Andy Gray: Where Does Sexism in Sports Begin and Where Does It End?

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Andy Gray: Where Does Sexism in Sports Begin and Where Does It End?
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Sian Massey was criticized for making the right call during the Liverpool vs Wolvehampton match 22 January.

The question I have is simple. The question deals with stupidity.

The question is not if women are qualified to officiate football matches, but this one: What idiot doesn’t know the difference between a microphone being switched on and a microphone being switched off?

During the January 22 match between Liverpool and Wolverhampton, female assistant referee Sian Massey made a call which happened to be correct. Enough said.

If you haven’t already heard, this was the comment directed at Massey that landed commentators Andy Gray and Richard Keys a wrist-slapping schoolboy suspension from commentating on the January 24 match between Chelsea and Bolton:

Keys: “Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.” Gray responded: “Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.”

Somebody ought to explain tact to the rusty pair.

According to Keys, if women officials don’t know the offside rule, how would he explain why the male referee during the Germany vs. England 2010 World Cup match didn’t know what constitutes a goal? Did anybody think to jump out of their seat and go explain it to him because of his sex?

I believe the disallowed goal during the World Cup was a more serious matter, especially if you play football for the England national team, and I would imagine that rule is taught in preschool: If the ball crosses the goal line, it is a goal.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Torres was not offside despite accusations made by Keys and Gray.

Linesmen make mistakes often, but nobody is screeching to get them off the pitch because they are men, and this is why there is an appeal to FIFA for, summed up in three words, goal-line technology.

I could understand the comments coming from Keys and Gray, though. Two aging commentators trying to keep up with the times who overstayed their welcome in the commentators box—maybe I shouldn’t go there. Just do us all a favor, love...

But suspension is not enough to shed their cowardice. 

The reason why Keys and Gray have apologized was because they were caught and then told to apologize from campaigners and bosses.

Sky Sports is not innocent either. They have their own agenda—do they believe the comments were not justified? Or are they concerned with what those comments will do for business?

Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis was quoted as saying: “Their [Gray and Keys] views will rightly offend many of our customers, our people and the wider public." Is that a good enough reason for suspension? Because of what their customers will think?

Regardless of whether Sky Sports truly believes what Keys and Gray did was wrong isn’t the point. There are borders that we as civilized people, especially in the public eye, just don’t cross. What kind of world would we live in if everyone said what they felt and didn't get penalized for it? That might also be a question for those who raised this pundit and anchorman.

But sexism doesn’t start with offhanded commentary.

Sports blogs and news sites have flourished around the web, suddenly turning everyone into a journalist. Some sites that may be desperate for a massive following allow the posting of articles on women athletes—but instead of calling attention to and applauding their successes, they’ve titled these articles "Best Butts in Sports," "Hottest Blonde Athletes" and "Hottest Female Athletes Under 25," to name a few.

Boys in heat? Perhaps. But I don’t blame the writers—they’re widely read—and isn’t it human nature to want to look at beautiful people?

So where does it end? I question the professionalism of the magazine that truly relishes in the act of mistaking sexual objectification for education-fueled sports journalism.

(Out of all fairness, the majority of the articles I’ve seen [and I’ve done my homework and seen many] are chock-full of promising and serious news reporting.)

Which brings me back to Keys and Gray. If the comment sounded harsh, it should be. If women athletes are viewed as hot objects by news reporting websites and blogs, how can you blame two has-beens for disparaging women (or, in Massey’s case, “a bit of a looker”) who want an opportunity to excel at their dream like anyone else regardless of their sex if this is how they are written in the sports world?

It seems hypocritical for those editors who publish articles on what Gray and Keys said about a female official just to go with the flow of the rest of the world’s disdain for their sexist comments, when they themselves harbor that form of sexism, referred to as sexual objectification, on the very pages of their own websites.

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