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Sexual Harassment In Sports: Men Are Getting A Bad Rap

Posted: 07/09/07 03:15 PM ET

Sexual harassment in sports has always been a hot topic. The celebrity status of modern athletes and the popularity of sports entities like ESPN combined with the small percentage of females employed within them make sports a breeding ground for harassment accusations. As a female, I think that both sports and the men who work in them are getting a raw deal.

While sexual harassment as an issue should be taken very seriously, certain environments should require a different set of standards. The sports world has traditionally been male dominated and the women who have been most successful in it have done so by learning how to fit into the fraternity. As women, we try very hard to level the playing field, yet draw attention to our differences with petty accusations of harassment. We demand to be treated as equal colleagues except when that equality means "locker room" humor. Our demands cannot be conditional. Either we're in the club or we're not.

In addition to the vagueness of female expectations, the nature of the sports business means a dollar amount attached to any accusation. The mere mentioning of the words "sexual harassment" means a payout to the accuser, even if it's just to make it go away. It has made men in sports easy targets for female colleagues who didn't get their way or are simply seeking financial gain and media attention. I'm not saying that there aren't situations that warrant some action, but the ability of any accuser to go straight to the media prevents the separation between which charges are real and which are frivolous. It also means that opinions are formed before all of the facts are revealed. Those opinions usually favor the female accuser.

The bottom line is women need to know the working environment and learn what to expect from it. And, for the sake of the accused, everyone in sports from the executives to the media to the fans needs to be a lot more objective in handling these situations.