Women. Not. Being. Acknowledged.
Enthusiasm and experience were the reasons conveyed to me by Sky CEO Adam Fox when I asked why Lisa Byington and I were being replaced after calling the Sky’s games for the last two seasons. She and I have also called hundreds of women’s college games for the biggest networks in the country and have followed the careers of most of today's WNBA players since they were 18 year-old freshman. We both played the game. Byington's Northwestern Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament, and I played a few months professionally in Germany before an injury led me to find my life again in broadcasting. I'm speaking for both of us when I say I'm more than confident we come to the broadcast table every game enthused and experienced.
The Sky (and the WNBA) had something unique and special going -- they had the only all-female broadcast team in the league. So what message does it send to replace those two females with two males and then offer them a 50% raise? At the same time, the WNBA and NBA are using the league’s biggest stars, including Lebron James and the Sky’s own Elena Delle Donne to encourage men to "Lean In", to show the world they’re ready for equality. But the #LeanInTogether movement hasn’t made its way yet to the Sky’s front office.
I was told not much attention was paid to the makeup of the league's broadcast teams, and that Sky owner Michael Alter “probably didn’t even realize what he had.” That’s the point, how when it came down to it, three front office executives for a women’s professional basketball team made the decision they did without realizing the irony that was taking place. But certainly, “It’s a conversation that warrants more attention.” That was two days ago, and I haven’t missed any calls. Just two weeks ago, April 14th was recognized as Equal Pay Day. Excuse me while I get my Patricia Arquette on.
A friend of mine, also a new father to a baby girl, brought up another critical point in all of this. His daughter might grow up to be like my eight year-old neighbor Belle, who isn’t into playing basketball but likes watching Sky games on TV. If those two girls have any interest at all in a future in broadcasting, they'll think two women calling a game is both normal and acceptable. Something they can envision, because simply, it exists and it is there for them to see. But if they never see it, it will never be normal.
At the end of the day, if its a matter of preference, politics, or professionalism, no role is guaranteed nor a given, especially in TV. Michael Alter reserves the right to make any decision he wants. He’s a successful guy, a multi-millionaire as well as a Harvard and University of Chicago Law graduate. But you know, he “probably didn’t realize” he made a decision that might cost him much more than the 50% raise, if he assesses any value on equality and respect for women. He lost mine.