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American Football We are starting to do something about sexism in sport and it's long overdue

CAROLINA PANTHERS owner Jerry Richardson will make a tidy profit when he sells the team next year. Richardson, the only owner of the NFL franchise, bought the team in 1993 for $206 million and it is estimated it will sell for $2.3 billion.

For an industry where profit is minuscule at best, Richardson is leaving richer because of alleged racist and sexual misconduct charges. That’s extremely impressive.

Excuse the sarcasm but imagine making money for being a sexist and racist pig. Richardson will be angry to be kicked out of the team he has nurtured for over two decades, but it’s hard to feel sorry for him when he lines his pockets with all that extra cash.

I’m pleased that we are in a situation in 2017 where this “locker room talk” isn’t tolerated and people have the courage to speak out against it, that instead of pandering to the abusers and ignoring the victims, those in the wrong are being forced to leave.

That the team was led by a man accused of having female employees come to his office to rub his feet says a lot about the way he viewed women.

According to the report by Sports Illustrated (SI), Fridays were known as Jeans Day and Richardson would routinely say: “Show me how you wiggle to get those jeans up,” “I bet you had to lay down on your bed to fit into those jeans” and “Did you step into those jeans or did you have to jump into them?”

Reading about his conduct is further proof of how far the sport, and world, have come.

Richardson comes across as a pest and a dinosaur who never realised that what was was somehow acceptable decades ago would no longer be tolerated.

As noted in SI, “He would invite female employees out to lunch and, in keeping with his reputation as a self-styled gentleman, he would open the car door for his guests. Once they were seated, however, he would insist on fastening their seatbelt for them, reaching across their lap and brushing his hand across their breasts before putting the belt in the clasp.”

One former Panther employee told SI: “You look back and it’s wackadoo. You felt preyed upon. You felt fear. You felt self-doubt, but, when you’re in [that environment], everywhere you go, every family gathering, it’s ‘Oh, you work in the NFL? That’s so cool.’ And you don’t want to lose your job.”

That is an awful predicament to be in and I genuinely hope these women get something from seeing Richardson finally get his comeuppance, albeit decades too late.

I do feel there is a change in attitude in sport. We saw it when a group of former NFL players-turned-pundits were suspended and removed from television amid sexual harassment allegations.

What astonished me was the defence of pundits Warren Sapp, who said that the vibrators he bought as gifts detailed in the lawsuit “weren’t about sex” before tweeting a picture of it, saying: “I’m sorry thought they was cute.” The mind of some humans is truly terrifying.

It’s not “cute.” It’s not funny. It’s not banter. It’s harassment. When will people get that? That Sapp all but admitted his guilt I found quite amusing as I don’t think he realised 

Further proof of the often snail-paced change is trickling to other sports. There are now conversations about the need for grid girls in Formula One and it got me thinking, do we need round girls in boxing or cheerleaders in the NFL?

Nico Hulkenburg’s response for the need for grid girls in F1 — “It would be a pity if they took the eye-candy from the grid” — is exactly why they are not needed.

If as a fan of these sports you only attend to stare at women in their underwear, then may I suggest you stay at home.

I’ve been to a few NFL games and I can honestly say cheerleaders don’t interest me. I don’t think they need to be there. It’s outdated. It’s demeaning. Do they need to be in skimpy outfits? Of course not.

Grid and corner girls walk around holding up signs. If they are vital to the sport, then have mascots in massive costumes do it. Watch how these men complain that the sport is being ruined.

You are getting the same information but in a more respectable fashion.

As for the NFL, cheerleaders are there to provide entertainment for men. Those who argue that they are there to rally support for the team are kidding themselves.

That might be their job title but teams can rally support in other ways. Marching bands. Video packages on the big screen.

Not every team has a cheerleading squad which shows that they aren’t a vital part of the sport.

And if they are a key part of the game, can we not give them a bit more clothing. Seeing these women in the freezing cold dressed like they are on a beach in Miami cannot be healthy.

On a broader scale, think about the message it is sending to young girls and women. That the only way into these sports is as sex objects. That unless you are parading around for men, you probably have no future in this industry.

That if you do enter the sport, your role could be to stand and look pretty while the important men walk past you or flutter your eyes and smile while the winner of the race sprays champagne on you, as Lewis Hamilton did in 2015.

Times are changing and there are small signs that sexism in sport is no longer tolerated. I am fully aware that there is a long way to go, but at least the conversation has started.


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