I will start by saying I know nothing of sports. I have never been interested in “watching the game” or going to the “ballpark.” But the recent non-stop coverage of the sports industry’s political lean has heightened my awareness. And when I heard about NFL quarterback Cam Newton’s gross comments at a news conference yesterday, my initial instinct was, “Asshole jock.”
"It's funny to hear a female talk about routes like ... it's funny,” he said to Charlotte Observer beat reporter Jourdan Rodrigue.
Typical sports guy, right? The truth is, I don’t really know. So I decided to reach out to someone who did, namely Mina Kimes, a senior writer for ESPN.
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If you spend about five seconds on Kimes’ twitter account, two things are clear: First, she’s an expert in her field and I won’t be able to understand anything she says about sports, and second, she’s completely unafraid. Of anyone.
Have any doubts? Watch this clip.
I jumped on a call with Kimes to talk about Newton’s comment and what it’s really like being a female sports reporter. Here’s what she had to say.
In your comments on Around the Horn, you mentioned in your experience, you generally haven’t experienced players to be sexist.
Obviously there are exceptions. I used to be a business journalist and I encountered it equally—if not more, to be honest, then. [Newton’s comments] reminded me not of what I deal with [when speaking to] the players, but what I see with social media as a reporter. My interactions with people in the real world. And that’s what’s so disappointing. Because in his position, I would expect someone who is a public figure to be more thoughtful of his remarks.
Has the immense coverage of this story surprised you?
I think anything involving the NFL and a quarterback has the potential to become a story. Right now, the intersection between sports and social issues has never been more prominent. We’re coming off of a few weeks where a lot of people were paying attention to the NFL for political reasons. So, in some ways, I’m not surprised that a story that involves sports and gender is rising to this level of national discourse. We’re seeing that happen more often now than ever.
Has that changed the way you do your job as a reporter?
My background is as a business journalist. So I’ve always approached my coverage of sports through a slightly different lens—thinking about players and the business of the sport. I have a unique position. I write profiles a lot. Often those stories are not what happened in the game. They’re about players and issues that go beyond just the score. A lot of that is just inherent in my job.
What do you think, if anything, the opportunity here is?
I think this has the opportunity to be a real learning moment not just for people in the sport and people around it, but fans of the sport. People do feel this way. A lot of people do look at reporters and their work through the lens of gender. This is not a unique thing. I think people have an opportunity to evaluate not only their own attitudes about female reporters but women in any industry.
You’ve spoken out a lot about this on your social media accounts. Have you gotten any flack?
Oh, I always do. I got four “kitchen” tweets in the last hour…but that’s not new for me. And I’m used to it. It matters a lot more when these types of comments come from Cam Newton than from when they come from a guy who’s twitter avatar is a picture of an eagle.