In an article for the Deseret News in Utah, Amy Donaldson recalled a story involving retired slugger David Ortiz. Back in the late 1990’s, Ortiz was in the Twins’ minor league system playing for the Triple-A Salt Lake Buzz. Donaldson had transitioned from news reporting to sports reporting, covering the Buzz.
Clubhouses were — and still are, to some extent — breeding grounds for sexist behavior. With few (and sometimes zero) women around, sexist behavior and comments were rarely called out and dealt with. Behavior that was taught in high school was reinforced in college and through the minor leagues on into the majors.
Donaldson recalls some of the sexist treatment she endured, which included jokes but also dropping their towels on purpose in front of her while she was conducting interviews. She writes, “But, if I’m honest, my most common coping mechanism was ignoring the bad behavior altogether. I focused on my subject with intensity. I asked my questions; I recorded the answers. I did my job as quickly as I could and then later, when I was in the safety of my home, I laughed, cried, complained and sometimes tried to figure out ways to make changes.”
One time, Donaldson was interviewing Ortiz about being a minority player in a predominately white area. Ortiz’s teammates decided to pick on Donaldson during the interview. Donaldson describes what happened next:
I don’t know what happened to the left of us, I just heard the laughing. My eyes stayed locked on Ortiz, who without hesitating, turned to his teammates and sent a message that not only changed some of the behavior, it gave me an idea to prevent this situation.
“Hey, guys,” he said smiling and without raising his voice, “Leave her alone. She’s just trying to do her job.”
Then he turned back to me and continued whatever story he was telling me. No one got mad. No one responded. No one argued. And, not surprisingly, whatever was going on near us, stopped.
Importantly, Donaldson points out, “When men stand up to other men, sexual harassment ends. When women stand up to men, the behavior gets rationalized and we get criticized.” That’s true not just in baseball clubhouses but in the office, the shop, and at home. Kudos to Ortiz for setting an example back when he was in his early 20’s and kudos to Donaldson for sharing the story.