Put your foot in your mouth lately? Well, that’s ok. At least if it’s, say, a flat out, unapologetic sexist statement. But if you make a poor choice in wording that is perceived as racially insensitive, you’d better expect a public lashing and a whole lot more.
Just ask Kelly Tilghman the Golf Channel announcer who suggested Tiger Woods opponents in the PGA Tour Opening Event “lynch [him] in a back alley.”
Kelly was reprimanded for her insensitivity in choosing her words with a two-week suspension; she also called Woods directly and apologized and, upon her return, made an on-air apology to the viewers by saying she’d taken time to reflect on what she’d done and, that while she didn’t intend to offend anyone, “I understand why these words were hurtful.” As awkward and inappropriate as her lynching comment was, it’s safe to say Tilghman wasn’t calling for a throwback to the pre-civil rights days and a literal violent attack on the golf superstar. But we can’t be too careful in our choices about language when it comes to race. Gender? Well that’s different. On that you can ask Keith Hernandez.
In 2006, former Mets first baseman became flummoxed and annoyed when he saw a woman in the San Diego Padres dugout during a game between the Padres and the New York Mets.
What began with Hernandez remarking in exasperation, “Who’s the girl in the dugout with the long hair? You gotta be kidding me!” Mets play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen quietly responded that “the girl” Kelly Calabrese, the team’s massage therapist, was excited and that one of the Padres gave her a fist bump. Hernandez tirade would go on after he said, “I’m not through with her.” He would reference Morganna, the excitable, buxom fan who used to run on the field and plant a kiss on players. Then he left viewers with this gem: “I’m not saying women belong in the kitchen, but they don’t belong in the dugout.” Through it all Cohen remained cool-headed and tried to steer Hernandez from his clear path to trouble. You’d think a guy who spent so many years playing defense would know when he had made a costly error. In the end, though, it wouldn’t cost him at all.
Hernandez was asked to make an on-air apology. He did. And that was the end of it. Can you imagine if he’d made a racially charged remark? And imagine if he’d done it with a wink of a comment like, “You know I love you … ” He was not suspended for his offensive statements. A ruler-slap for sexism and you’re out of the doghouse.
Keith Hernandez made a clear-cut statement about women’s place. He didn’t make a joke he felt truly sorry for. It would have been nice to see him get reprimanded as harshly as Kelly Tighman. I guess guys like Keith need to hold onto things that are long outdated. Just ask his mustache.
Had Tilghman said on-air that she didn’t think men of ethnicity other than white should be allowed to play in say, the Augusta National, there would have been a national outcry and she would have most assuredly been fired. But the fact that Tiger Woods agreed with women still being kept out (in response to a letter campaign by women) by saying, “You know what? They make the rules and that’s just the way it is”, slides right on by. He later stated he’d like to see women allowed to participate, but also said “I’m only one voice.” Tiger either underestimates his power or he doesn’t want to get involved. Not exactly, the kind of attitude that civil rights was founded on.
This is a boy’s club and the message is we have to be careful to remember all our manners, to not offend, and to not forget that, even if we’re invited into the room, we are still outsiders—and our right to be equal is not nearly important. I won’t be following the Tiger Woods way of handling prejudice and lamely state “I’m only one voice.” When I hear a racist remark of any kind, I’ll stand up for you, Tiger. It would be nice to know you’d do the same for women.
And it’d be helpful if someone would publish a book on what prejudice is acceptable and what isn’t—since we seem to be playing games with the rules.
Photo courtesy of Femme Fan
By Jessica Quiroli