Remember: Dress for the occasion

Published 1:18 am Saturday, August 21, 2010

For most of the week, it seemed the biggest sports-related story in the news was about a young lady getting fired from her job with an Arkansas radio station for wearing a Florida Gators hat to a press conference. At least, that was the biggest story in the South; largely because it is August and the majority of people in this region care nothing about Roger Clemens and were not at all surprised about Brett Favre returning to the Vikings. So here, we talk about “hat gate.”
As a professional member of the media — or at least someone who is often mistaken for a professional member of the media — I take exception to that story.
On one level, it is inane that people get so irate when over the incident. It is understandable that the woman was supporting her favorite team, but that is something to be done in her own personal hours. While on the job, she needs to be in tune to the sensitivities of those around her. And, in this case, those around here were passionate Arkansas fans still sore of the loss to Florida last year. Also note that former Arkansas quarterback and Fayetteville folk hero “Dope Nose” Matt Jones was arrested in Florida. That’s two strikes against the Sunshine State.
Anyway, regardless of this woman’s affiliation, it is up to her to be in touch with the attitudes of those around her. It is OK to be a fan, just during your own time. However, the fact that she wore a Florida Gator cap should be irrelevant in the conversation. The fact that she wore a cap of any sort to the press conference displays a lack of judgment on her part. Moreover, it is disrespectful to the profession.
The popular perception, whether justified or not, is that the media on the whole is biased. And doing silly things like wearing hats with team logos on them is pretty well against the unbiased intent of the industry. Besides that, who wears a hat to a press conference? Weird.
Nonetheless, there is an ethic that must be maintained for media members. There is a line that must be walked.
For me, my sports-themed clothing comes in the fall. While covering football games in cold weather, I wear my UNC hoodie. It’s warm. I like the color. I like the basketball team. I wear it. But I am covering a high school football game in the state of Alabama, nowhere on the radar of Tobacco Road. So the hoodie is appropriate. But if I were to go to an Auburn-UNC game to get a story on Jacob Kerby or Justin Delaine and chose to rock my Tarheel hoodie, I am now in unethical territory. The same principles apply to the press conference at which she committed career suicide.
What is most disturbing is that this young lady has been made into some sort of a martyr when she clearly was intelligent enough and educated enough to have understood the ethics in the first place. When you stick your head in a tiger’s mouth and get bit, that’s not a tragedy, that’s life.
Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of The Demopolis Times.

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