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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Sunderland manager David Moyes landed in hot water after verbally abusing a reporter after a game last month.

Moyes’ tirade indicates larger issue of sexism in ‘locker room banter’

With Sunderland nestled firmly in last place of the English Premier League, club manager David Moyes is unsurprisingly under plenty of public pressure and scrutiny.

Last week, however, he was thrust into the global spotlight for a different reason.

A video of Moyes verbally abusing BBC journalist Vicki Sparks, after a March 18 game, leaked with the 53-year-old responding inappropriately to a question about the added pressure of having the club’s owner in attendance.

“You were just getting a wee bit naughty at the end there, so just watch yourself,” Moyes said. “You still might get a slap even though you’re a woman. Careful the next time you come in.”

In the wake of this incident, where Moyes verbally assaulted Sparks, observers have expressed a wide range of reactions. Some believe that Moyes should be reprimanded by the English Football Association while others believe his comments were only meant as banter.

While it may be possible that Moyes saw his comments as banter in the moment, that perspective in itself is a problem.

To treat a post-match interview as a proper context for banter is to undermine Sparks’ professionalism and ultimately treat her in a way that a male reporter would likely never be treated.

So while the argument that Moyes was simply making a joke tries to focus on his intentions rather than his actions, it falls woefully short. He dug a hole for himself not when he verbally abused Sparks, but when he first approached the interview as a place where such language and so-called “banter” was appropriate.

Furthermore, this incident can’t be swept under the vague, broad rug of athletes and coaches disrespecting reporters. Sure, Moyes was disrespectful to Sparks, but not in the more common sense that he was annoyed and hoped to avoid the media.

While he may have been disappointed with Sunderland’s scoreless draw that day, Moyes’ words reflect more than that: a bias toward female reporters and an attempt to intimidate Sparks.

Moyes telling Sparks to be “careful the next time you come in” was a not-so-veiled threat to her job security and the type of rude, audacious statement he would never dare say to a male reporter.

If there was any doubt that Moyes treats female reporters differently than their male counterparts, another video of Moyes verbally abusing a female interviewer surfaced in recent days.

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In the 2012 video, Moyes (then Everton’s manager) ends an interview with the BBC’s Jacqui Oatley with a slew of expletives. While Moyes doesn’t come off as overtly sexist as he does in the more recent video, there’s no doubt that he was.

More significantly, it’s clear that Moyes doesn’t treat female reporters with respect or view them as equal to their male counterparts. It doesn’t take an overt, sexist comment to sniff out sexism—just an air of blatant disrespect that is entirely inconsistent with his treatment of male reporters.

Ultimately, Moyes’ recent tirade doesn’t deserve to be held up next to innocent post-game incidents like the past tirades of Allen Iverson or Dennis Green.

Rather, it should be held up, rewatched and critiqued as a gross reminder of the misogynistic culture that remains in soccer and locker rooms around the world.

Criticizing Moyes, who recently issued a non-apology—he said his comments were in the “heat of the moment”—likely won’t change his worldview or perception of female reporters.

However, there are plenty of aspiring athletes and coaches at far more formative times in their lives with more open minds than the stubborn, antiquated Moyes.

Sexism won’t be stomped out any time soon, but starting to build a progressive and respectful culture in sports could yield massive changes in the future.

Nothing is guaranteed, but for now, that’s all we can do.

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