Documentary

'Why would the boys be treated any differently than the girls?'

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'Why would the boys be treated any differently than the girls?'

I grew up playing sports. For the most part I played soccer, but I also ran cross-country and track, I skied, snowboarded, and, at one point, I tried gymnastics. (It wasn't pretty.) My two younger sisters did the same. Our parents ran themselves ragged driving us to practices and tournaments, arranging carpools and fundraisers.

It never crossed our minds that we were girls playing sports. It's just what we did. And we loved it!

I didn't realize how lucky I was until visiting my grandparents in rural Ohio one summer. I found an old photo of their high school graduating class. I asked my grandmother what sports she played in school and I'll never forget her answer: "Oh, there were no sports for girls back then. We could cheer for the boys basketball team, but that was it."

I was shocked. I thought that was ridiculous. Why would the girls be treated any differently than the boys? I couldn't comprehend it.

Looking back, I'm so thankful I grew up in a time and environment where that wasn't the case. I can't imagine my life without sports. Not only because it's what I do for a living, but because playing sports throughout my childhood is a big part of what made me the person I am today.

Sports taught me the value of hard work. Being part of a team, I learned how to communicate and work with people to accomplish a common goal . . . and discovered just how gratifying the process can be. I became a teammate and leader who earned respect and empowered others. I made lasting friendships while stuffed like a sardine in a travel van singing Ace of Base at the top of my lungs. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. And I certainly wouldn't be in the position I'm in without them.

Don't get me wrong; it hasn't all been positive. Now that I'm a woman working in sports, I've had other kinds of eye-opening moments. During an interview for my first on-air job I was asked, in so many words, if this is really a career for me or if I had other plans after I found a husband. Once I did land a job, I covered many college football games by myself. There was one small school in particular whose players relentlessly catcalled me on the sidelines. I won't repeat the foul things they said, but I can tell you I went home feeling very dirty (and it wasn't because I was pouring sweat after lugging a camera that weighed half as much as I did from end zone to end zone in the middle of an Alabama summer). Even now, every so often, social media has a special way of reminding me how some people still view women in sports. Surprise -- it's not good.

But if that's the worst I have to go through, I know I can't complain. My only focus is doing my job to the very best of my abilities and working as hard as I possibly can to continue to grow and get better. We've come a long way. I'm so grateful for those who blazed the trail and made it possible for me to do what I do. And, thanks to my grandmother, I will never take my opportunities for granted. My hope is that when my daughter grows up, she will be just as surprised and appalled by some of my bad experiences as I was talking to my grandmother that day.

Dei Lynam: Cherishing the stories I've told and the stories I'll continue to tell

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Dei Lynam: Cherishing the stories I've told and the stories I'll continue to tell

I never considered myself a tomboy. Yes, I loved sports growing up, and I had more guy friends than girlfriends, but I loved clothes and doing my hair, too. If I didn't end up in sports broadcasting, I really do believe I would have been a buyer for a high-end department store.
 
Fortunately for me, my first dream came true. I can't believe I have been working in the sports broadcasting industry for 25 years. I don't feel old enough for that to be possible.
 
I think of the many people who helped me along the way, either by hiring me or by teaching me tricks of the trade.
 
In 1991, I made my first big move when Don Sperling, Executive Producer of NBA Entertainment, hired me as an editor. I packed my bags in Playa del Rey, California, and left my finance to move in with two strangers in New York City, midtown on the east side.
 
NBA Entertainment was the best training ground for me to learn how to edit and eventually how to produce creative, entertaining pieces. Few people know that I produced promotional spots for the NBA. They were 30-second spots that aired during the nationally televised games on NBC.
 
I participated in changing the NBA's campaign from NBA Action -- It's Fantastic to I Love This Game. I would go to Madison Square Garden and go up to celebrities and ask them if they would look into the camera and say, "I love this game."
 
Sting was one of my favorite celebrities I encountered on this journey. Opera singer Placido Domingo was another because he sang the phrase and allowed me to use one of his songs for a spot.
 
I won an Emmy for those spots, and that beautiful gold trophy sits on a bookshelf in my living room to this day.
 
Later when I was a weekend sports anchor in Madison, Wisconsin, I had a long leash when it came to features I wanted to produce and edit because my boss trusted my creative talents. In January 1994, the Wisconsin football team went to the Rose Bowl, a first in 31 years. My ability to edit coupled with my local knowledge of Southern California from my years of attending UCLA made me an ideal candidate to cover the Jan. 1 event for WMTV. 

I went with a cameraman to the West Coast for the week leading up to the game. One day the team had off, and players could do as they pleased. Somehow I convinced the starting quarterback to join me on a ride to Manhattan Beach. Darrell Bevell was a college senior who grew up in Arizona and had never seen the ocean. I will never forget his reaction when we drove up over the crest of Rosecrans Boulevard, and the beautiful Pacific was staring back at us. He was truly in awe, and my camera was rolling.
 
We proceeded to walk down to the beach where, with the camera still rolling, Bevell engaged in a conversation with a surfer. Imagine a nice Mormon guy talking to a stereotypical surfer dude who knew how to catch waves but had no idea a bowl game was being played in his backyard or that a quarterback was an important position on a football team.
 
The conversation was priceless. The feature received rave reviews. And last weekend when I saw Bevell during the Seahawks playoff game (he's the offensive coordinator) I wondered if he remembers that trek to the beach with an up-and-coming sportscaster.
 
Thinking outside the box has always been fun for me. One time on the day the Kentucky Derby was run I wore a hat during my sportscast. And yes, I was on the set, not outdoors.
 
One of my favorite weekly segments I came up with was Catching up with Ken Griffey Sr. I was working as a weekend sportscaster in Cincinnati and Griffey was a coach for the Reds.
 
Once a week I would go to the ballpark, and he and I would talk baseball while having a catch. Having a conversation while tossing a ball with a member of the Big Red Machine -- so cool.
 
The people and the adventures have been the greatest part of being a sports journalist. I have walked on the Great Wall of China because I went to Beijing to interview Yao Ming live the day he was selected No. 1 overall in 2002. I have been on a safari in the Masai Mara on the heels of traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Dikembe Mutombo, who was building a hospital in his home country.
 
Storytelling is a dying art in this age of sharing information in 140 characters or less. A few stories that I will cherish having told are the following.
 
•  I ventured to upstate New York to interview prisoners who were in a program to rehab former racehorses that had been left to die after their careers were over. Seeing men, some of whom had been charged with murder, find a way to care for an animal and be humbled in the process was amazing.
 
•  I flew to California to interview five of the most powerful agents in sports, including Lee Steinberg and Arn Tellem.
 
•  Going Christmas shopping with the St. Joe's Hawks was a blast.
 
•  Attending a summer camp called Seeds of Peace where children from Israel and Palestine live under one roof. To hear their conversations about their respective homelands was both fascinating and heartwarming.
 
•  Finding the stories of MVPs in the sports community -- the people who make a difference has always been a treat.
 
Finally, I want to share a thought that has served me well: Don’t be afraid to try something new. I have been a sideline reporter, a studio host, an anchor, a beat writer, a play-by-play announcer and a color analyst. Twice, I have taken a leap of faith and joined a start-up operation, first with Comcast SportsNet and then with NBA-TV. The business is ever-changing, but it's been a great challenge to change with it and stay relevant in an industry I so enjoy being a part of.

Trenni Kusnierek: It's time to change long-held perceptions and beliefs

Trenni Kusnierek: It's time to change long-held perceptions and beliefs

In the last year, women's equality issues in sports have become a national conversation. It began with the 'More than Mean' campaign which highlighted the abuse many women, particularly women in public sports roles, face on social media. The video, which featured men reading vile tweets to the women who received them, sparked an avalanche of coverage from ESPN's 'Outside the Lines' to HBO's 'Real Sports.'

The public attention to the misogyny and double standards that still exist in sports media is an important first step, but it's time to move forward and discuss how we turn our anger and frustration into action.

While the name-calling many women receive online is abhorrent, the real problem is rooted in something much more complex -- tradition. 

While some may try, it's hard to deny that women are still viewed by many as the fairer (read: weaker) sex. We have a place in society and often times that place is the box  of "female" roles like caregiver, teacher, mother. 

If women do branch out into a male-dominated career, as many have -- quite successfully -- the emphasis is often placed less on being an asset in the workplace and more on our . . . well, take the 'ets' off assets. 

Changing long-held beliefs and perceptions, however, is much easier said than done. 

I believe it starts with asking for help. The idea of employing men to help reduce sexism may feel counterintuitive, but I think it's essential. Whether we want to admit it or not, women are outnumbered in athletics and we need advocates from these men -- the majority. 

Sadly, we may also need the validation. While this column is anecdotal and a first-person account, the author is brutally honest when he admits to often not trusting what the average women tells him, including his own wife.

Damon Young writes: 

Generally speaking, we (men) do not believe things when they're told to us by women. Well, women other than our mothers or teachers or any other woman who happens to be an established authority figure. Do we think women are pathological liars? No. But, does it generally take longer for us to believe something if a woman tells it to us than it would if a man told us the exact same thing? Definitely!

I'm fairly certain I couldn't throw a baseball in a crowded room without hitting a woman who has been doubted by a male colleague, family member, friend or significant other. 

I feel well-respected in my office, but I also know that there are times when I offer an opinion and I can't help but wonder if it will be taken lightly until a man pipes in with a similar thought process. I look forward to the day when it's not even part of my thought process. 

When men stop doubting us, it is inevitable women will believe more strongly in themselves. This doesn't make us weak, it makes us human. I would argue it's the same for a male teacher or stay-at-home dad -- once a female believes in their abilities in that role, the men feel more confidence in themselves.

The other piece to the change puzzle is one which may drum up more emotion and dissent. I think as women we must start sharing some of the responsibility for those old habits taking so long to die.

And before you rush to send me a nasty e-mail, allow me to explain, as this view is by no means a way to shift blame to the victim.

Far too often I have conversations with women who succumb to practices and behaviors they are uncomfortable with, not because they have been explicitly told to act, dress, or perform their job in a specific manner but instead because they default to "that’s what the industry expects." My response? The industry expects it because we allow it. 

We have a voice, and we can't be afraid to use it. Each time we suffer one small injustice quietly, it becomes harder to speak up when something is really at stake. 

As women we face daily challenges that our male colleagues do not: Judgment and expectations around our physical appearance, doubts about our knowledge, and dismissal of our opinions based simply on our gender. 

We can and should say no to the assumption that our value is based on our looks. Women do not "need" to make beauty and "OOTD" (outfits of the day) the focus of their social-media accounts or the most important facet of their reporting or opining. I know plenty of women who are great journalists and sports minds, not just great female journalists and sports minds. When we allow ourselves to be reduced to nothing more than how we look, it becomes that much more difficult to demand we are seen as more than just a pretty face. This doesn't mean you shouldn't flaunt your beauty, but my hope is we don't hide our brains.

We can and should say no to the idea that women are best utilized as hosts, social media and sideline reporters. (Not that there is anything wrong with these roles, but it doesn't behoove me to pretend these stereotypes don't exist.) There is no reason a woman can't be a prominent insider, talk-show contributor, investigative reporter, etc. ... see above.

We can and should advocate for more female executives. I can count on one hand the number of females in decision-making positions I have interviewed with during the course of my 17-year career in sports media. We all know smart, talented women in the field. It is our job to make sure the right people are familiar with their work and know how important it is to have a variety of individuals steering the content and journalists they feature on all platforms. 

We can and should advocate for our female colleagues. Sports media is a limited numbers game. In the age of cutbacks, jobs are fewer and further between. I still think it does us all a disservice when we treat any prospective female co-worker as competition. She may have lost, but Hilary Clinton was right when she said we are stronger together.

All that said, let me clarify that this does not mean blindly supporting all actions because someone is female. Respect is earned in this industry, no matter your gender.

Our current political and social climate has us consuming more information than ever before. Every cause is met with a hashtag and skepticism. Raising awareness about the issues women face in athletics was a good first step, but it's time to keep moving. Words without action will leave us without anywhere to go.