We Are Not a Distraction

In case you missed it, NHL on NBC analyst Mike Milbury made an incredibly insensitive and misogynistic comment during Thursday’s game between the Capitals and the Islanders.

In the clip above, Milbury blatantly refers to women as a distraction to players. Whether he is referring to female fans, reporters, photographers, other members of staff, or the player’s wives and girlfriends is unclear. But what is clear is the lack of respect Milbury has for women. Any woman present at any game, whether they are a fan, family, or an employee is not a distraction. They are a person sharing in their love for this sport.

Instagram story post from Jessica Kohout, fiancée to Vancouver Canucks’ defenseman Jordie Benn
Tweet from Amanda Elliott, wife of Flyers’ Goalie Brian Elliott

This isn’t the first time Milbury has made an insulting comment about women and hockey. He compared the empty arenas in the NHL bubble to “beer leagues” and to “NCAA Women’s Hockey.”

While many women have (rightfully) condemned Milbury’s comments… :

Many men (and strangely some women) felt the need to defend Milbury and make women feel like they were being dramatic and that we were overreacting:

This is not a callout post about all men and this is not to say that all men were reacting like this. However, this culture has been created by men and continues to exist and thrive because of this type of behavior. Men are crucial to fixing this problem and that starts with not speaking over women when something offends them. In any instance, if someone says something offensive about a particular group of people, and if you don’t exist within that group it is not your call to label something as offensive or not. It’s not always about you. As a man, it is not up for you to decide if something is misogynistic because you are not a woman. It’s that simple.

This kind of behavior is unfortunately expected within hockey culture and within sports culture in general. Women are often harassed, referred to as objects, or not seen as necessary in a “man’s game.” This is simply not the truth. Milbury’s comments while initially offensive are also incredibly damaging. Girls and women who watch hockey and/or play in it had to hear a former professional hockey player refer to them as distractions in the sport they love. They had to hear that if they get to collegiate level hockey, they should expect their stands to be empty. They had to hear that if they want to work in hockey one day, they are seen as distractions. These comments strike the core of many women and young girls (including myself) who try so hard to be successful in sports.

These comments are not isolated incidents, they are a bigger reflection of the damaging culture surrounding female sports fans and women who work in sports. The harassment claims from the women within the Washington Football Team’s organization are a more recent example of how deeply embedded this disgusting “culture” is.

No woman is ever safe from these comments and behaviors. Danica Patrick a retired professional race car driver who is heavily respected in the auto racing community isn’t even safe from these comments. The comments in the clip below are disgusting and uncomfortable and have zero place in television and in any form of communication.

This culture carries over into fanbases as well. More often than not, a woman who has a favorite team or player that she posts about often has her interests watered down by others. It’s often claimed that they’re only watching because of their male significant other or because they find a certain player attractive. 

Spoiler alert: women can enjoy sports beyond the depth of attraction to players. It’s possible, I know. What a crazy thought.

It is no secret that women who want to work in sports have to work much harder than their male counterparts. They are often seen as not smart enough. They are often seen purely as eye candy for athletes, analysts, and male fans alike. They are also often sexually harassed and degraded down to sexual objects purely existing for the pleasure of men.

Women exist, thrive, and have a purpose far beyond pleasure for men. Women are able to have successful careers beyond pleasing men. To bring us down to the level as objects purely for pleasure is disgusting and insulting. To think we don’t have the capability to succeed in a male-dominated industry without “putting out” in some form is misogynistic and offensive. Women have brains just like men do. We have the same capabilities to understand sports. We have the same capabilities to write about sports, to talk about sports, to analyze sports, to work in sports and to be a fan of sports. We are here and we are not going anywhere. So you will respect our existence. If you don’t, you’re not being “canceled”, you’re a misogynist. Don’t project your issues onto women.

And for Mike Milbury: your comments are disgusting and hurtful and damaging and you should be ashamed. There is no place for what you said or how you think within hockey and within sports in general. Apologies only cut it if you work to change your attitude and outlook. Do better.

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