MY Sandbox

Over the last week, many friends, listeners and co-workers have asked my opinion about the recent sexist rant of a San Francisco sports talk show host. As Damon Bruce of KNBR (a CBS Sports Radio affiliate) was sharing his opinions of  the coverage of Jonathan Martin’s harassment complaint against the Dolphins, he included the following choice nugget: “A lot of sports has lost its way…part of the reason is because we’ve got women giving us directions. I’m willing to share my sandbox as long as you remember, you’re in my box.”

Bruce, who hosted a Saturday baseball show on my network during the spring and summer months, goes on to say:  “I enjoy many of the women’s contributions to sports…well, that’s a lie. I can’t even pretend that’s true. There are very few…a small handful of women who are any good at this at all. That’s the truth. The amount of women talking in sports to the amount of women who have something to say is one of the most disproportionate ratios I’ve ever seen in my freakin’ life. But here’s a message for all of them … All of this, all of this world of sports, especially the sport of football, has a setting. It’s set to men… It’s a man’s world.”

I believe the point he tried to make somewhere in his rant is that a feminine attitude and approach to bullying in a pro locker room is misguided. He was trying to say an emotional response to the pro football culture comes from people who can’t possibly understand what happens in the locker room; and he equated that emotional (and in his opinion, soft) response with women.  He obviously veered off topic and failed to deliver his point effectively. And once Bruce ripped women in sports media, his perspective was lost in the uproar.

My tweeted response after initially hearing the rant:  “@ALawRadio Most men couldn’t handle the road I’ve traveled @DamonBruce Any time you want to tell me why you’re so much tougher than me, call my show.”

Damon sent me multiple private messages within moments of my tweet. He apologized profusely, told me he respects my work and career tremendously, and said he never intended to disparage women in our business. He also admitted he should’ve left gender out of his rant altogether. Of course, that’s not what he did and definitely not what he said. While I believe the subsequent death threats and his suspension from KNBR are way over the top, Bruce owns the words he uses on the air, just as I do when I screw up on my radio show.

My initial reaction to Bruce’s comments was indignance. To climb to the highest rungs on the sports broadcasting ladder, women have no choice but to be tough and thick-skinned and resilient. I can only share my experience, but I empathize with Martin who says he’s been bullied and harassed since he joined the Dolphins. Early in my career, I was verbally and sexually harassed. I was ostracized and mocked, and I never fit in. I was warned about a “locker room atmosphere” and told to get used to it. It’s never been a real comfortable environment for me, not since the beginning. In sports radio, at least 90% of the producers and talent are male. I don’t look like everyone else, talk like everyone else, think like everyone else, or act like everyone else. I’ve never been part of the fraternity, and nothing’s been handed to me. I don’t get jobs based on how I look since it doesn’t matter on the radio. And I run into a double standard everywhere I turn. My male counterparts can make mistakes or get their facts wrong, and most often, they’re given the benefit of the doubt. When I mess up, people call me all manner of nasty names on social media and yell about how I shouldn’t have a job. Every time I host a show, I receive tweets about how women shouldn’t be allowed to talk football since they never played. I once responded by telling a hater that John Clayton (one of the most respected NFL insiders on the planet) never played pro football either. The listener replied, “He played in high school.” Right…because high school football is EXACTLY like the NFL! The discrimination against women in sports media is inherent. It comes with the territory…which means I had to sink or swim. Let it get to me or use it to make me tougher. So when I hear guys like Damon Bruce claim that women don’t have anything to say and don’t belong in the man’s world of sports, I can feel my heart rate go up. What does he know about harassment and surviving it? What does he know about feeling the pressure that comes with so many people rooting for you to fail? What does he know about banging your head on a glass ceiling until you find a way to crack it?

My secondary reaction to Bruce’s rant was to grin because I know the truth. Every doubter, every piece of hate mail, every vulgar name, every listener or male colleague who treats me like I don’t belong…it all serves as motivation. They tell me I’m not good enough and can’t do the job, and I respond by working harder so I can prove them wrong. I cried the first time I read a nasty message from a listener and the first time I came across an internet chat room ripping me to pieces. These days, I laugh. Without the resistance, obstacles, and discrimination, I wouldn’t be nearly as good at my job. I wouldn’t know the value of being unique and staying true to who I am. I wouldn’t be as comfortable in my own skin or know how to stand my ground when I defend unpopular opinions on the air. I wouldn’t know how to choose my battles nor would I appreciate the beauty of the breakthrough. I wouldn’t understand what it means to hang onto my faith and God’s promises for dear life in those darkest moments when it feels like all hope is lost. For those reasons and more, I wouldn’t trade any part of my journey or one painful experience for the easy road.

Thank you, Mr. Bruce. You’ve splashed fuel on the fire. Who cares if you want me in the sandbox? I’ve earned my piece of real estate, and I’m here to stay. Women in sports media are here to stay, like it or not.

19 Responses to “MY Sandbox”

  1. Amy, thank you for this. This is so well thought out and written. You are an awesome and accomplished so much in your career and you deserve and should enjoy every single bit of it. I love you.

  2. Raymond Williams Says:

    Miss Lawrence, thank you for your intelligent response. I hate to say that it may not come in our time, but hopefully an individual will be judged by the content and quality of their work not by what they carry in their shorts. From the 1st time I heard you, I enjoyed your perspective on sports. That has nothing to do with your gender. Just how you see things. Please keep up the great work.

  3. Ata way, Amy! This was a great article. The words that resonate so much with me were “Stay true to who you are!” That works for males and females – work hard, be prepared, tell the truth, and stay true to yourself. My best to you Amy! There are more rungs to be climbed on your ladder of success.
    Marv Bittinger, 11/14/13 at 8:55 AM.

  4. Amy, you should have Suzyn Waldman on your program because she was the first voice ever heard on WFAN in NYC. Also, She was the second woman to ever do play by play baseball on television and is one of the pioneers of sports radio and television broadcasting in terms of what she has done for your profession.

    Suzyn is also a wonderful lady as well as I met her in Baltimore back in the late 80′s. She may come have a tough side to her at times but with what she had to go through she really had to back then. However in reality she is a sweetheart just like you Amy and you should interview her because she’s been through it all as I mentioned.

  5. Annette Davis Says:

    Way to go, Amy! Kudos from Duke and me.

  6. Amy, you don’t need any mans validation. You are at the top as far as knowledge of all sports and a winning personality (bar none)..so keep flying you’re only going to go higher in your career. Its hard to stop a train….an OranGe one at that. JR

  7. James Doherty Says:

    I like your style, Amy. Who really gives a rats ass what gender an analyst is? We have Jackie McMullan here in Boston and she’s excellent.

  8. I Like what you said . I am saddened this person took this route however .Live Radio is just that live not taped and once its out there like you said you own it. I think you do a great job. There are a lot of female sports fans out there ! I watch uconns ladies basketball and the wnba . As a guy i have heard the most stupid comments about those athletes. Its amazing how far prejudice and mean people get in life . Hats off to those like you who try and do their work with integrity its a lost art…

  9. I Like what you said . I am saddened this person took this route however .Live Radio is just that live not taped and once its out there like you said you own it. I think you do a great job. There are a lot of female sports fans out there ! I watch uconns ladies basketball and the wnba . As a guy i have heard the most stupid comments about those athletes. Its amazing how far prejudice and mean people get in life . Hats off to those like you who try and do their work with integrity its a lost art…

  10. “My sandbox”? Really? Because he is a guy? How stupid. I was so bummed when you left ESPN because it means I don’t get to hear you nearly as often. But I’m glad I found the blog and will be reading and commenting. I think you do fine work. I think It is very clear that you are a thinker, when you make a point, you don’t just blare it, you back it up. I am sorry there are bigots and idiots, and I am so glad you rise above. Keep on, Amy.

    • Thank you, Kevin. It was the right move for me to CBS. You can always listen on-line at cbssportsradio.com (also find a listen of stations there). Hope you’ll get to tune in again soon. Sincerely, Amy

  11. ROBERT CHARLES PICKERING Says:

    I thought you might be aware that “The Gunslinger”, Brett Favre, will appear on “Today” Monday and was interviewed on a variety of subjects: The Miami Dolphin situation, His slight loss of memory since retiring. I saw him on the NFL Network last Sunday in a similar interview. He now serves as a volunteer assistannt coach and OC at Oak Grove HS, just outside of Hattiesburg. Great to see he is still doing fairly well, he has become a 3d generation football coach, just like his father Definately a future HOFamer.

    And I enjoyed your discussion on violence in Hockey. I’ve never been out of the South, but learned as a kid in HS just outside of Houston watching the old WHA Houston Aeros when the great Gordie Howe came of retirement and played a couplf of seasons with his two sons. Things have gotten much better since then with the old “Broad Street Bullies” (Philadelphia Flyers). Today, I watch the beauty of Martin St. Louis and the artistry of his teammate; here’s hoping he recovers very soon.

    I’ll “see you on the radio”.

  12. Jonathan (San Francisco) Says:

    Jonathan Martin’s response to bullying in the locker room was atypical. Men are defined by toughness in our society both physically and emotionally. In reality, however, gender appropriate emotional responses regardless of one’s situation do not exist. Our responses whether male or female, are based on our values and experience. The problem is that we are not humanizing the issue which, would bring us together. As human beings we need to acknowledge that discrimination occurs equally: (racial discrimination being one example) to men and women both. Once we do, we would then be able to empathize with one another.

    P.S. Lovely piece, and love the show Amy

  13. Very well said. You deserve all you have accomplished with much more ahead. Those who need to find fault need to find it somewhere else other than themselves. Consider the source and move on. Your the best. Will be listening .

  14. Great article. Agree with the others. You have accomplished so much with more ahead. Forget the rants of those who like to lay the faults of their own at the feet of others but glad you challenged it.Anyway you are terrific and your knowledge is always informative.

  15. “The amount of women talking in sports to the amount of women who have something to say is one of the most disproportionate ratios I’ve ever seen in my freakin’ life.”

    That is the most ludricous statements. Men are way worse, this ratio plays in all talk radio situations. To think men have something to say more is asinine.

  16. Very. Well. Said. As a frequent listener, I must say I admire how well you present arguments that I disagree with. Your voice is welcome, respected, and valued. Please stay in the sandbox; that sandcastle that you’re building is pretty freakin’ awesome. Be well.

  17. Dave Mack Says:

    Amy, I am probably at the outer edge these days in CBS’s Sports Radio demographics but I just want you to know that I am in my eighth decade on our little planet, mostly blind now (I use text-to-speech to navigate the Internet), and I am an avid MLB, NFL, and NBA fan in KNBR-land and was quite surprised and disappointed by Damon’s rant. I always enjoy your weekend shows since discovering you on CBS Sports Radio. Keep up the good work as you are my absolute favorite and make my weekends! You go, “girl!, onward and upward! :-)

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