Tonight’s Rays game at Tropicana Field will be an historic first: an all-women broadcast team will anchor every aspect of coverage, in an MLB produced game to be broadcast on YouTube.
The milestone for the sport has been widely lauded, and the women involved rightfully praised for their accomplishments.
Melanie Newman, Sarah Langs, Alanna Rizzo, Heidi Watney and Lauren Gardner spoke to @LesterHoltNBC ahead of their history-making broadcast of the Baltimore Orioles-Tampa Bay Rays game.— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) July 20, 2021
It will be the first time in MLB history where the broadcasters for a game are all women. pic.twitter.com/OOV1XaGTSW
Unfortunately, the regional sports network that carries Rays broadcasts — Bally Sports — denied Rays fans from seeing their local woman broadcaster honored as well, per the Tampa Bay Times:
The historic game could have had more of a local angle, as Rays in-game reporter Tricia Whitaker was invited to be part of the crew but was not allowed due to Bally Sports Sun rules. Two Bally officials did not respond to requests for comment.
It would appear that Tricia Whitaker’s contract with Bally Sports — which is owned by the radical, right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group — does not permit her to work MLB broadcasts, and accordingly she was denied a chance to participate in the event.
By contrast, Baltimore Orioles sideline reporter Melanie Newman will be part of the broadcast. Like Whitaker, Newman is an employee of a regional sports network, MASN.
The Tampa Bay Times reached out to Bally Sports twice for clarity or comment, and the silence might speak for itself.
It is appalling that any employer would deny their employee this honor, and the local media should not allow Bally Sports to remain silent on the matter. Tricia Whitaker is widely respected in the industry, in the Rays organization, among Rays players, and by the fans — but not, evidently, by her employer.
Did the decision come from Bally Sports or Sinclair Media? Was the ruling an attempt to enforce a draconian policy that prevents cross collaboration with other broadcasts? Or was the decision made in order to distance Sinclair Media from an event that celebrates an historic accomplishment by women, and therefore toes the line too close to feminism?
By leaving the reason up to speculation, Bally Sports is either welcoming the worst interpretations, or hiding from accountability.