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CBS analyst Jim Spanarkel should feel no shame for calling Allie LaForce a ‘pretty woman’

03.17.17 at 11:26 am ET
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CBS hired Allie LaForce in 2014. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

CBS hired Allie LaForce in 2014. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

CBS analyst Jim Spanarkel called a woman “pretty.” As a result, he must be shamed.

During the West Virginia-Bucknell matchup Thursday, reporter Allie LaForce relayed comments from Bisons’ head coach Nathan Davis on how the Mountaineers’ offensive rebuilding hurt them in the first half. Spanarkel, in a seemingly benign back-and-forth, briefly discussed LaForce’s report with play-by-play man Verne Lundquist.

“I agree with Allie. I always agree with Allie, though,” he said. “Eight offensive rebounds, well, I’ve learned not to argue with pretty women. Like the people in my house. I don’t get in trouble with the people that are in my house, either, so eight offensive rebounds, Allie, when you think about it, is really a problem, from the standpoint of Bucknell.”

It didn’t take long for Spanarkel to feel the wrath of Twitter’s social justice warriors. ESPN’s Bomani Jones, who strongly hinted earlier this year Celtics fans cheered for Jazz forward Gordon Hayward because he’s white, said the former Duke star is going to “wish he had that one back.” Others called Spanarkel misogynistic, because he acknowledged LaForce’s appearance.

The backlash against Spanarkel is similar to the pushback play-by-play announcer Brent Musberger faced in 2013, when he called former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb, a “lovely lady” during the national title game. When the cameras panned to the former Miss Alabama USA, Musberger remarked to color analyst Kirk Herbstreit, a former quarterback at Ohio State, “You quarterbacks get all the good-looking women.”

Webb, for her part, didn’t appear to be bothered by the comments. She told the Associated Press she thought Musburger’s compliment was “kind of nice.” But that didn’t stop ESPN from issuing an apology, apparently to those who were offended on Webb’s behalf.

Sexism still pervades sports media, of course. In a conversation with me last year, ESPN’s Doris Burke pointed out the lack of middle-aged female broadcasters on the airwaves.

“I do think women are evaluated differently than men,” she said. “How we look, what is our age? Do you see a ton of 55-year-old women in sports television? No. But there are men in their 60’s and 70’s across many networks who are still in sports television. That’s a barrier that hasn’t been broken yet.”

Skewering Spanarkel for calling LaForce a “pretty woman” distracts from the legitimate barriers female announcers face. It’s like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Time and time again, a shepherd boy tricked his neighbors into thinking a wolf was attacking his flock of sheep. Finally, when a wolf actually appears, nobody answers the boy’s calls for help. The villagers were tired of being deceived.

LaForce, a 2011 Emmy award winner, is an accomplished reporter. But as a former Miss Teen USA, she’s also beautiful. Spanarkel didn’t turn LaForce into a sex object –– he wasn’t salivating over her looks in an exaggerated manner, or speaking to her in a derogatory tone. All he did was say something nice to her.

Sometimes, a compliment is just a compliment.

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