It is on men to make sports a safer place for women

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

It is a sad state of affairs when another one of these sorts of pieces has to be written in the year 2022. After all, one would think we would have evolved as a society past the outdated notion that sports are supposed to be a males-only profession, but plenty of men have subconsciously revealed that they would prefer it to be that way.

A perfect example of this is how the situation involving Ime Udoka, Boston Celtics head coach, was covered. As soon as news began to trickle out that something was happening beneath the surface in Boston, names began to be released as to who it could have been that Udoka was involved with.

The manner in which sports journalists went about covering the Udoka story violated the concept of minimizing harm that plenty a journalist is taught to do while in journalism school. Obviously, those journalistic principles went out the window and the rush to be “first with exclusive details” took centerstage with corporate (advertising) pressures being the unquestionable root cause.

As we all know, the disrespect women in sports face is massive – and that is amplified by plenty if that woman happens to be Black, Brown, Asian, Native American, Muslim or LGBTQIA.

(sidenote – let’s start capitalizing the B in Brown as we do the B in Black).

Then, that disrespect was taken to another level in the response to how ESPN was addressing the Udoka situation. Malika Williams got into a much-ballyhooed debate with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s First Take program.

Smith believed that Udoka should not have been suspended and brought up his belief that what allegedly happened within the Celtics is happening with other teams in the NBA. He also felt it is one element of a power struggle which caused someone in the Celtics to leak this news to the media.

As for Williams, she felt that not enough specifics were given about the Udoka saga and felt the team should have done more to protect the women within its ranks.

Something similar was said to have happened in the WNBA as well. After all, former Los Angeles Sparks general manager Penny Toler was once released from her GM duties and she filed a lawsuit against the team alleging that Eric Holoman and former managing partner Christine Simmons were locked into an extramarital relationship.

It was one of the more heated debates one would see on any sports program – and it led to a torrent of caustic backlash that was aimed in the direction of Williams.

The Udoka situation is revealing plenty of villains within the sports ranks – and Williams is not one of them. In this day and age where we are supposed to be working to make sports a more welcoming environment for women, Smith should understand that he has one of the loudest microphones – if not the loudest of microphones – within sports. Plenty a sports fan gets its cues from Smith, so he has to be better in understanding his coarse remarks towards Andrews would have a trickle down effect to the average sports fan that watches First Take.

Boston’s organization did not do much better to protect the women who have been undeniably harmed in this situation. Now, they automatically have to face unfair questioning as to if they had a role in the Udoka saga – even if they steered entirely clear of it. The fact that this is attached to an even bigger celebrity than Udoka in Nia Long is going to get the entertainment media as much invested in this story as the sports media.

When all is said and done, men have to acknowledge that they failed Williams – and all women working in the sports industry – with how they handled this. As men, they need to understand that women can only do so much to prove that they belong in sports as much as they do.

If men supposedly still have the power within the sports realm, it is long past time for men to use that power for good by weeding out any malcontents from the industry. Men need to provide unwavering assurance to their women friends and colleagues that sports are better with women in the media, with women working within leagues and teams, women obtaining fair pay equity with their male counterparts and women as leaders.

The sporting populace needs to do the same as a whole and let the masses know that sports are a better place with women involved and let the masses know that they belong wherever major decisions are being made.

After all – we all came from one.