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NBC color commentator Cris Collinsworth metaphorically kicked a hornet’s nest on Wednesday afternoon when he was surprised that women are knowledgable about football.
While calling the matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers with Mike Tirico, Collinsworth discussed conversations he had with Steelers fans before the game started. He mentioned talking to several women in particular, and for some reason was wowed that they knew so much about football.
“Everybody’s a fan,” Collinsworth said. “In particular the ladies that I met. They have really specific questions about the game. I’m like wow, just blown away. ...”
Collinsworth’s surprise that female football superfans exist did not impress social media, and he got immediately and thoroughly roasted for having such an old-fashioned view. A few hours later, Collinsworth released an apology on Twitter.
"Today on our broadcast I made reference to a couple of women I met in Pittsburgh who so impressed me with their football knowledge that I wanted to tell their story on the air. I know the way I phrased it insulted many. I'm so sorry. What I intended as a compliment to the fans of Pittsburgh, became an insult. I'm sick about insulting any fan, but especially female fans and journalists. I know firsthand how much harder they have to work than any of us in this industry. I was wrong and deeply apologize."
Collinsworth’s apology shows room for growth
To Collinsworth’s credit, his apology was a true apology. He actually used the words “I’m sorry” and connected them with what he did, instead of merely being sorry that people were offended (which is, for the record, not an actual apology for anything).
Collinsworth is sorry for insulting anyone, especially women, with his words. That shouldn’t be the end of his apology. The motivation behind those words — being so impressed with the knowledge of female football fans that he wanted to tell their story on the air — is what he should be apologizing for.
Female football fans aren’t new. They’re not novel or different or special, and they express their love of football in the same ways men do. Some help coach their kids. Some watch every single second of NFL RedZone. Some travel to see their favorite college team play every single game. Some play fantasy football, or even run their own leagues. Female football fans have been around as long as football has, and they’ve always been intense, interested, excited, proud, and every other possible emotion — just like male fans.
Collinsworth’s intentions weren’t bad. It seems like he truly did want to highlight women who are really interested in the game, because as he mentioned in his apology, women have a hard time getting opportunities in football. But highlighting them because he was impressed that women are so intensely interested in the game? That’s not great.
Collinsworth can and should continue to support female fans, especially since they’re often forgotten or ignored by broadcasters, advertisers, and the NFL itself. He just has to find a different way to do it, because being surprised they exist isn’t it.
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