As a journalist, you tell stories, you don’t want to become one.
That was the unenviable position that Jourdan Rodrigue found herself in this week after Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton found her legitimate question “funny.”
Being a female sports reporter can be a delicate balance. A life of walking on a tight rope wondering if the net will actually break your fall.
Offhand comments, jokes that aren’t really jokes, sexism and not being taken seriously are all occupational hazards when you’re a woman in the sports world.
You can find yourself sloughing off those offhand comments and jokes quite easily because you don’t want to be the story.
What you want is just to be able to do your job, the same way the men around you get to do without any of the additional hassle.
My male counterparts can seamlessly walk into a football scrum without a funny look, without someone’s eyes bugging out of their head, without question.
When you’re a woman covering sports, the reactions to your presence can run the gamut from welcome smiles to relative indifference and even outward disdain.
So, I’m just lucky, I guess, that I’m more prone to the welcome smiles.
Unlike Rodrigue, no one has ever told me that my question was funny – or rather that it was funny that I was talking about receiver routes.
A couple of weeks ago, I did have one of my questions called cliched.
It was a cliched question.
Sports is full of cliches.
“I gave 110 per cent” and all that.
The difference was that when I challenged this player after he was asked another cliched question, he told me he said he expected it from my male counterpart, not from me.
Perhaps I’m fortunate, then, in this storm that Cam Newton has created, to have a group of players that respect me.
Who give thoughtful answers to my questions without commentary on my gender or my football knowledge.
The CFL has been good to me.
By now these guys are used to having me around. I’m not the first girl to wander into a locker room after a football game and I won’t be the last.
That’s why it was so shocking to me, so aggravating to hear what Newton said to Rodrigue at a press conference on Wednesday.
I wonder what I would have done as I walked that delicate tight rope.
Mad, but not wanting to be the story.
I am not the story.
Jourdan Rodrigue is not the story.
Here’s the story:
It’s still such a prevalent belief that women have no place covering sports.
Rodrigue is just one example, but look no further to when Beth Mowins did play-by-play for her first NFL game, practically propping up former NFL football coach Rex Ryan through the whole broadcast.
Her call of the game was as informative and smart as it was groundbreaking, but it wasn’t enough for many male viewers.
“Beth Mowins has a harsh grating voice and explains football like a fourth grade boy who’s never played a down doing a book report,” was one of many hot takes popping up on Twitter as she called the game.
I’ve heard it too.
You’re shrill and whiny.
You don’t know anything.
Get your female person off the air, she is embarrassing.
All of this is code for “little girl, you don’t belong in the manly man’s world of sports.”
The same old story.
– Arielle Zerr is a journalist who covers the Saskatchewan Roughriders for CJME radio in Regina.