Just this week Blue Jays manager John Gibbons made a casually sexist comment about putting players in dresses and rightly received a lot of pushback. But what about teams and team-branded outlets that are expressing overt sexism?
The flagship radio station for the Rays, 620 WDAE, regularly uses its twitter account and website to share pictures of scantily clad woman, "underboob" and anything else presumably likely to draw the attention of the male listener/viewer.
Here's a sample of some tweets sent by the account on Thursday, with the images grayed out:
Yes, if you are unfamiliar with the work of 620 WDAE, this is perfectly in character for their website, and has been for some 20-odd years.
The 21st century version of their content includes not only hosting sexualized images on their website, but going further by tweeting out those pictures from their station's account.
Here are more examples:
In case the content of the second to last tweet is unclear, it's 48 pictures of boobs, and we're not cherry-picking our tweets. These are all from a six minute span.
We get what they're thinking.
620 WDAE, like much of sports radio, has a target audience. Male, white, 18-54, middle to upper income salaries. WDAE has also clearly made the decision that their target listeners are the good ol' boys, for whom the naked female tush is a form of catnip. So if the men who listen to sports talk radio also like to look at pictures of scantily clad women, shouldn't WDAE give the men what they want? Don't they deserve a source of titillation that won't stand out on their browsing history? "Excuse me, honey, while I go keep myself up to date on the latest Tampa Bay sports news."
Maybe. We're not marketing experts. We write about baseball. But this is not just any old radio station. This is the RAYS radio station, plastered not only with the Rays logo but also with the words RAYS RADIO, in the Rays font, as part of the station's very own logo.
Everything that they do is implicitly done with the endorsement of Rays Baseball.
Let's note that the Rays Radio group has their own twitter account, which is the source that you can always go to for the latest Rays audio content, but the questions are clear: Does this content matter to Rays fans? Should this content matter to Rays fans? And is objectification of women really what the Rays stand for?
Many people will not care about this issue, which is why it has gone on for as long as it has.
The station's parent company, IHeartMedia, is in the business to make money (also, they're currently some $10-20 billion in debt) and nothing sells like butt pics. And similar content is readily available elsewhere—it's not as though they are the main source of racy pictures on the internet. No doubt there are a bunch of folks who read this and can't believe anyone would care. Many of us simply avoid WDAE other than for game coverage anyway.
But here's why we think it matters:
The Team's Public Face
Few local businesses are as careful with their public image as the Rays.They go to commendable lengths to identify themselves with community improvement efforts. They do a great job working with players so that they have positive public images.
Our guess is that the Rays would not accept sponsorship from one of Tampa Bay's many strip clubs, like Joe Redner's Mons Venus. But when their flagship radio station
Breaking News: Woman Watch Baseball!
This may be shocking to some of you, but men are not the only ones who buy baseball tickets. Or team gear. When the Rays flagship station leads with the underboob, the message the Rays are cooperatively sending to at least some women is: "Your support and respect means nothing to us." In other words, the WDAE's marketing strategies may run at cross purposes to the Rays' efforts to broaden the brand.
Sending the Wrong Message?
Finally, isn't there something a little disingenuous about professional sports front offices making the appropriate "tsk, tsk" noises when their athletes are accused of violence against their wives or girlfriends, but then associating themselves with media outlets that use sexualized images of women as marketing fodder as Evan Longoria peers through the headlining photo?
To be clear: Research supports the idea that men's exposure to images that objectify women is at the very least associated with a higher acceptance of violent behavior toward women (noted here, and with evidence that the use of such images in increasing found here.)
The issue however is not whether selling products with naked women is good or bad or something in between. The issue is whether our Tampa Bay Rays, who hope we’ll bring our families to their games and open our public treasury to support their stadium, want to link their brand to this type of advertising.
Rays fans, including many who post here, were angered when the Rays included accused sex offender Josh Lueke on their roster. If we as a fanbase are ready to boo a player with his history, shouldn't we be at least a little critical of using naked women to promote our team's flagship radio station?
We are operating under the assumption the Rays do not in fact endorse this ugliness from their flagship radio station and the promotion of these images are the work of ignorance on the station's part.
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When contacted, Rays officials declined to comment on the situation.The radio station itself did not respond to our e-mail request for comment.
At the end of the day you have to wonder about the message these images send to women in general, and particularly young fans—boys and girls alike—who are the likely ones to be using twitter. They are the future all baseball teams depend on, right?
But it goes beyond a "think of the children" argument. 620 WDAE advertises itself as the "Home of the Rays."
In our opinion, that "home" should be welcoming to all Rays fans.