Locker-Room Mentality Breeds Sexist Idiots, ESPN Fakes Outrage


ESPN has suspended Tony Kornheiser, host of the talk show Pardon the Interruption for some nasty remarks he made about SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm‘s appearance. It’s obvious this guy’s a douche, but should he be suspended for his blatant asshatery?

After all, wasn’t Kornheiser hired, at least in part, to say obnoxious things in between talking about actual sports news? Apparently, it’s not uncommon for Korheiser and his co-host Michael Wilbon to criticize the sartorial choices of male athletes and reporters, but this is what he said about Hannah Storm (pictured):

Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today. She’s got on red go-go boots and a catholic school plaid skirt … way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now. … She’s got on her typically very, very tight shirt. She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body. … I know she’s very good, and I’m not supposed to be critical of ESPN people, so I won’t … but Hannah Storm … come on now! Stop! What are you doing? … She’s what I would call a Holden Caulfield fantasy at this point.

Not only is he critiquing her clothing, but he’s also implying that she should cover up, because no one wants to see that. It’s an all-too familiar brand of misogyny, one which ESPN has apologized for (“hurtful and personal comments such as these are not acceptable and have significant consequences”) and Kornheiser has more or less dismissed as verbal diarrhea (“If you put a live microphone in front of somebody, eventually that person will say something wrong. This was one of the times I said something wrong”).

However, the question that is being asked around the blogosphere is not really about Kornheiser’s comments, but ESPN’s response. A.J. Daulerio at our brother-site Deadspin wonders “why was Kornheiser’s punishment so severe?” Jack Shafer at Slate also takes issue with his suspension, but for a different reason. Shafer argues that ESPN wasn’t actually upset on behalf of Storm – they were just angry he made a literary reference too obscure for most viewers. And then there is this:

Much-but not all-of sports radio relies on frat-boy humor to carry the freight between serious discussions about teams, games, and players. If Kornheiser’s TV network bosses are genuinely upset about what their employee said about another employee on the radio, they should fire him. But they won’t fire him, because they aren’t actually upset. The ESPN brass is punishing Kornheiser for being Kornheiser when they should be punishing themselves for running their network like a high-school locker room.
When ESPN frees Kornheiser from the penalty box—as it surely will soon—I’d like to see it prove its sincerity by stuffing one of the network’s executives in the box for a time-out of his own.

Until the overall tone of ESPN’s commentary begins to change, Kornheiser’s punishment will just be an empty gesture. But we’re not exactly holding our breath.

ESPN Suspends Kornheiser For Comments About Storm
[Yahoo News]
Sympathy For Tony Kornheiser [Slate]
An Unpardoned Interruption [Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic]

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