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A little more than a week ago, we were celebrating the ascension at last of Kim Ng to a MLB general manager job, the overqualified baseball lifer finally getting a chance to call the shots for a team.
But on Monday came another reminder of how hard it is for so many women who work for professional men’s sports teams to just do their jobs, let alone garner the respect of peers and advance in their organizations.
The Athletic published the story of Skyler Badillo, a former athletic training intern with MLS’ New York City FC who alleges repeated harassment by former NYCFC striker David Villa, both through a never-ending string of suggestive comments and unwanted physical contact.
Not only did NYCFC do nothing of substance to help Badillo, her two superiors in the training room supposedly had a bet going as to which of them would sleep with her first.
And once again, as has happened in numerous instances of rotten-from-the-top cultures within the Washington Football Team, or the Carolina Panthers under former owner Jerry Richardson, or the LSU football team under Ed Orgeron (and indeed, the campus writ large), a woman is shown — and by Badillo telling her story, legions of other women see — how little she’s valued by some organizations.
The thing is, the misogyny and sexism for women who work in a men’s sports organization is so pervasive that off-color comments are an expectation.
Badillo noted as much in a quote that will resonate with many who have walked a similar path.
“I knew to expect a decent amount of weird comments or off-hand jokes,” she told reporter Pablo Maurer. “And that stuff really never bothered me. I have brothers, I’ve been around men’s sports for a long time, that stuff wasn’t a problem.”
That is a problem. Enduring any level of abuse should not be just part of the job when a woman wants to work in a male-dominated workplace.
It’s not wrong that coworkers and peers will joke with each other, and in some cases it’s expected. Again, Badillo said as much — when she worked at NYCFC she was ribbed for wearing shoes that made her feet look too big or ill-advised nail polish color choices.
There is a vast difference between that and your bosses essentially expecting that one or both of them will bed you, and placing bets on who will do it first, not to mention turning a blind eye when they hear a player repeatedly tell a trainer that he loves her and see him place his hands on her inner thighs, both of which make her visibly uncomfortable.
Those actions are meant to demean, intimidate and wound, all of which is compounded when the organization does nothing. When they go unchecked, they can often intensify and get even worse for the victim.
Make no mistake: Had Badillo reacted angrily to any of Villa’s advances or refused to treat him, she would have been labeled unprofessional, possibly had her internship terminated, and/or seen her chances of remaining in her chosen field take a major hit.
In another all-too-familiar instance, we get the impression that the player in question, Villa, was allowed to allegedly torment Badillo because he was a star whose presence gave NYCFC and MLS more credibility, and likely put more fans in the seats.
We saw the same thing just days ago with USA Today’s reporting out of Baton Rouge, where running back Derrius Guice was accused of rape by two women but never received so much as a slap on the wrist from the LSU football staff or athletic department. Guice scoring touchdowns for the Tigers was more important than the lives of the women he assaulted.
None of this is OK. None of this should be tolerated, not by organizations, not by sponsors, not by fans, and certainly not by women who have been led to believe that it’s just the cost of wanting to have a career in sports.
This behavior is unfortunately familiar. Women stepping forward is also becoming familiar. Many have spoken out about their mistreatment with Washington, and an earlier USA Today report on Guice led to a third woman sharing her story of his sexual misconduct for the more recent story.
They shouldn’t have to step forward. They shouldn’t have endured what they did, shouldn’t have seen all manner of administrators and higher-ups turn blind eyes to their mistreatment.
Badillo is a marvel. The online name-calling from the soccer world’s uglier corners, the accusations that she wanted money from Villa or NYCFC (she has not taken any), the anxiety she feels when she sees his name in a headline, it is all unfair and cruel.
Yet she saw the women from Washington Football Team sharing their stories and gained strength from their bravery. She believes knowing they were not alone offered those women some comfort.
And for everything that’s happened after she accused Villa of sexual harassment, and for all that may come her way now that she’s gone public with her own story, Badillo still opened up.
“There’s not a ton to gain here for me, but I think a lot about how lonely it was to be in that position while I was there” at NYCFC, she said. “Every time a new story came out about a celebrity being accused of sexual harassment, I hoped like hell it would be [Villa] next. Not that I wanted him to have done these things to anyone else, but because knowing I wasn’t alone would have helped me so much.
“So if me sticking my neck out and telling my story helps one other person who was harassed by him, or at the club — or anywhere — feel even the slightest bit less alone, then it will have been worth it.”
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