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OC Register: Hoornstra: Baseball’s sexual harassment problem is not unique to baseball

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My first opportunity to report on the growing presence of women in Major League Baseball came in 2012. It was my first year on the Dodgers beat, and it was Sue Falsone’s first year as the team’s head athletic trainer.

When I asked the clubhouse veterans if a woman would have been welcomed in the training room when they were rookies, their responses came with some squirming. Manager Don Mattingly, whose playing career began in 1982, wasn’t sure either.

Flash forward to today. Last week the Brewers promoted Sara Goodrum, a member of the team’s sports science department, to minor league hitting coordinator. Early in January, the Red Sox hired Bianca Smith as a minor league coach. Marlins general manager Kim Ng became the first woman to attain her title in November. In January 2020, the Giants made Alyssa Nakken the first woman to coach at the major league level. The barriers for women who want to work in baseball have never been fewer.

If calling attention to baseball’s “glass ceiling” helped make it visible, and a few talented women helped break it, the last month has revealed another invisible barrier. It kept Jared Porter’s years-long harassment of a female reporter hidden long enough for him to become the New York Mets’ general manager. When ESPN reported the substance of Porter’s text messages to the woman on Jan. 18, he was fired the next day.

Then on Monday, The Athletic revealed a series of similarly unwelcome advances sent by Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway over the last five years, via text messages and social media, to five different female reporters. Callaway was suspended by the Angels on Tuesday pending an investigation into his behavior.

Wednesday was National Girls and Women in Sports Day. It was a happy day for some, but not for all. There’s still a strong gender barrier in baseball. This one allows male reporters to do their job without ever having to worry their behavior will be misinterpreted by a player, coach or executive as a come-on. Callaway and Porter are merely the latest examples. As Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post recently wrote on her Twitter account: “I haven’t known a day in a baseball clubhouse without a story like this.”

Using the number of female coaches, trainers and executives in the game as a proxy for progress misses a key element of the bigger picture. The issues facing female reporters are obviously rampant and obviously real. Inappropriate messages sent privately to women who aren’t employed by a team are more difficult to monitor than hiring trends, but they reveal a deep cultural problem just the same.

And they aren’t unique to baseball.

“Sexual harassment often occurs when there is a disparity in power,” said Gary Sapir, a corporate consultant on issues of sexual harrassment, “usually men having greater power and authority over women in many industries and work environments.”

Sapir pointed to several industries in which women were traditionally employed in staff roles, while men occupied management and leadership positions: the airline industry, in which stewardesses transitioned into flight attendants of both sexes often managed by females; the entertainment industry, which has an ever-increasing cadre of female executives; the hospitality industry, which is starting to promote more females into leadership positions.

“Men in leadership roles are perfectly capable of changing organizational cultures so that certain behaviors are not tolerated, even in the sports industry,” Sapir said. “To start, there has to be a willingness to hold people accountable for their behaviors, even and especially if the bad apples are the rainmakers or star performers in an organization. Culture change is never easy, particularly when certain behaviors were accepted as intrinsic to the nature of the organization.”

In 2017, I caught up with several players and MLB executive Joe Torre to discuss baseball’s first domestic violence policy. Dee Gordon, a vocal advocate for domestic violence victims, said something that would stick with me for years: “I know what I’m not supposed to do. I can’t tell you what another man’s not supposed to do. We were raised in two different households. You never know. I can’t tell you like, oh, a guy shouldn’t have done that, because I don’t know what the guy was brought up into.”

In the context of domestic violence, there’s some truth to that sentiment. Domestic violence by definition begins at home. It’s far enough removed from the workplace that a man might never learn if a teammate is abusing his power over a woman. By contrast, harassing reporters begins at the ballpark. There’s more room for teammates to hold each other accountable.

In a podcast interview, one of the reporters who broke the Callaway story recalled an anecdote about retired player Aubrey Huff making “a game out of showing his penis to” a female reporter in the Baltimore Orioles’ clubhouse. That game wouldn’t fly in 2021, or at least it shouldn’t. Indifference is not an excusable reaction within a clubhouse.

“The very act of ‘accountability’ sends a message throughout the organization that previously accepted behaviors are no longer going to be tolerated, and that’s when we see a culture shift,” Sapir said. “Short-term pain for long-term gain.”

Last week, representatives from the Baseball Writers Association of America met with two MLB officials on the topic of accountability. They discussed setting up a hotline through a third party to report actions like those of Porter and Callaway. The BBWAA suggested posting rules about sexual harassment in clubhouses around the league, alongside the posters about gambling and uniform decorum already in place.

If those steps seem heavy-handed or unnecessary, just remember why Porter is unemployed today, and Callaway is suspended.

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18 minutes ago, AngelsWin.com said:

Sexual harassment often occurs when there is a disparity in power,” said Gary Sapir, a corporate consultant on issues of sexual harassment, “usually men having greater power and authority over women in many industries and work environments.”


@Brandon, please ask your therapist and psychologist friends what they think about this...

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