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Foie Gras

Foie Gras

Every four years we get to marvel at the athletes that participate in the Winter Olympics. They are winners. All winners. To be allowed to compete in the Olympics is a triumph any way you look at it. It is a win if you are a woman, man, black, Asian, white, green, purple, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Drew, Hindu, or any other category we are using now a day to label and/or describe people. It takes great determination to get to the Olympics. It takes great courage to compete in the Olympics. It takes great grit to win one of the three metals at the Olympics.

I am all in on the Olympics. I am all in on the athletes that compete in the Olympics. But the journalists that interview the athletes have lost their way.  I watched many of the interviews of athletes: male, female, white, black, big, small, gay, straight. It seems that the media has made female athletes the center of attraction. Think not? Think again.

I believe role models are important for many reasons. When I was a kid playing little league football, Ken Willard was an icon to me even though I cheered for the Lions. He played on the San Francisco Forty-Niners. He was one of the greatest fullbacks in the history of football.

Ken Willard was drafted with the second pick of the 1965 NFL Draft, by the San Francisco 49ers ahead of future NFL Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers. He played nine seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and one with the St. Louis Cardinals. He opted to pass on his eleventh season after two consecutive years of knee injuries in St. Louis.

Willard was a four-time Pro Bowler, selected in 1965, 1966, 1968 and 1969 and scored 45 rushing and 17 receiving touchdowns. His best year was 1968 when he ran for 967 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was a member of the 49ers when the team won the NFC West title in 1970, 1971 and 1972 and with the Cardinals when they won the division title in 1974. On the retirement of Leroy Kelly, Willard became the NFL's active leader in career rushing yards for most of the 1974 season, before being passed by O.J. Simpson in Game 11. He retired with 6,105 rushing yards (then 8th all-time) and 45 rushing touchdowns (tied for 12th). He was one of my heroes. I did not know he was gay when I was choosing my role models, nor did I care. He was an amazing running back regardless of his orientation. Why is Ken Willard so important to this blog?

During this year’s Olympics, each interview of a female athlete by a female telejournalist had the following comment somewhere in the interview, “You are a great role model for little girls everywhere. You show them that anything is possible. We’re so proud of you.” Can you predict what would happen if a male sports journalist told a female athlete that she was a great role model for little girls? I believe the me-too movement spokespersons would be all over him as well as every feminist reporter. It appears it is okay for women to create a sexist bias; the irony is they are the ones who are fighting so hard against it. I have yet to hear anyone tell figure skater Adam Rippon he is a great role model for gay boys. I have not heard anyone tell Sean White that he is a great role model for little white boys. I have not heard these female journalists tell Sani Davis, the first black athlete to win an individual Olympic medal at the Winter Games, that he is a great inspiration to little black male children all over America. Why are female sports reporters promoting female sexism?

Women inspire men. We hear college and professional male athletes of every color, race, creed, and sexual orientation state that their mothers were their inspiration for being the best they could be. Men may have sports idols who are men, but that is because those male figures are in their sport and are their standards for greatness. I think an athlete such as Serena Williams is inspirational to all people, regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation.

If female sports journalists covering the Olympics are going to suggest that women athletes are the only inspirations that can be a little girl’s role model, they need to revise their thoughts. Most of these female athletes had significant male influences in their journey who may have inspired them. Hundreds of male coaches have been there for these female athletes, their fathers may have been there helping them to achieve their dreams as well as their mothers; one, two, or all three probably helped them cross the finish line.

Yes, there are role models each of us choose to aspire to, but I don’t believe it is gender specific. I wish sports journalists everywhere would encourage everyone to be inspired by female athletes as well as male. Enough of the gender bias in sports. We need to stop dividing our society into factions of gender, race, creed, and religion. Let us begin to acknowledge athletic excellence in sports as excellence in sports in general.

Ken Willard was a great football player, not a great gay football player. Serena Williams is a great tennis player, not a great female tennis player. Let’s recognize greatness, reward it, and not continue to promote sexism in amateur and professional sports. Journalistic bias only serves to diminish athletes and removes the possibility of an appreciation of excellence for everyone in athletic competition.

And it’s not okay for sexism or bias to creep into sports reporting even if the sports reporter is a woman who is blatantly sexist. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Foie gras anyone?


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