One step forward, one step back for women in sports

A great day for women in sports turned bad quickly. Here’s what happened in Colorado, and in Pennsylvania, on Sunday.

Image of Jenny Cavnar tweet

I WOKE UP TICKLED to death to read the posts on my @susanfornoff Twitter feed, smugly certain that women had finally won inclusion in sports. But by lunchtime, reality had set in.

Here’s how good news gave way to bad, all in the course of one morning:

Last night, we tuned in to the Rockies telecast on AT&T SportsNet. (Did you know, I’m a former baseball writer? Check out SusanFornoff.com for more on that.) We watch the Rockies most nights here in Denver. But on this night, we heard something new: a woman’s voice doing the play-by-play! It was Jenny Cavnar, who has been covering baseball for 12 years and is a familiar face and voice here for her interviews, features and post-game show work. She’s got the nice, deep Jessica Mendoza-style tones, and a calm, confident delivery. She made history, and sounded great doing it.

Even more exciting, this morning on Twitter I caught the Rockies’ own feed, full of not only praise and congrats to Jenny, but back-talk to the inevitable rude sexist comments that women in sports media cannot avoid. This, I had never seen before from a pro sports team. Usually when it comes to women in sports media, the teams go mute or make lame excuses for their players’ actions. Not the Rockies. They stepped up. Take a look at these Tweets and responses:

 

When I was covering baseball for the Sacramento Bee in 1986 and a player sent me a rat, the team only grudgingly fined him ($3,500, ha) and told him not to do anything like that again. Women at other news outlets had similar experiences and suffered blame-the-victim mentality from teams, players and fans. In contrast, the Rockies’ unabashed defense of Cavnar made me a fan forever today.

WOMEN IN SPORTS, REDUX

What could possibly go wrong after a morning coffee cup that overfloweth with good news? Somewhere along the way, another story popped up: Golf Club Apologizes for Calling Cops on Black Women Members. It seems that five black women playing golf together Sunday afternoon at Grandview Golf Club in York, Penn., incurred the wrath of the men playing behind them for their alleged slow play. The women were kicked off the course after stopping at the turn, AND the police were called!

I had so many questions. First, why did the course send out a fivesome? Were the women really slow? Was there space in front of them? Is it traditional for groups to take a break at the turn at Grandview? Were their enough available restrooms for them at the turn? How much did these women pay to belong? Who were these men who complained? What course would kick off members, rather than intervene to resolve such a dispute?

And, especially: Was the problem that they were playing too slowly, or that they were golfing while black?

After reading the sketchy Associated Press version, I turned to the local paper in York and found a more comprehensive story. Lots of them, in fact. I recommend you start with this report on what happened, and then follow the links to more coverage and the updates that keep coming. (I also recommend that you support local journalism. It is your link to your community.)

My take on this is simple but harsh. No matter how expeditiously a group of women play golf, and even if they are keeping up with the group in front of them, it is more than likely that the men behind them will never be happy. A group of women will wait forever for the men in front of them to explore the woods and tromp through the hay to seek out $2 golf balls, but the minute a woman four-putts she is the scourge of slow play.

Of course, the golf course staff will side with the men. That’s not only because the staff is mostly men, but because male players are considered to be their prime customer. Women players, not so much. Black women players, probably even less.

And the golf industry will go on scratching its collective head about why more women and minorities aren’t taking to their game. In a recent interview for the LPGA Women’s Network with Renee Powell, who is considered to be the first black woman to be a full-time LPGA tour player, I asked her why Tiger Woods’ success hasn’t brought golf more black success stories and players.

She had a couple of thoughts on that.

“One of the reasons Commissioner (Tim) Finchem started the First Tee program was to try to get more minorities into the game, initially,” Powell said. “It has changed a lot over the years, where it’s not just directed to minorities. I think at many of the First Tees now, the minorities are a minority.

“And, I served for 26 years on the USGA girls championship  committee, and the entry fee to play in the USGA Girls is still around $20, but when I look at so many of the entry fees, my gosh, it’s so expensive, I wouldn’t be able to play. We’re still catering to individuals that have the dollars, that can play, as opposed to being more inclusive. But, if you have the dollars, no matter what color you are, you can play. If you don’t have the dollars and you’re still talented, you can’t play.”

Powell owns a golf course in Ohio, so I put in a call to her today to get her thoughts about what happened in Pennsylvania. I’ll add them here if I hear from her.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue to follow this story in the York Daily Record and hope that more facts emerge. But there’s one that makes what happened at struggling, family-run Grandview, the oldest public course in York, sounds a lot like what happened at Starbucks recently.

The women say they were timed at 1 hour and 45 minutes on the front nine. At a public course, golfers know, 2 hours and 15 minutes is considered standard. Two hours is fast. An hour and 45? Wow!

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