Sports reporters, like athletes, better measure up
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If you are a sports fan in Chicago, you have no doubt heard of Dan Bernstein.
Fans typically like him, love him or love to hate him.
Bernstein has been co-host since 1999 of the popular Boers and Bernstein sports talk show on WSCR-AM 670 The Score. He delivers blistering commentary and snark with an entertaining bent.
As a senior columnist for CBS Chicago, Bernstein gave a chilling rebuke in 2011 of Penn State University’s handling of child sex abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky with frankness others in news media didn’t dare use.
Bernstein also has vilified leagues, teams and coaches for retaining athletes tied to accusations or charges of domestic violence.
Wednesday, he ripped the NFL and the Bears after the team hired free agent defensive end Ray McDonald, who twice has been arrested on suspicion or in investigation of domestic violence but has not been charged.
Bernstein is skilled at finding words for our contempt of appalling behavior by those who are privileged to make millions in sports. That’s what I have liked about him.
From now on, though, Bernstein’s words will be hollow to me.
Wednesday night on Twitter, he used slang to offensively remark that he enjoys looking at the body of Comcast SportsNet Chicago reporter and anchor Aiyana Cristal. It came in response to a tweet by Matt Spiegel, co-host of another show on the Score, who scrutinized Cristal’s on-air delivery in a tough but fair way. Bernstein a little later produced another sexist tweet.
So much for the lip service he offers on the creepy dealings of the NFL. He has shallowness in him, too, that reeks of shameful disrespect of women.
To open his show Thursday, Bernstein called it “a kerfluffle.”
“I’m an idiot,” he said. “There are certain times you can be childish and crass and other times where it’s just really stupid to be a child. I’m sorry I dragged an innocent person into it, who is doing a job.”
Sometimes a child needs a timeout. Bernstein’s bosses should have suspended him. They failed to send a message that a powerful corporation will not put up with such antics.
In an email, CBS Radio Chicago senior vice president Rod Zimmerman confirmed there would be no suspension. An attempt to reach Bernstein was unsuccessful. Hours after requesting comment through a CBS Radio corporate spokeswoman in New York, I was still waiting.
If an athlete had made such remarks, there would be an outcry all the way to the owner’s office, demanding punishment.
When speaking to college classes about my experiences as a sports reporter spanning nearly two decades, I have emphasized that almost every coach and athlete I met exhibited professionalism. It was true at all levels, from high school to the NBA.
We need to be able to say the same about those covering the games.
To be fair, it is important to mention that a Sun-Times sports reporter three years ago made inexcusable sexist remarks on Twitter. Robert Feder, who reports on Chicago media, noted Thursday that the reporter was reprimanded.
Maybe Bernstein’s bosses figure the backlash will die down quickly. You know, boys will be boys.
On with the show.