Dave Zirin has a column in the LA Times about the return of Imus to the airwaves next week. He doesn't really say anything new--but that's okay because at this point, it's more important to keep the discourse going which is harder in our 24/7 news culture. Plus he's a good writer; intelligent and just the right amount of snarky. (I've been using that word a lot lately--I must be feeling kind of snarky myself.)
Imus' punishment in retrospect appears like a massage on the wrist: He received a $20-million settlement from CBS for cutting his contract short, he took a nine-month vacation, and now he's returning to commercial radio.
We are relentlessly sold the idea that our games -- our precious sports -- are a safe space from this kind of political abuse. Sports are a "field of dreams" where hard work always meets rewards. We treasure this idea. When the Rutgers basketball players defy the odds and make the NCAA finals -- and get called "nappy-headed hos" for their trouble -- it presses an all-too-raw nerve.
But I do have to take issue with one of Zirin's points. He says: Every woman who has played sports, and every man with a female athlete in the family, felt Imus' words in a way that cut deeply.
The implication there is that every man who knows personally--okay maybe not just knows--but loves and cares for a female athlete is on board with the whole gender equity thing. I don't disagree that these men probably did feel Imus's insult in ways others not associated with female athletes did. But there is plenty of evidence out there that shows that association does not necessarily engender consciousness-raising. In fact, David Whitley, the writer who complained about women's intercollegiate bowling, has an athletic daughter himself.
Think about it: most men know some women--many men know women intimately. Doesn't mean they're not sexist.
The people who believe what Imus said was acceptable are outlyers, certainly. But those who believe in true equality, the kind Title IX (which Zirin invokes) has been constructed to achieve, are not. And some of them even have daughters, wives, sisters, friends, girlfriends, mothers who have benefited from the law.