The XX Factor

So Long, Sweet Baby

Between Brett Favre and Ron Franklin, it’s not a good week for pro sports’ reputation with women.

A few days ago, ESPN suspended announcer Ron Franklin for being a condescending jerk to sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards. Originally, the story went that Franklin said, “Why don’t you leave this to the boys, sweetcakes?” when Edwards tried to take part in a conversation about a fellow ESPN reporter’s wife’s election to mayor.

Apparently, that’s not exactly how it happened: Franklin’s actual words were, “Listen to me, sweet baby, let me tell you something.” A colleague-not Edwards-informed ESPN management about the remarks.

Now, ESPN fired Franklin , saying, “Based on what occurred last Friday, we have ended our relationship with him.”

Franklin had been with ESPN as a play-by-play announcer for college basketball and football since 1987, and it’s sad to see an aging man’s long career end this way. But Franklin was given a second chance after calling another sideline reporter “sweetheart” on the air a few years ago, but the two incidents weren’t exactly the same. Sure, in both cases, Franklin factiously used terms of endearment to talk down to female sideline reporters. But in the Holly Rowe incident, Franklin was disagreeing, in an unnecessary, sexist tone, with Rowe’s analysis of a coach’s decision. In the Edwards incident, Franklin wasn’t just being demeaning to a woman in the context of their job; he was being demeaning as co-workers engaged in some innocent chitchat. His attitude toward women affected his work life on and off the air. And despite what some sports commentators are saying, this has nothing to do with whether women should be reporting from the sidelines of football games. In this case, Edwards’ job is irrelevant. She could have been an intern or a high-level producer, and Franklin’s words would still have been just as inappropriate. I think any HR representative would say that Franklin had to go.