Recent Harassment and Needing a Break
I was really on the fence about making this blog post, but I feel like some things need to be said to bring awareness to the types of harassment that women in sports media deal with.
I want to open up by saying that these statements are not a reflection of the Flyers as an organization, but a reflection of some of the fans and building workers of the games. Flyers employees have been nothing but respectful and supporting of me as a person and a photographer. I can confidently say that my safety and ability to do my job is a top concern of theirs.
So let’s dig into why I am writing this post. This is not for attention. This is not for pity. This is to bring awareness and maybe have some of you think twice about how you treat people.
I have been photographing the Flyers for about 7 years now for a variety of publications, local, national and international. I am a huge Flyers fan and this is a dream job for me. I wholeheartedly love my job in general, but it comes at a price.
I deal with general harassment on a regular basis from the fans at home Flyers games. This is unfortunately a hazard of the job being a woman in this role. I am seen as an easy target. I deal with a lot of comments, which my male colleagues are standing next to me and don’t deal with nearly as much of it as I do.
Here’s a short list of examples of some of the things that fans have said to me: “You should be holding a pom pom and not a camera.”
After refusing to take a drunk fans photo (not my job, I am there to cover the games and players): “You don’t have to be such a fucking bitch.”
“Oh this is a cute hobby for you to have.”
“What did you do to get this job?” (said in a snarky way insinuating something other than getting a college degree and working my ass off)
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. I have been forced to grow thick skin and put up with these things. The last two Flyers home games were something different, though. Two of my worst experiences doing this job happening within days of each other.
Saturday was the outdoor Stadium Series at the Lincoln Financial Field. I was assigned to cover the game by the NHL from an elevated position. I was free to roam all elevated levels of the Linc as long as I tried my best to be courteous and stay out of the way. This is something that I am used to covering home games from the concourse level. You are told to stay along the wall of the tunnel and make sure that you are blocking ideally no views of fans or as less views as possible. This is pretty easy for me since I am 5’3. I ended up borrowing an expensive lens from a kind fellow photographer that is worth about $11,000 new. I had a total of approximately $15,000 worth of equipment on me including my own gear. Keep this in mind as I describe what I endured.
I was standing along the wall of a tunnel in the upper deck level (best elevated position to avoid shooting through the glass). Fans repeatedly bumped me and pushed into me, causing me to be squished against the wall trying my best to protect my gear. I had one fan push me so hard that my camera body got pushed into my face, which left a bruise. One fan bumped into me with a full beer, covering my jacket arm and rain pants (thankfully not my gear). At home games at the Wells Fargo, I get bumped into maybe once or twice a game and the fan normally apologizes. Out of the multitudes of fans who bumped into me or pushed me out of their way, only one person apologized. There was no security guard or usher regularly at the tunnels I was shooting from at the upper deck. The ones that were standing there on occasion, who saw a few of these instances happen did nothing. I felt as if I had no space being there, like I was a nuisance and didn’t belong when all I was doing was trying to stay warm and dry and do my job. It was my first time covering a Stadium Series. I went into the game being excited and left feeling disrespected.
I was pretty upset after Saturday. I chalked it up to a bunch of drunk fans who were just there to get shit faced and tried to move on. I reported nothing. I was looking forward to being back inside at the Wells Fargo Center for the next home game.
What I thought was going to be me getting back to norm at the WFC, ended up being even a worse experience than what happened on Saturday. I was harassed, threatened and followed by a worker of the Wells Fargo Center (not a direct employee of the Flyers). I was ready to just brush off the harassment as I normally do, but a line was crossed when he threatened to report me to my boss for refusing to take his photo, him persisting, and me flicking him off and then following me. He followed me into the lower press room and was demanding my name and employer from the security guard assigned to the room. The line that was crossed was him persisting to follow me. The lower press room should have been my safe zone. It’s often the only place that I feel like I can find refuge when I’m dealing with harassment. That was taken away from me and I felt unsafe. Having dealt with threatening men, I have learned to air on the side of caution and to protect myself. I had a fellow photographer offer to walk me to my next shooting position for the third period (you’re the best, Chris). The man was outside of the room, but walked away when he saw I was alone.
I ended up having to report this incident to Flyers PR. Security was brought down to escort me for the rest of the game and I filed a report. This is the first time I have ever had to do something like this. I’ve never asked for security, I’ve never filed a report. I’ve just dealt with it. Why, you ask? Because I am so fearful of losing my job because of people seeing me as an emotional female, someone that causes a headache for PR and security because men seldom deal with this level of thing. Thankfully the Flyers PR and security went above and beyond making sure I felt safe and are taking the actions to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Part of me still worries about the ramifications of this event, but am hoping that with some time that things will blow over.
It hurts that my happy place, a hockey game, became a place I felt unsafe. It may take a game or two for me to feel at home again. I am thankful that there is a week before the next Flyers home game. I need a break and time away from my job to heal from all of this. At the end of the day, I just want to do my job and take photographs for players and fans to enjoy.