Listen to me, sweet baby
¿Aló? Señor George Solomon? Greetings from Arizona. I’m contacting you today in your role as ombudsman for ESPN and, because you’ve previously denounced demeaning, sexist behavior in the workplace. I’m sure you’ve received a slew of complaints and accolades after the highly publicized firing of ESPN announcer Ron Franklin.
This call is in reference to the same matter, basically to say bravo to ESPN for swiftly dealing with Franklin’s inappropriate, unethical and rude behavior. When I first read the headline, which basically said he was fired for calling a female reporter “sweet baby,” I immediately thought of my viejo, who calls younger women in the office “mija,” shortened vernacular for “mi hija,” Spanish for “my daughter.” I was thinking this would be a learning moment for him.
But then I read more about the conversation and was appalled to learn that the woman in question was sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards; that the incident took place at a meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, prior to the Chick-fil-A Bowl (ironically enough), and that at the meeting, Edwards was talking to ESPN announcer Rod Gilmore about his wife Marie Gilmore, who was recently elected as mayor of Alameda, California. (Ha, more irony: Mayor Gilmore was the first black woman to serve on the Alameda City Council) AND … that when Ron Franklin joined the conversation, he told Edwards, “Listen to me sweet baby, let me tell you something …”
I thought that was bad enough, but ay, dios mío. When Edwards objected to his tone and word choice, Franklin allegedly responded, “OK, then listen to me, a—hole.”
Is this how you understand the incident? I called Edwards to no avail. And now Franklin is suing ESPN for wrongful termination. If so, please, please promise to share with the big honchos of the Disney-owned enterprise that Lola from Arizona and women from around the world are watching.
I’m sure Mr. Sexist will come up with an explanation as to why he demeaned Jeannine Edwards. Perhaps he’ll feign ignorance or come up with excuses for his use of sexist language in the past as well.
It’s one thing to call someone you love “sweet baby” in a genuinely endearing way, or an a—hole an a—hole, and a totally different thing for a chauvinist to call a female colleague “sweet baby” in a condescending tone AND then an “a—hole” for objecting to being treated like a piece of meat.
Some men claim to be “involuntarily sexist,” but I don’t buy it. As they say, ignorance of the law doesn’t make one any less guilty, no? You see, my hubby thinks of “mija” as a term of endearment, despite the fact that I’ve told him muchas veces that it’s inappropriate and demeaning to use the term in the workplace and, mind you, especially with women with whom he’s not related. I have yet to meet anyone who wants her boss to call her “my daughter.” C-r-e-e-p-y. In an effort to accommodate me, he’ll sometimes use “sweetie” instead. Not good. Are you following me?
But while my viejo has some work to do in dealing with his deeply, culturally rooted and internalized sexist language, Ron Franklin’s remarks are beyond sexist, and as a media professional, he’s totally out of line. His words were stupid, for sure, but also evidence of the pervasive objectification and sexualization of women, particularly women in the workplace. Not to mention women in sports.
So, thank you, Mr. Solomon, for listening. We have bigger pescados to fry right now here in Arizona, but please know we care. And we’re watching.