Danica Patrick, Sexism, Media and the Local TV Anchor Who Called Her a "B"

Dan Levy@danlevythinksNational Lead WriterFebruary 28, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, stands on the grid during driver introductions prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

We've been talking so much about racism in sports, we have totally been overlooking the other –ism that pulls in the headlines…sexism!

Sexism sells, right? That's the saying, isn't it? Sexism sells. Wait…

Oh, it's sex that sells, and Danica Patrick using sex to sell domain names at bargain basement prices for GoDaddy.com seemed to ruffle a few feathers in advance of the Daytona 500.

Patrick answered questions from reporters by asking if there is any other word to describe her than "sexy." Suddenly, famous local San Diego sports anchor Ross Shimabuku took issue with Patrick questioning why everyone keeps up with the sexy talk, referencing her scantily-clad commercials before inferring Patrick was a bitch.

Can we say that? Bitch. We can probably say that. Shimabuku, as you can see in the video, could not say it. Well, if he could, he somehow thought it was ever-so clever to infer the term by calling her a "B–."

It was not clever. Calling her anything close to a bitch is not clever at all.

It was, in fact, stupid, and it has some sports media folks wondering why Shimabuku isn't getting the same treatment ESPN gave their staffers for making insensitive comments when discussing Jeremy Lin. From Christine Brennan of USA Today: 

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Shimabuku awkwardly apologized for his comment about Patrick at some point later in the telecast, talking about how much he liked her and really hoped she did super duper awesome in the race!

If you turn up your speakers, I swear you can hear the beads of sweat that rolled down his face pop to the sounds of "please don't fire me."

The fact is, we are comparing apples to oranges.

ESPN had to fire Anthony Federico for his erroneous, if unintentional, "Chink in the Armor" headline. Max Bretos, who muttered the same term during a question on ESPNews, was also suspended—both as a measure to make sure anyone who used the term was punished and for being stupid enough to say it in the wrong context.

She can't hear you...
She can't hear you...Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Brennan is smart enough to know that ESPN has to handle situations differently than local FOX affiliates. If this clip is any indication of Shimabuku's work as a sports anchor, the guy should be fired for being terrible at his job way before he should be fired for intimating that Danica Patrick was a bitch.

And look, she might be.

Or more likely, Patrick is a great ambassador for a sport that is completely dominated by men. It isn't fair that her sexuality constantly comes up. Yes, Patrick brings it upon herself by doing the Go Daddy ads, a point Shimabuku could have made more clearly if he didn't resort to grade-school name calling.

But that's clearly not all Danica is.

The fact—and I surmise Brennan's point in questioning the equality of an inadvertent racial slur to a calculated dig on a female athlete—is that it is unfair to Patrick that her sexuality constantly comes into question.

David Beckham was wearing far less clothing in his Super Bowl ad, but reporters don't ask him questions about being so handsome all the time. Well, some probably do, but I don't think his handsomeness comes up a day before his biggest match of the year. If it did, he'd have every right to be a bitch about it.

To be safe, here is a simple rule: If you are on TV, an online writer or just some schlub in an office who loves sports, don't make fun of any athlete's race, religion or gender, and you should be safe from suspension or termination.

Of course, if you are as awkward at your job as Shimabuku is in the small sample size surrounding this Patrick flap, it's probably just a matter of time.


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