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Objectification of Katherine Webb shows just how far behind the times US sporting media has fallen

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The BCS bowl game Monday night sadly was not what you would call compelling viewing. For Notre Dame fans the writing must have been on the wall as the teams came out of the tunnel, and they suffered that scary moment of realisation that hits all teams from high school up through college. ‘Damn, those guys are huge!’.

The game was such a non-contest that the commentary team’s minds and mouths wandered. Brent Musburger and his broadcast partner Kirk Herbstreit decided to add some commentary to camera shots of AJ McCarron's girlfriend Katherine Webb. You know what, you be the judge. Here’s the video.

So, we hate to be ‘that’ guy, but, seriously? To borrow a well-worn and still hilarious phrase from Monday Night Football, C’mon man! Scarily, there has been little or no reaction from the media or the public, other than people laughing it off, excusing Musburger on the basis of his age, or worse yet, agreeing with his frankly disgraceful comments. To their credit, ESPN has admitted that the commentary was at the very least over the top. Their comment; "However, we apologise that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that."

For me this doesn’t go far enough. Not even close.

Musburger’s comments would have been at home in the 1950s when women were meant to stay at home, make the dinner and look pretty. His comments were the worst kind of passive-aggressive crap that may sound inoffensive at first to some, but when you think about it, his behaviour is the worst kind of sexist bullying that we would never like any women that are in our lives to be subjected to. It doesn’t matter that Ms Webb has gracefully brushed the comments off. The inane, archaic and blatantly sexist comments affect far more women than just herself. If you can’t see the problem with the comments, then you may as well stop reading now, as you and I are not going to agree on this.

The main problem is how Musburger objectified Ms Webb. His comments basically suggested that she was nothing more than something nice to look at, a painting on the wall, a sculpture, whatever. Worse yet, if you think about it, his further recommendation that ‘’ If you're a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with pops’’ seems to be suggesting that you too can obtain a woman by doing that. You can get yourself one too!! Are we talking about watches here, or iPads or something? Musburger is guilty of the worst kind of sexist objectification. Just because he didn’t use any sexual slang or expletives doesn’t mean his comments weren’t sexist. 

''You too could own a Katherine Webb!!'' Brent Musburger


Most professionals who have to analyse and deal with sexism on a daily basis would have a field day with Musburger’s sexist comments. To the rest of us, they should at the very least be uncomfortable and perhaps leave us considering how we interact with the women in our lives on a daily basis.

Sadly, the Internet is reacting exactly how you would expect the Internet to react. The comments range from the confused ‘I don’t see what’s wrong here?!’ to the completely offensive ‘I would have said much worse!’ Those muddled fools are displaying exactly the cowardly bravado you would expect from the anonymity of the Internet. Here’s hoping that’s not actually how they think.

Going back to the ESPN reaction for a minute, and their tepid comment which seems to be agreeing with common decency, that Musburger’s sexist reaction was not OK. Is it enough for them to release said luke-warm statement? ESPN just sacked Rob Parker for inflammatory comments about race. Is race a more serious matter than sexism? Furthermore, is the US sporting media that archaic, stale and broken that is really is not going to react at all as an entity (I can’t find one single article anywhere on any sports site chastising Musburger)?

Take ESPN’s frankly minimal reaction to that of Sky Sports in England, when a similar controversy broke in 2011. Richard Keys and Andy Gray were the biggest soccer commentary team possibly in all of Europe, and both were sacked immediately in the aftermath of a controversy that saw them make sexist comments about a female official that were picked up on air. Gray’s comment in particular was very similar to Musburger’s seemingly senile ramblings. At the time, Gray said; "Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule." Sky Sports acted immediately, sacking the two for that and other comments, and were almost unanimously applauded for doing so.

Why is it not OK in the UK and Ireland to make sexist comments to a wide audience, but, it would appear it is OK to do so in the USA? None of the fallout from this is funny, or acceptable. In this day and age we should not be accepting the objectification of a gender, male or female.

If you are one of the idiotic luddites who is laughing at this and boldly declaring ‘I don’t see what the problem is?!’, well consider for a second that it was your mother, sister, wife or girlfriend being salivated over by what sounded frankly like a disgusting old pervert, picture that and ask yourself, is that OK? Are you cool with that?

Completely unacceptable behaviour for anyone, and particularly for a senior ESPN analyst.

Let’s see if there is any further fallout, or if ESPN are going to play double-standards, and sack Rob Parker for a race related comment, while basically only slapping the wrists of Musburger.

 

Follow Cormac on Twitter

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