Men say the darndest things about women’s sport

Foul Play: Edition 5

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The FIFA Women’s World Cup has been a cracking tournament and a revelation for many sports fans.

It has also been an invitation, apparently, for some pretty base commentary about women’s sporting abilities.

On ESPN, for instance, Stephen A. Smith had a theory as to why Germany’s defenders failed to stop a Norwegian free kick early in the tournament.

“They might not have wanted to mess their hair,” he said.

This in a sport where, with all the corn rows, cut-ins, highlights and industrial strength hair product, the men spend way more time on their hair than the women.

Mayweather money
Floyd Mayweather aka Stephen A. Smith’s role model

Smith’s a serial offender when it comes to stupid comments about women.

He’s a long-time apologist for domestic abuser Floyd Mayweather and, following Ray Rice’s assault on his fiancee, helpfully suggested to women: “Don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions.”

Why you’d put him anywhere near women’s soccer is beyond me. The bloke sitting alongside him, retired basketball Tim Legler, wasn’t any better.

“You see the young ladies all turn their head,” said Legler. “They didn’t want to catch one in the grill.” Show me one person who does, Tim.

No wonder the Norwegian women’s soccer team released this parody video. Smith and Legler would probably mistake it for serious documentary.

Joining Smith and Legler in the Hall of Shame is Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit, who tweeted during a World Cup game: “Women’s sports in general not worth watching.”

Comedian Amy Poehler took him down. “No more tweeting, Benoit,” she said. “You’re too dumb.”

In the UK, jockey coach Michael Tebbutt was interviewed by the BBC for a story about equality in racing. You’d tread particularly carefully on that one, right?

“Still can’t ride though,” was his take on women jockeys.

PodiumFemale cyclists in the recent Lotto Cycling Cup were shocked to find themselves joined by bikini-clad models on the podium. The agency that provided the models couldn’t see the problem. Said its manager: “Sometimes during the race, women race with their shirts open.”

Cinematographer Anna Zivarts brought some perspective to the situation, mocking up a comparable men’s podium photo and asking: “Which one is more ridiculous.”

You be the judge.

At the beginning of the Women’s World Cup, I wrote an article about the gender pay imbalance in soccer. Here’s a selection of the comments it received on a popular sports website.

“Cristiano Ronaldo gets paid more than whoever you mentioned (I’ve already forgotten) because he is a far better player. There is no comparison except in your PC vanilla world.”

“Women’s sports is for the most part just not as good to watch as men’s sports because men are just better at pretty much every part of the sport. That’s just how we are made, in the same way that black guys are quicker than white guys.”

“Men and women players are not equal in skill or in popularity. Market forces dictate who gets paid what.”

“Emasculating us till we all go ‘Caitlyn’???” 

Pro mountain biker Georgia Gould neatly summed up the problem with perceptions of women’s sport in an interview with the bicycling.com website.

“The sad thing is that the boring or exciting of the game is put down to gender,” she says. “So then, it’s women are boring, rather than they’re playing a boring game.”

Foul Play is a series I started earlier this year documenting alleged sports-related assaults on women and girls. I never have any trouble finding examples. Some of the men listed here in Edition 5 are already making repeat appearances.

There are no simple solutions to domestic violence. Short of people choosing not to hit loved ones, that is. But it will absolutely continue to thrive in an environment where women are allowed to be perceived as lesser beings.

The likes of Stephen A. Smith, Tim Legler, Andy Benoit and Michael Tebbutt foster such an environment when they make these sorts of comments.

They might like to think about that before they open their mouths next time. I’d like to think they’re capable of that.

Foul Play 5

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