Editorial: Exposing misogyny in sports

Editorials Opinions
Graphic by William Workman (Design Director)
Graphic by William Workman (Design Director)

You may think the Stanley Cup finals are a bust now that the Canucks are out of the running (sorry, boys), but that doesn’t mean things are dying down in other parts of the country. Calgary’s Red Mile has ignited once again this season as the Flames take their shot at another historic run for the cup, hopefully recapturing the glory that permeated their streak in 2004. We can’t fault fans for that. Some of us being ex-Albertans ourselves, it was easy to get caught up when our peers lost their minds for Jerome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff. This time though, things are a bit different.

On April 23, following reports of journalists and women being harassed by fans, Calgary Flames executives issued a statement condemning the behaviour. “Our view is that if you’re a true Flames fan, you are not engaging in this kind of behaviour,” said Ken King, current CEO. Unfortunately, this kind of misogynistic behaviour is hardly limited to Flames fans.

On May 2, Floyd Mayweather’s boxing camp allegedly banned two female journalists, Michelle Beadle and Rachel Nichols, from covering his fight with Manny Pacquiao. Both journalists have previously been openly critical of Mayweather’s history of domestic violence, which seemed to factor into the initial ban (Beadle’s credentials were eventually re-approved late Friday night).

Certainly, it’s to the Flames’ credit that their executives have spoken out to fans directly. Such honesty is admirable — but even more importantly, it’s rare. In a sports culture that predominantly caters to men, it’s easy to sweep such behaviour under the rug as merely being “just part of the game.” And the reports coming out of the Red Mile are alarming, to say the least. But are they anything new?

In both cases, the message to women is clear: if you speak up, you are not welcome. This is, in fact, not new at all. This is what makes the response from the Flames brass so appreciated: it brings an issue to attention in a way that will — we hope — be constructive for all involved.

Whether it’s a change in the visibility of the issue, a changing mindset among fans regarding what constitutes appropriate behaviour, or a change in the incidence rate of reporting cases of sexual harassment and assault, we could all use a little more attention being drawn to the issue. We need more organizations like the Flames, and reporters like Beadle and Nichols, to publicly take a stance on the issue of sexualized assault and harassment, and to condemn such behaviours. If we don’t address these larger social attitudes — no matter how ingrained they may be in our collective psyche — there can be no chance of us changing our course.