While no one here excuses what former U of M athletic director Norwood Teague reportedly did to a Star Tribune female beat writer, I wonder out loud why it hasn’t been asked why she put herself in a bad position in the first place.
“I was still fairly green on my first real beat,” wrote Amelia Rayno in her August 11 published first-person account. “Cultivating sources is a critical part of a reporter’s job. Sometimes that crosses into social gatherings. Having a drink with a source is not at all unusual. He and I had drinks five to seven times, all but one of those occasions in a group setting.”
Big mistake, Rayno later learned when, according to her, she had a drink with Teague where he acted like a “pinch daddy” and then began sending her suggestive nighttime text messages. She reported it to her newspaper: “I didn’t want my career interrupted… Making a formal complaint could have resulted in me losing access at the university. It could have forced me to take another beat, perhaps out of sports…”
“I reached out to other women in the industry” for advice on how to handle the Teague advances, Rayno said. She perhaps should have asked the Black women sports reporters at the recent NABJ conference who spoke on how they can’t afford “crossing the line,” ironically the day before the Teague mess became public.
“It’s tough, because a female in this industry, people automatically assume you are dating a player or have relationships [with them],” noted Sandy Sharp, a former reporter who joined three current Black women sports journalists on the 90-minute panel discussion August 6.
The all-Black women panel unanimously agreed that they can’t afford to do something like Rayno, who naively believed that having a drink with a beat source who turned out to be a wolf in Gopher clothing was a necessary part of her beat. Rather, it’s virtually mandatory for them to set “professional boundaries” because of a clear and present fact:
They’re Black women in a White male-dominated industry.
“My rule of thumb is don’t put yourself in that predicament,” advised Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s Alyana Cristal.
“I never go out to dinner one on one. People will respect [you] when you are up front and honest,” added Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, a sideline reporter for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and the WNBA’s New York Liberty basketball analyst.
She noted that she has avoided such social invitations. “It’s not your intention, but it’s the perception. It might not be fair, but you are a public figure,” she pointed out.
Said Indianapolis Star’s Candace Buckner, the only Black NBA woman beat reporter, “That to me is impossible for a female reporter, going out with the guys to a club. At the end of the day, I am the [Indiana Pacers] beat reporter and you have to keep a respectful distance.”
We wonder if Rayno were Black would her employer give her “multiple options” including Rayno’s “suggestion” to see if Teague’s behavior continued before taking action. She instead was allowed not only to show her “greenness” but use her White privilege to whine on the possibility of losing her beat if she outed the former AD.
As a result, I concur with Ron Edwards, a weekly commentator in the MSR, who said last week that the Star Tribune Gopher basketball beat reporter allowed herself to be used by Teague.
“You have to draw the line,” concluded former ESPN anchor Cindy Brunson, now an Arizona Diamondbacks reporter, who told the MSR, “There’s got to be boundaries, and if there are not, everybody gets hurt in the end.”
Sadly, Rayno didn’t know how to draw such lines or set such boundaries.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.