Sport and Society’s Updates

In Coverage of N.F.L. Scandals, Female Voices Puncture the Din

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / SteelCityHobbies | Article Link | by Jonathan Mahler

Last week, the ESPN anchor Hannah Storm did something she had never done in her 30-year career in sports broadcasting: She delivered a first-person commentary on the air. The subjects were domestic violence, the N.F.L. — and her daughters.

“I spent the week answering seemingly impossible questions about the league’s biggest stars,” she said, her voice starting to crack with emotion. “ ‘Mom: Why did he do that? Why isn’t he in jail? Why didn’t he get fired?’ And yesterday: ‘Why don’t they even have control of their own players?’ ”

The commentary, which closed the Sunday morning edition of “SportsCenter” on Sept. 14, spread like a brush fire across the web as football fans struggled to reconcile their love of the game with the unflattering portrait of the N.F.L. that had suddenly come into focus with the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson stories.

Storm’s voice is one of a handful that have risen above the saturation coverage of the controversies. Notably, many of the others also belong to women. Rachel Nichols of CNN interrogated the boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. about his own history of domestic abuse and then grilled N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell at a news conference Friday. In a widely circulated video, Katie Nolan of Fox Sports said the news media deserved some of the blame for failing to hold the N.F.L. accountable for its treatment of women.

Female broadcasters have been part of the sports landscape for decades. But they have been cast in relatively passive roles: reading headlines, interviewing players on the sidelines and facilitating conversations between male analysts.

“Women are almost treated as the pretty face,” Nolan said. “The culture for women right now in sports media is to be attractive and smart enough to form a sentence.”