The Buffalo Bills’ decision last week to hire the first-ever full-time female NFL coach was -- predictably, sadly -- met with a series of raised eyebrows, as talking heads questioned her qualifications, both implicitly and explicitly suggesting that she, as a woman, is inherently unable to do the job.
While likely the most horrifying instance of this came from a Cleveland radio host who actually said that “there is no place for a woman in professional sports,” the subtler, more nuanced misogynistic responses to Kathryn Smith’s hiring have largely slipped past our collective attention.
So on her show “Garbage Time” Wednesday night, Fox Sports 1 television host Katie Nolan spent a segment addressing this more nebulous sexism, showcasing the hypocrisy that’s been on full display these last eight days.
To start, Nolan lobbed up then swatted away a pair of questions that we’ve seen time and time again whenever the sports world’s glass ceiling begins to crack:
- What if the Bills just hired Smith because she’s a woman? Answer: “OK, and what if they only hired Rob Ryan because he’s Rex’s brother? People get jobs for a number of reasons -- until they do something that proves they don’t also deserve the gig, who *&^%$#@ cares?”
- Is she really even qualified for the job? Answer, paraphrased: Um, yes, duh.
And these first two queries perfectly set up the final question: “Why can't I criticize her?!”
Nolan’s response is worth quoting at length:
Good news! You can. When she’s done something worth criticizing. So far she’s been hired. And is a woman. So if you have a problem with either of those two things, I have bad news. You’re a sexist piece of shit.
But, at the end of next season, if she has somehow made the Bills worse -- which, let’s be honest, would be impressive -- by all means let her have it. There are tons of male coaches in the league who suck at their jobs. If we can get a couple of women in there too, we’ll know we’ve finally made it.
That is, everyone should feel free to disagree with the football-related moves she makes or stances she takes when her job actually begins, but to criticize Kathryn Smith at this point, before she’s gotten near the team, is unadulterated discrimination.
Give her a chance before you peg her as inept, Nolan seems to be saying. Or else you, like that Cleveland radio host, are simply taking the position that women are inherently unsuitable for work on the sidelines or locker rooms.
And, today, in the year 2016, we really don’t have time for such baseless bigotry.
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