriate-c/21393140/), who said a number of derogatory things during a social media video. This video was made on the Barstool Sports Live Facebook broadcast, and while I don’t like any of the things Ms. Austen said, none of them were so abhorrent to my mind as warranting her immediate dismissal from her sideline duties without at least giving her a chance to rectify her error.

Here’s a bit from the Business Insider story (carried at AOL at the address above):

During the broadcast, Austen made several racist and anti-Semitic comments. At one point, she said she “didn’t even know Mexicans were that smart,” then later said that everyone knows the “Chinese guy is always the smartest guy in math class.” While recalling stories from when she worked as a bartender, she called Jewish people “stingy.” She also referred to Kevin Love as a “little b—-.”

Edited to add:

I haven’t a clue why any sportscaster, male or female, worth her salt wouldn’t realize that when the camera is on, she has to watch what she says. With a beer, without a beer, she should be professional.

Much of what she said is insensitive at best, outright racist at worst. (Saying that she “didn’t even know that Mexicans were that smart” is ludicrous. Doesn’t she know any history at all?)

I don’t approve of this behavior. At all. But I also don’t understand why a male sportscaster like Curt Schilling, formerly of ESPN, was given chance after chance to rectify his own public off-the-job comments before he finally was booted out.

Now back to our regularly scheduled post, already in progress…

I am not a fan of this sort of behavior, folks. But I also don’t think it’s something that warrants an immediate dismissal.

Consider, please, that Ms. Austen was probably having a beer. She was off-duty, discussing her job as a sideline reporter for both the Tampa Bay Rays (MLB) and for the Orlando Magic (NBA), and was probably trying to make “good copy” for the folks on Barstool Sports. Male sports personalities push the envelope all the time, and only get suspensions, at best…yet Ms. Austen got the axe right away, without any possibility of coming back to say, “I know I went too far. I’m sorry.”

Note that to my mind, especially out of context, I don’t have a problem with her saying these obnoxious things as much as I have a problem with her being immediately booted from her job without any possibility of correcting the obnoxious things she said.

I’d only fire Ms. Austen if she refused to try to correct any of this. (What she said about the Asian guy in math class, while not necessarily a bad thing, is still a stereotype. My Japanese-American friend would be happy to tell you all about how much effort she put into her studies; she loved school, and still enjoys learning things, but effortless, it was not. And math was not her best subject, either.**)

This, to my mind, smells more like political correctness than a sensible personnel decision. If Ms. Austen was good at her work — and I’m going to assume she was, or Barstool Sports wouldn’t have wanted to have her as part of their Facebook Live broadcast after hours — she should’ve been talked with, and she should’ve been allowed to make amends. Giving her a chance to grow, to change, to learn that people are individuals and not stereotypes…that is a far better way to handle the situation than just firing her.

This way, what does Ms. Austen learn? That male sports personalities can be outrageous, but female sports personalities had best watch their backs?

In short, while what Ms. Austen said was not flattering, it did not warrant immediate dismissal.

Fox Sports Florida (and Fox Sports Sun, who together were her employers) should be ashamed of themselves. They at minimum should be called before the EEOC, and be prepared to defend their actions.

And in the meantime, Ms. Austen should do some volunteer work with the poor, the disabled, and those who are otherwise disenfranchised in this society. She’d learn a lot, I think…and never again would she be tempted to make such ridiculously stupid and bigoted statements as she did on Barstool Sports’ live broadcast on Facebook.

——–

**Yes, I know that Chinese people and Japanese people and Korean people and Laotian people and Vietnamese people are all different people, different cultures, different ethnicities, and all have to be taken for themselves. But the stereotype I’m referring to — that Asians are better at math than anyone else — is still real, and it’s done a lot of harm. (End rant.)

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8 Responses

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  1. Well, actually… I would have fired her too. She was not some random person making bar chat, where her tipsy remarks could be taken out of context. She was being interviewed because of her job. That means she was effectively on duty. And for someone on duty to make on the record racist, bigoted remarks that will obviously reflect negatively about herself is stupid. To make them in a venue where they reflect on her employer as well as her professional judgement? I would not hesitate to fire her. Of course the same would apply to her male colleagues, but I don’t follow sports so I have no idea if they are also racist bigots who spout hate speech for the record.

    barbtaub

    June 11, 2016 at 4:29 am

    • Most sportscasters, male or female, do not spout hate speech. Thank goodness, or I’d never watch another sports game for as long as I live.

      But I have seen several male sportscasters get second chances. The most notable among them is former MLB pitcher (and rightwing commentator) Curt Schilling. Schilling said a number of inappropriate things, and was given at least two chances before he was outright fired by ESPN.

      Yes, sportcasters should know better, Barb. You’re right that someone who goes on camera for a living has to realize that if she’s in front of a camera, whether she’s being paid or not, she’s still “on duty.” She also should be aware that she’s going to be held to a higher standard.

      Note that men are finally starting to be held to the same high standard. But it’s still frustrating for me to see this sort of thing…while I hate seeing someone young and silly and rather stupid saying ridiculously insensitive things, wouldn’t it be better if she could keep her job while performing public service at the same time so she’d learn down to her bones just why what she had said was so offensive?

      BTW, the comment about Kevin Love (basketball player) was probably in reference to something I barely remember, but I’m sure Ms. Austen remembers vividly. As a sideline reporter, Ms. Austen has to get comments from players after good games (usually fairly easy), bad games (usually quite difficult), and in between. Kevin Love is a notably poor interviewee and has given many sportscasters, male and female alike, grief when they try to interview him. So that particular comment was probably not meant as racist; it instead was her judgment, poor as it was to put it out there publicly without context, that Kevin Love is tough to work with as a sports personality and that she’d rather he comported himself with more dignity when it came to dealing with her and other sportcasters/sideline reporters.

      Barb Caffrey

      June 11, 2016 at 5:09 am

  2. IIRC there have been cases of male sports-reporters getting fired for “racist remarks”.

    Mind you, I think most cases (including Ms. Austen’s) the “racist remarks charge” has been over-blown.

    On the other hand, I chuckled at your “subject line” as my thought was “why should female reporters be different than male reporters”.

    IE All reporters make mistakes in their reporting and almost never admit they made a mistake. 😉

    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    June 11, 2016 at 9:53 am

    • Well, that’s certainly true, Paul. 🙂 Reporters make mistakes all the time, and something about modern-day living makes most of them highly reluctant to admit to making mistakes.

      And yes, some male sportscasters have been fired for racist, sexist, or just plain obnoxious remarks that were nonsensical in context. Very few have been fired right off, however, to the best of my knowledge…most of the time, the male sportscasters have been given a second chance. The reason Ms. Austen didn’t get another chance may have nothing to do with her sex, but it _may_ — and that’s why I’d urge her to go to the EEOC if this was an isolated thing. (Plus, they fired her for conduct off the job that was not criminal. Yes, it was offensive. But see what I’ve said before.)

      Maybe we need to take a second look at all of this political correctness and see what it’s getting us. In this case, I don’t see where firing Ms. Austen is warranted; going to work at a soup kitchen as a volunteer two or three times a week in a low-income neighborhood should be enough if she has even a shred of empathy to get her to start opening up her worldview, for pity’s sake. (And the men who make these mistakes also should have to do the same thing, to keep their jobs. Really, this seems almost like a no-brainer; it would actually do something good, something restorative, rather than punitive. Because in this case, what Ms. Austen did made her look silly at absolute best…not to mention small-minded and racially insensitive (also at best).

      Still. We all have horrible days. I can’t believe Ms. Austen has had too many days like that one, or she’d never have been a sideline reporter for one minute, much less quite some time. I think we need to start to learn how to forgive…but while we as a society do that, we also need to realize that some people need to _see_ why they need to change their worldview(s).

      Barb Caffrey

      June 11, 2016 at 12:30 pm

      • In her case, it may have been because who she worked for.

        “Everybody knows Fox News is the home of those racists SOBs”.

        So Fox Sports over-reacted due to that image of Fox News.

        IE not because “she was a woman”. 🙂

        Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        June 11, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      • Could be, Paul. (It’s certainly a gentler reading, if so.)

        Make no mistake — someone in a public contact position like that needs to be more careful. But with so many different sports personalities who’ve run into this sort of trouble being given second, third, and sometimes even fourth chances…to see a woman in this position jettisoned immediately stuck in my craw.

        Barb Caffrey

        June 11, 2016 at 3:45 pm

  3. I suspect the answer, these days, is “no one gives us any slack – why should we give anyone else any slack?”

    (Which probably goes some way towards explaining the current political mess.)

    Chris

    chrishanger

    June 12, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    • Probably, Chris. But it’s such a shortsighted attitude, isn’t it? It assumes you can’t ever make a mistake, that you can’t grow and change…while I don’t condone what she said, it’s not the worst thing in the world — she can improve, and grow as a person, and be given a chance to do these things after saying some indelicate things while not being paid…can’t she? (I’d like to think so, anyway.)

      Barb Caffrey

      June 12, 2016 at 2:46 pm


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