Since the Tony Kornheiser suspension was handed down by ESPN earlier today, I’ve seen all types of reactions. There are those which agree with ESPN and those which don’t. There are men who are outraged, there are women who are outraged. I’m in the camp that ESPN should not suspended Kornheiser. One person who shares this opinion is former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan who worked for the network in both news and sports. And she’s someone with whom I have discussed various issues on Twitter. She wrote about the Kornheiser suspension at her website, DarynKagan.com and Daryn has granted me permission to reprint what she has written on her blog.
February 24, 2010: ESPN Blew ItI’m going to step out the usual confines of this blog to share my two cents on a breaking news story in the world of sports broadcasting.ESPN has suspended Pardon The Interruption host Tony Kornheiser for comments he made on his radio show about fellow ESPN personality Hannah Storm’s clothing.According to FoxSports.com Kornheiser reportedly said, “Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today,” Kornheiser said. “She’s got on red go-go boots and a catholic school plaid skirt … way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now.“She’s got on her typically very, very tight shirt. She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body … I know she’s very good, and I’m not supposed to be critical of ESPN people, so I won’t … but Hannah Storm … come on now! Stop! What are you doing?”And for that ESPN has suspended Tony Kornheiser for two weeks.Why me? Well, in another life I covered sports at CNN for 3 1/2 years. So I know only too well what it means to work in that arena. I learned very quickly that there are few jobs more fun. I also learned very quickly that sports is still a man’s world unlike few professions. I knew that if a male colleague messed up an athlete’s name, the response would be, “Oh, Fred messed up a name.” If I messed up a name, the response would be, “Oh, she doesn’t know sports.” Was that fair? Absolutely not. Were those the rules of the game? Absolutely. I knew that going in. I knew that I had to know my names, stats, and stories cold. If I didn’t like the rules of the game, then I figured I shouldn’t be playing in that arena.Let me also say that I think the world of Hannah Storm. Boy, does she know her stuff. Even in the middle of his ridiculous rant, Kornheiser acknowledged she is “very good.”All that being said, I think ESPN blew it. They decided to pull the PC card and protect the woman’s honor. Bad move. If you follow the sports world, you know ESPN has developed into a cesspool male sports personalities with way too many sexual harassment situations. The latest one came just a few months ago when married baseball analyst Steve Phillips got involved with an entry-level young woman half his age. They’ve both been let go. It’s just the latest in a long line of embarrassing stories for the network. I think that’s why they went PC making statement with Kornheiser’s suspension.The difference is Hannah isn’t some little girl, she’s a well-respected peer and colleague. I promise you ESPN would not have suspended Kornheiser if he made a comment about John Kruk’s weight or if he thought Mike Golic wore an ugly shirt. Besides, Tony is hired to do opinion. That’s his job! You’re suspending him for the very thing you’re supposed to pay him for.One rule of the TV game is that it is a visual medium. People are looking at you. Any woman who has worked in sports has had someone comment on her appearance and what she wears. Any woman who has worked news has covered a huge story has had her own mother comment, “I don’t think I like that blue blazer.” When I told my own mother back in 2003 that I was heading off to cover the start of the war her response was, “What are you going to wear?” (True story.)Can it be frustrating that viewers focus on what women wear first before listening to what they say? Absolutely. But like I said, it’s one of the rules of the game. If you don’t like it, don’t play.What I see here is a missed opportunity. There was such a ripe chance here to deal with this thing with humor. I mean have you seen Tony Kornheiser? I’m a huge fan of his PTI show, but really, someone who looks like Tony commenting on anyone’s appearance? That’s the softest toss for a punch line ever.So, to Hannah I would say, brush it off, come out swinging with those red boots. You’re great at your job. You know your sports as well as Kornheiser or any of the other dudes. You’re fitter and have a better physique than Kornheiser could ever dream of having. Add that all up, my friend, and walk on with the last laugh.ESPN– instead of focusing defending a woman’s honor why don’t you give us women sports fans more of what really counts–even higher profile roles for women like Hannah, Suzie Kolber, Linda Cohn and Reschiea Candidate? How about for once, let’s see saucy, opinionated woman kick up their boots by filling in on PTI? Now that would be a worthwhile move.
This has been one of the best opinions that I have read since the suspension came down. Thanks to Daryn for allowing me to reprint her article.