In a story that ran last week, espnW and New York Jets reporter Jane McManus addressed the MLB Dress Code and how it pertains to women in the baseball media. And how it does nothing to address issues that remain very much on the table.
More disheartening, was the reaction of newly appointed BBWAA President Susan Slusser, who took part in the committee that created the policy. There was clear resistance to admit sexual harrassment is more of an issue than what women wear to cover baseball. Her general attitude as relayed to me was that the story likely only makes things worse, not better for women.
I don't know how speaking out on continuing harrassment from colleagues and players with often crude displays of disrespect would make things harder for women. If a woman is being subjected to that kind of behavior she should feel that she has a system of support to count on. Particularly women in a position such as she's now in.
The dress code isn't the problem, though many barked at some of the guidelines (don't show your arms!). It's the frustration of dealing with harrassment from players and colleagues on a sometimes daily basis that is somehow deemed acceptable. That many women, including the women that participated in McManus story, that came to me, fearful of reporting athletes or fellow members of the media. Why are they afraid? Because they don't want to lose their jobs. Giving them confidence to report those incidents only happens if they are encouraged not to be afraid.
While the dress code does not pertain to the minor leagues, where I almost exclusively report, it has been adopted by some teams. And I certainly understand that there are things I should never wear to do my job.
But in the big picture, we give baseball players such complete freedom that they believe they can say whatever they want and get away with it. I would love to see MLB and MiLB hand their players a policy that states: You harrass female members of the media, you will not play. Assign responsibility.
Sound drastic? Not at all. In 2010, Trenton Thunder manager Tony Franklin did just that on my behalf after an incident in the clubhouse occurred. He wouldn't allow his players to disrespect me. He has his own code of ethics and consequences I guess. And what a great message to send to young players trying to make it to the big leagues. Tony Franklin let me know that I deserved respect and should demand it. And if anything were to happen, his door was open. Some people in higher positions of authority should take a cue from him.
And for those that wonder if it's harder in the bus leagues for a woman, I would love to tell you the countless stories, some of them my own, of MLB players being verbally and physically disrespectful to women knowing there would be no consequences for them. Do you think that a major league manager is going to bench one of his ten million dollar players because he sexually harrassed a woman? No way. And so those players continue to do whatever they want. Hand THEM a policy. See how they react.
Also, if we're encouraging a more professional environment, I'll repeat what I said when the policy was first announced. Tell our male colleagues they cannot make vulgar comments about women in the press box. Tell all reporters, when in the press box, hey, this is a professional environment. You can't use profanity. Hand THEM a policy. See how they react.
Women in this industry celebrate Susan's achivement.
But we don't celebrate the culture of disrespect that continues to be ignored.