Washington Redskins: The Danger of Sexism in Sports

There is controversy involving Washington Redskins organization again, and this time it does not involve head coach Jay Gruden or recently-demoted quarterback Robert Griffin III. Instead, the scandal involves sexism and sexual shaming, but unlike other, more publicized incidents, the perpetrator is not a man. She is the wife of Redskin's GM Scot McCloughan, Jessica McCloughan.

Last week, it was recently revealed, Mrs. McCloughan directed a vulgar and derogatory statement via Twitter to ESPN reporter Dianna Russini using her private Twitter account. This incident shows that although women have more prominent roles in sports journalism, they are often targeted in ways their male counterparts are not.

According to The Big Lead, on August 30, Mrs. McCloughan tweeted, "@diannaESPN Please tell us how many BJ's you had to give to get this story. And did they laugh at you before or after?" It appears Mrs. McCloughan's tweet was in response to reporting on the friction between the front office, coaches and owners over the fate of Griffin.

In a textbook CYA move, Mrs. McCloughan's account was deleted while Washington claimed the account was fake to begin with, and that she did not send out the offensive tweet, according to Pro Football Talk. The organization stuck with that story about as long as they usually hold on to their head coaches, quickly retracting the denial and admitting that Mrs. McCloughan had indeed sent out the derisive comment.

She then released a statement via the organization to Pro Football Talk:

"I deeply apologize for the disparaging remarks about an ESPN reporter on my personal Twitter account. The comment was unfounded and inappropriate, and I have the utmost respect for both the reporter and ESPN. I regret that my actions have brought undeserved negative attention to the Redskins organization and its leadership. My comments in no way reflect the opinions or attitudes of the organization and I regret that my behavior has in any way negatively impacted the team and its loyal fan base."

Sickeningly, this was not the first time that Mrs. McCloughan used derisive language directed towards Russini. Earlier on the month she tweeted about a news story, "I'm pretty sure this info is coming from my husband to his new side chick (dianna) It's confirmed."

Mrs. McCloughan's comment about blow jobs was beyond vulgar and disparaging. By her logic, people who report on sports must either have a penis or resort to interacting sexually with sources' penises to do their jobs effectively. Nearly equally offensive is Mrs. McCloughan's use of the flippant and dismissive term "side chick" in a separate tweet to refer to a professional journalist.

Somehow I can't imagine Mrs. McCloughan using similar rhetoric about a male reporter. Fill in the blank here with the name of a prominent male sports journalist:  "_______ Please tell us how many blow jobs you had to perform to get this story. And did they laugh at you before or after?"

The most ridiculous part of Mrs. McCloughan's statement was her claim, "I have the utmost respect for both the reporter and ESPN." Quite the opposite is true. Her comments are an outgrowth of extreme disrespect and disdain coupled with an equally extreme sense of entitlement. If she owned that aspect of her transgression, perhaps that could be a starting point for systemic change. Comments like the ones she spewed at Russini do not happen in a vacuum. There are underlying attitudes and beliefs that fuel such rhetoric.

It also appears she normalized and justified her deeply offensive attitudes. The tweet about blow jobs is from August 30. That means she felt comfortable not only expressing herself that way in a public forum, but also leaving the tweet up there for several days.  Her own moral compass and conscience did not lead her to regret the statement or attempt to undo the damage until she was called out about it. It also wasn't the first time she used social media to attempt to shame and embarrass Russini.

McCloughan seems to be a serial disrespecter, and, unfortunately, there are many who share those attitudes. It is a phenomenon that occurs all to frequently. ESPN's Jemele Hill noted on Twitter:

 

There is no place on social media, in professional sports, in the workplace, or anywhere in society for such harmful and hurtful rhetoric. The same kind of sexual shaming Mrs. McCloughan engaged in is rooted in the same toxic belief systems that perpetuate societal scourges that are both dangerous and oppressive to women.