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Shock Exchange V. ESPN'S Jemele Hill in Portis Flap PDF Print E-mail

Jemele Hill
I am sure you have heard about the controversy involving Inez Sainz, the TV Azteca reporter, and the New York Jets.  Sainz was interviewing Mark Sanchez of the Jets last week and said she "felt unfortable" and "harassed" during her time there.  Apparently during one of the passing drills a Jets coach purposely threw footballs in Sainz' direction so the players could accidentally bump into her.  Apparently Jets' defensive lineman, Jason Taylor, was so excited that felt the need to work on his "pass catching skills" also.  The NFL and the Jets' owner have gotten involved to gather the facts and ensure the NFL lockerroom is open to all.  Interesting enough is that Sainz has not filed a formal complaint against the Jets.  The dust up was pursued more by womens groups and other female reporters on her behalf so the actual "fact pattern" has never been divulged.  Yet that hasn't stop journalists, pro athletes, commentators, etc. from giving their two cents.  Yesterday Clinton Portis of the Wasington Redskins went on the Mike Wise Show hosted by Holden Kushner and Brian Mitchell.  Eventually the conversation turned to Sainz and Portis pretty much said that, and I am paraphrasing here, " . . . women are attracted to men with six packs and core strength . . ."  This caught the ire of the NFL who spoke with the Redskins who spoke with Portis who rescinded his remarks about six hours later.

Portis' comments had Twitter all abuzz.  Jemele Hill, columnist on ESPN's First Take, went back and forth with the Shock Exchange on the matter.  The Twitter conversation went as follows:

Jemelehill:  If Portis is critical of Ines Sainz, fine. I take issue w/ this ide women journos are in the lockeroom to "want" athletes. #GetOverYourself

Hill is on the record of having been critical of Sainz and her provocative attire when interviewing players.  Her stance is that "if you want respect, you must carry yourself in a respectful way".  If a man made this statement he opens himself up for several counterattacks, but Hill being a woman, delivers the message assertively and leaves little room for argument since it comes from a "female perspective".  Sports journalists like Phyllis George, Jayne Kennedy, Michelle Tafoya, etc. have been battling for women to be taken seriously in the locker rom for years.  Sensing that Sainz' behavior may set female reporters back, Hill "goes in".  However, in her statement that she "takes issue with idea that female journalists want athletes", she implies that Portis pulled the comment out of "thin air" nor does she give any empirical evidence to the contrary. 

ShockExchange: Journalist Samantha Stephenson had child by Dr. J >> @jemelehill Take issue w/ idea women journos in lockeroom to "want" athletes #Portis        

I gave Hill a specific example of reporters and professional athletes being "romantically involved", to see if she would take the bait.  Not trying to "out" anyone, but the Julius Erving/Samantha Stevenson relationship has been public knowledge for over a decade.  In 1999 Alexandra Stevenson became the first woman qualifier in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals and joined Chris Evert and Ana Kournikova as one of the few women to reach the semi-finals on their Wimbledon debut.  She was memorable for a few other reasons as well.  First, the media and several male admirers commented on how phyically striking she was and secondly, it became public for the first time who her famous father was - former NBA player Julius Erving.  Her mother was a sports reporter for The New York Times and Erving was a player she had covered in her capacity as a journalist.  According to the article Reaching Out by Tom Fiend for ESPN's Outside the Lines:  

Samantha Stevenson
From all accounts, Erving's wife, Turquoise, was fuming over her husband's infidelities and livid at Samantha. In 1977, two years before her affair with Erving, Samantha had ghost-written a piece with Turquoise about life as an NBA wife for the New York Times, and, naturally, Turquoise felt betrayed. So there was little hope of Julius ever flying Alexandra in for a visit. In fact, the terse agreement between the two parties, drawn up by lawyers, was for Samantha to live at least 200 miles away from Julius, keep the birth out of the news, receive a modest monthly stipend and have sole custody. At the time, Julius was the reigning NBA MVP as a Philadelphia 76er, the good Doctor, and a paternity scandal -- much less an interracial affair -- could have been an image- and endorsement-killer.  

When the Alexandra Stevenson story broke I was pretty much in a state of shock.  After seeing a picture of Samantha I was even more dumbfounded.  She and Erving seemed like the odd couple and polar opposites of one another.  I was curious as to how they would ever meet.  When the media divulged that Samantha was a former reporter with access to Erving, I began to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  Legend has it that Samantha was a polarizing figure even amongst sports reporters.  She was outspoken in general.  But female sports reporters at the time had fought to overcome the stereotype that it was "sex and not news" that they were after, and many complained that Samantha's relationship with Erving did not help their cause.

kcopen: “@jemelehill: what Portis said was unbelievably ignorant” based on past comments, he pretty much is ignorant. 

The above message is to Hill from @kcopen.  Should Portis have opened his mouth?  Probably not.  The Jets are in hot water over the incident and yet they have been silent so far.  Politically, it may have been better for Portis to let the Jets speak to the situation.  Is what he said ignorant?  The way in which he said it was not "politically correct".  Effectively what he said is that "women are attracted to men" which doesn't need to be said.  Is Portis ignorant?  All I can prove is that Portis is an African-American pro football player.  By definition, if that makes him ignorant then that leads to a whole other conversation on the the "dumb jock" perception.  As far as I know, Portis could have an IQ higher than Hill, @kcopen and mine combined.  After reading the initial post, @kcopen later updated me that his message was in reference to Portis' prior comments on Michael Vick here:  http://tinyurl.com/ywaemj .  

jemelehillChuckling at dudes who co-signing Portis but have never been in a locker room, don't know any female reporters, but just agreeing

Hill implies that dudes are "co-signing" Portis.  No-one is co-signing Portis, just the "fact" that the perception that female reporters "want" the athletes was not invented by Portis.  Her response seems to be an indictment of Portis and less about what he said.  Is Portis quirky?  Maybe.  Is he overrated, as some people on Twitter have pointed out?  Maybe.  However, this perception is one that even female reporters acknowledged decades ago and was highlighted above.  Hill implies that if you have never been in the locker room or do not know any female reporters that you cannot speak on the matter.  I think Ms. Hill may have politics in her future.  But how would I know?  After all, I don't know any politicians and I have never been inside the White House.

jemelehill @ShockExchange so u pt out 1 ex in 20+ yrs & we ALL have to be penalized for tht. please. besides, i never said it NEVER happens.

Ms. Hill implies that one example in 20 years is not enough to penalize all female reporters.  Ms. Hill has the same complaint that women had during Samantha Stevenson's heydey - that they will all be painted with the same brush as "wanting" the athletes they cover.  Just like she "never said it Never happens", noone ever said "all women" . . . it was a generalization.

ShockExchange: @jemelehill Several examples of players and journos romantically involved but it's a "transaction" between adults and none [of] my business.  

There are several other examples Ms. Hill.  But the point of the conversation was not to document relations between consenting adults, particulary when it's nobody else's business.

ShockExchange: @jemelehill Has been perception of journos "wanting" athletes >30 yrs now. #Portis points it out and people "go in". #ShootingTheMessenger

Again, the responses to Portis' comments seem to be more of an indictment of Portis, and less about the facts and what they mean.  Could this be a case of "shooting the messenger"?


With the critically acclaimed new book, "Shock Exchange: How Inner-City Kids From Brooklyn Predicted the Great Recession and the Pain Ahead," Ralph Baker breaks down professional sports and makes recommendations for improvements.

Where to Buy:

Shock Exchange is available electronically through Barnes & Noble (NOOK), Amazon (Kindle), iTunes, etc. The print version is available through the following retailers and bookstores:  

Print Version: 

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/

Barnes & Noble online www.Barnesandnoble.com

Alibris  www.alibris.com

St. Marks Bookshop: (212-260-7853) http://www.stmarksbookshop.com/ , located 31 3rd Avenue, New York, NY

Word: (718-383-0096) http://www.wordbrooklyn.com/ , 126 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Greenlight Bookstore: (718-246-0200) http://www.greenlightbookstore.com/  

Hampden-Sydney College Bookstore: http://cougar.hsc.edu/cgi-bin/main_inv.exe , item number: 38561. Or call Jason Huskey at 434-223-6117.

Call Mr. Baker Directly: 917-697-8168.


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