|Thursday, October 10
Updated: October 21, 12:09 AM ET
Women sportscasters bristle at commentator's remarks
ESPN.com news services
Have you ever noticed those sideline reporters at NFL games? Andy Rooney has, and he's as cranky about them as he is everything else.
The curmudgeonly "60 Minutes" commentator, interviewed on MSG Network's "Boomer Esiason Show" last week, drew the ire of women sportscasters when he said, "The only thing that really bugs me about television's coverage is those damn women they have down on the sidelines who don't know what the hell they're talking about.
"I mean, I'm not a sexist person, but a woman has no business being down there trying to make some comment about a football game."
Monday Night Football sideline reporter Melissa Stark declined to comment and CBS would not make its prominent female sportscasters available for interviews. MSG also declined comment and Esiason, who works for both CBS and MSG, was not available.
Rooney, 83, has drawn protests in the past for his comments on homosexuals, evangelists, Native Americans, Greek-Americans and blacks. CBS suspended him in 1990 for a comment attributed to him in The Advocate, a gay magazine, in which he was quoted as saying, "Blacks have watered down their genes because the less intelligent ones are the ones who have the most children. They drop out of school, do drugs and get pregnant." Rooney denied ever making the comment and the reporter did not tape the interview.
When asked about the remark this week, Rooney did not back down, telling Westchester County (N.Y.) newspaper the Journal News that he doesn't think much of male sideline reporters, either.
"He really hasn't watched because I've known and loved football since I was 8," said ESPN's Suzy Kolber, who hosts Edge NFL Match-Up. "I host the most hard-core X's-and-O's show. I clearly know football and I deserve to be down there. He has a right to say what he wants, but from my standpoint, it's not a reflection of me. I clearly know what I'm talking about."
According to the report, few actually saw Rooney's segment on the 30-minute show, which aired Friday at 11 p.m. ET and re-aired Sunday morning. Rooney's comments came at the end of a lengthy interview that touched on several sports subjects, though most of it was about football. Rooney is a longtime Giants season-ticket holder.
Kolber was not the only female sportscaster to bristle at Rooney's comments.
"The first thing that came into my mind is, does anybody take Andy Rooney seriously anyway?" ESPN SportsCenter anchor Linda Cohn said. "He doesn't take himself seriously half the time anyway.
"The second thing is, why is he stereotyping all women? God knows if he watches SportsCenter and has ever seen me. You have to judge each person separately. The third thing is, when was the last time he followed any of these sideline reporters around doing their job?"
"(He's) a man who's almost 80 years old and of another generation," said Suzyn Waldman, a Yankees broadcaster for two New York networks and the first voice heard when WFAN Radio went on the air in 1987. "When a man of that generation says women shouldn't be someplace, you can't take it seriously as long as it doesn't stop anyone from getting a job. He's got a right to his opinion but he should know better."
Still, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said that Rooney's age and background are not excuses.
"Making a generalization like women aren't capable about talking about sports is very much like saying old, white men are all sexist — you can always find an example like Andy Rooney, but it doesn't prove the generalization," Gandy told the Journal News . "Andy Rooney, like my 9-year-old says, is so last month. So a statement he makes isn't really worth a lot of our time."
Rooney's comments also got back to Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations. Burk has spearheaded a fight to have Augusta National Golf Club admit its first female member.
"Mr. Rooney has proven by his remarks he is indeed sexist," Burk told the Journal News. "It's beneath a major television personality to denigrate anybody who is trying to do their job and is doing it well. It surprises me that any public figure would have the insensitivity and/or bigoted position to come out publicly that way. Most folks who get in a position like Mr. Rooney is in -- even if they feel that way privately -- know it's not OK to say it publicly."
Don Hewitt, executive producer of "60 Minutes," told the paper he was unaware of Rooney's comments and wasn't interested in hearing them.
"I'm interested in what Andy says on this broadcast, which I edit. I'm not his father or his mother," he said.
According to the Journal News, Rooney, who has weathered every other storm, did not seem concerned that his latest remarks would cause a big flap.
"What are they going to do, fire me from the Boomer Esiason show? Pay me less money?" he said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.