An excerpt from my latest Chicago Tribune column:
The Chicago Sky has come under fire for replacing what had been the only women announcers pairing in the WNBA with two men who reportedly will receive higher salaries.
The situation flared up when the Sky hired Eric Collins on play-by-play and Stephen Bardo as analyst for its new broadcast team. They replace Lisa Byington (play-by-play) and Brooke Weisbrod (analyst), who had called Sky games the last two seasons.
Weisbrod questioned the team’s priorities.
“By removing two women (from the broadcast team), what kind of message are you sending?” Weisbrod said. “You have young women fans who watch the Sky, and it has become their normal to see two women call the games. Now what? That message completely missed (the Sky).
Kathy Kudravi, the chair of the Association for Women in Sports Media, echoed that sentiment.
“Teams have every right to change their announcer lineups to suit their needs,” Kudravi said in an email. “However, it is unfortunate the Sky chose to move from a unique position in the league.”
CEO Adam Fox said he is “disappointed” with how the Sky is being portrayed in the wake of this decision. He cited the team’s history of women in high-profile roles: Margaret Stender was its first president; and Pokie Chatman is the current general manager and coach.
However, Fox also stressed gender can’t be the ruling factor in the Sky’s personnel decisions.
“We are an organization that has a long record of diversity and inclusion,” Fox said. “When you’re doing things this way, you have to make sure you bring in the best people you can. We have to do that regardless if the person is a man or woman.”