In a whirlwind nine or so hours starting Monday night, ESPN’s Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan reported about a series of over 60 unanswered texts that Mets General Manager Jared Porter sent to a female reporter, including an unsolicited shot of a penis (presumably his). Tuesday morning, Porter was was fired.
This is not a Mets site, so the big questions that I have today are not about what happens next for their front office. No, the questions that I have are about what happens next for the culture that led Porter to think that the answer to receiving no response to all his texts was to keep sending them. This isn’t a Porter problem - it’s larger than that.
So I have questions.
Should ESPN have sat on the story?
In short, yes. They were right to wait on running the story until they had consent from the reporter. This whole entire scenario is about consent, and hers was already violated numerous times by Porter. Kimes and Passan did not have her consent to share, and so they did not.
How many more journalists have left the job over stuff like this?
Part of why the woman in this story did not want her account published when it happened was that she understood her career would be shoved to the side. Even if some discipline had befallen Porter at that time, she also would have been harassed into oblivion on social media, or quietly reassigned to some different beat by her publication, or dismissed from her job altogether for being “a distraction.”
Reporters like Jennifer Decker (née Sterger) have been forced out of their work for the terrible crime of...receiving unsolicited dick pics from a famous quarterback. How dare she, right? Yet it was her career, not Brett Favre’s, that was torpedoed.
Decker is still having trouble finding work, and it’s been a decade.
More recently, a photographer who covers the Twins made an allegation against Miguel Sanó. She was harassed by angry Twins fans who believed they were correct to threaten and intimidate a woman for sharing a pretty traumatic story, but could not come out of their frothy rage long enough to believe at all that it could have been true. She has become persona non grata online, basically a death knell for her photography career. How can someone promote her work when almost every Google result for her name is about what happened to her, not what work she created before deciding to come forward?
And the journalist who Jared Porter harassed has left the industry altogether.
How many more will have to leave before things change?
I am confident I’m not the only woman in sports media who typed but then deleted numerous tweets last night referring to specific incidents, feeling unable to send them because the potential damage to our own selves doesn’t feel worth it. We just want to do our jobs.
Porter being fired is a great step. Kudos to new Mets owner Steve Cohen for taking decisive action here. But I want to be sure no one gets lulled into a false sense that things have changed too much. It is likely that the next woman considering coming forward to share a specific experience will still have to weigh the risk to her own career. She will still doubt, despite screenshots and corroboration from friends she spoke to in the moment, that there is enough evidence to make people believe her over whatever guy is harassing her. She will try to find a way to stay anonymous, because attaching her name almost certainly brings with it the end of her sports career. And with no guarantee of consequences to her harasser.
Are there any concrete steps teams can take to prevent this from happening?
We might start seeing teams announce the implementation of sensitivity training, or the formation of committees dedicated to the topic of sexual harassment. These will make teams look good as a public front, but don’t hold your breath waiting for actual change to follow. This is a problem parallel to systemic racism that rears up in many organizations (in sports and many other industries), and attempts to resolve them by mandating sensitivity training have not tended to show concrete changes.
Who has to sacrifice their livelihood while we wait for those steps to be conceived and implemented?
We will never know how many journalists have to move on from jobs they love, just because men who should just be professional contacts can’t keep their pants on. The next person who decides to bring allegations to light might look at the level of support for the anonymous journalist in this case, and think the time has come to attach her name to her story. But then, what if she miscalculated the level of societal support she’d receive? So the cycle would begin again.
Can we please just let journalists do their jobs?
On its face, this is the simplest of my questions. But since I wasn’t born yesterday, I know the actions of gross dudes will continue to undermine what should be a simple “YES.”
Creeps are going to creep. I don’t have an answer for why a grown man thinks that an absence of even a “hey” in return means to keep texting, blowing up a phone over and over, making a reporter regret exchanging numbers with someone who should have been a good source. Men reading this, that’s on y’all to figure out. Set your friends straight if you see them falling into this pattern.
And a general guideline for life: if you have a penis, do not send photos of it to anyone unless they have explicitly requested it. There is no hint, no game, no insinuation that the person on the other end of a text conversation wants to see it absent that clear request. Silence does not mean you should send one. Subject changes do not mean you should send one. Even flirting back does not mean you should send one, unless the flirting includes a specific request to see it.
In an ideal world, I would never again have to write about any more genitals in the baseball industry. This was not fun, just like receiving all those photos of Porter was not fun for a woman with a ruined life.