Melissa Stark returned to sportscasting when she joined the NFL Network in 2012. For the previous nine years she was doing news with NBC and MSNBC which she joined in 2003. Among sports fans, she’s best known for her three-year stint as a sideline reporter for Monday Night Football.
That was way back in 2000 when the idea of hiring women with look as the primary criteria was a fresh new concept; not commonplace like it is today. Stark was part of that ABC team that revolutionized MNF- or at least tried to.
They got away from their traditional Al Michaels driven broadcast, and went with Melissa Stark and Eric Dickerson on the sidelines, Dan Fouts and Dennis Miller in the booth. It didn’t really work out, but it wasn’t the fault of Stark. Although Melissa Stark herself is quite good at her job and has every required skill set to excel in her role…her hire opened to the door for a pattern which has had adverse consequences on the business.
The press box can be a very creepy, sexist place where the male to female ratio is often 30-1 or worse. Stark, like many women who came after her, our very qualified and even quite good at what they do, but their physical attractiveness overshadows their abilities and skills. That’s not right, it’s certainly not progressive, but it is reality, like it or not.
If a very attractive woman is really good at sideline reporting, nine out of ten guys will first think of the woman’s “hotness” first and her journalism skills second. The tenth guy is lying to you. Again, not ideal, but it is the way of the world.
The “looks come first” hiring criteria also opened the door for an endless wave of bikini models, cheerleaders and pageant contestants. These women are there because they love being on television, not sports. They want to be the star, not report on the stars. Almost all of them have a personality that strikingly fits the Hollywood actress diva motif. For as much grief as Britt McHenry as taken during the past week, there’s a lot of women in the industry who feel the exact same way about themselves, and their place in the world. McHenry just got caught saying what she thinks about herself. Many others view themselves exactly the same way.
Obviously, these kinds of women don’t help advance the ideals of gender equality in the sports media world. If anything, they provide regress. “Hotness” needs to stop being the skill set required first, second and third for these jobs. Otherwise, you’ll continue to have reporters telling us things like “Milwaukee is west of Chicago, not north.”
The sports media world badly needs more women in it, but it needs qualified women, not beauty pageant contestants, bikini models and cheerleaders. The industry does not need any more women with the personality of Britt McHenry or the acumen of Allie LaForce.
And make no mistake, Melissa Stark is no Britt McHenry nor an Allie LaForce.
Okay, enough soap box stuff. On to the NFL Draft, the NFL, and the NFL Network taking over Chicago, the Cubs and the ballpark this week. A release from the Cubs Media Relations:
Wrigley Field will celebrate its football history this homestand while Chicago hosts the 2015 NFL Draft next weekend. The first 10,000 fans at the game Friday, May 1, will receive a Wrigley Field Football that commemorates 50 seasons of Chicago Bears football at the historic ballpark. NFL legends Michael Irvin and Kurt Warner will throw ceremonial first pitches Tuesday, April 28, while NFL Network personalities Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci and Melissa Stark will lead the 7th inning stretch. Former NFL great Ickey Woods will throw a first pitch the following day. Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould wraps up the homestand with a first pitch and 7th inning stretch Sunday, May 3.
Paul M. Banks owns, operates and writes The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with Fox Sports Digital. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes to the Chicago Tribune RedEye edition. He also appears regularly on numerous sports talk radio stations all across the country.
Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)
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