What happens when awful announcing gets personal? Unfortunately, it’s been happening for years and it really, pretty please, should stop. But that might just be wishful thinking.
The Las Vegas Raiders were sticking it to the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half of Monday Night Football this week when the Chiefs’ Chris Jones sacked Derek Carr and forced a punt. The ref threw a flag, called roughing the passer on Jones, kept the Raiders’ drive alive and, predictably, the hometown Kansas City crowd erupted in anger.
The flag was even more ill-timed considering a similarly questionable roughing the passer call when Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett got to Tom Brady Sunday.
While I was watching the game and sharing my own thoughts on the absurdity of the call, color commentator Troy Aikman gave me a whole new thing to be angry about.
“My hope is that the competition committee takes a look at this in the next set of meetings,” Aikman said, “and you know, we take the dresses off.”
“...we take the dresses off.”
“...We. Take. The. Dresses. Off.”
“...WE. TAKE. THE DRESSES. OFF.”
I pinched my arm to make sure I was still awake and wasn’t dreaming, because it’s 2022 and I thought these kinds of comments died off with the dinosaurs.
It’s been maybe half a century since Aikman was in school, and we know he’s taken a few bludgers to the head along the way, so maybe it’s time for some remedial education on things that fell out of vogue with the turn of the century. Unlike wide-legged jeans, though, these phrases aren’t making a comeback.
For Aikman (and anyone else who can benefit), let’s address why this comment was bad. Read slowly: when you use a trope specific to a group of people as a way to disparage a situation, you are insulting that group of people.
What Aikman said was not a microaggression (a statement or action that unintentionally discriminates against a group of people)—it was just a plain, full-tilt aggression from Aikman leveled on national television. It wasn’t a joke and was not meant to be funny or bring levity to the situation. In fact, it seemed like Aikman used the clause to imbibe his comment with even more vitriol.
Here are some phrases Aikman could have said instead. They’re also not funny and they also get the same point across without slapping half the population on the face:
- “With player safety being such a concern, we really need to find an alternative to penalizing defenses for making plays.”
- “The refs must have been watching a different play.”
- “A textbook tackle like that is the best way to protect the quarterback and the defensive player. I’m curious about how the refs will explain this one.”
- “There were two fumbles on that play: the football and the flag.”
- “When are the refs going to start being concerned about defensive player safety in the same way they are with quarterbacks?”
- “Maybe we move to two-hand touch for quarterbacks.”
Or what about just saying “that was a bad call. I hope the competition committee looks at this the next time they meet.”? Simple, yet effective.
If you really must reference women in some way, try this: “Wow, these players really need to grow a uterus.” You know, since they’re clearly the tougher organ than the male alternative.
Aikman’s comment is one of those that makes me not want to watch football (an important point of consumer feedback, @espn). When I tune in for a game, I want to be entertained and listen to accurate and engaging commentary (which was unlikely with Aikman anyway—perhaps that was my own error). Not casually insulted and told that as a dress wearer, I am weak and have no place being part of the sport.
I also must acknowledge that this slight hits personally. I am a woman. I’ve been told to shut up and that I’m stupid by many folks reading my columns in the past—things I doubt the commenters said to my male counterparts. I hate the argument that maybe I should be less sensitive to these snide remarks, especially when much of the time, those comments are coming from people who have not had to deal with microaggressions the way many women and diverse populations have.
That’s because the real issue is that these grown, privileged men who continue to get opportunities over more diverse, better suited candidates and who get paid millions to commentate on games should find more creative ways to get their point across than inferring that half the population is weak.
The comment is even more challenging considering this year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX and its impact on women in sports. It came at a time when we’re finally seeing more women in coaching roles, as referees, in the front office in the college football and NFL ranks.
Moreover, Aikman and Buck literally commented during several breaks in Monday’s game on the NFL’s Crucial Catch campaign which aims to raise awareness of cancer screenings. Aikman’s subsequent comment belittles the women cancer survivors he and Buck praised at other points in the broadcast for being so brave and tough.
AND FURTHERMORE, the fact the comment came just before halftime, when the broadcast got handed over to the incredible Suzy Kolber (in a dress) who just had to listen to her colleague hurl a blanket insult at all women and then go on and work like nothing had happened, is so cringe. It’s like watching the commentary from Dodgeball. Then again, if you’re a woman working in America, you’ve probably had to deal with the same situation. It’s less funny when it’s real.
Look, those two roughing the passer calls cited earlier have been bad. Like, really bad. While many of us agree with the spirit of Aikman’s statement that something needed to change, his comment became irrelevant the moment he used it as a platform to demonstrate his ignorance. There’s no reason to disparage an entire group of humans because you’re trying to make a point about it. In this case, it’s called misogyny.
Finally, Tuesday, Oct. 11—just one day after this incident—happens to be the International Day of the Girl. In a world where we need to celebrate progress, Aikman showed just how far we have to go.