Sports coverage has been dominated by off-the-field news for more than a week now and that means some writers and commentators are outside their natural comfort zone. espnW columnist Jane McManus has been widely praised for her work discussing the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice case on the website as well as on TV and radio. McManus spoke with Front Row about how she educated herself on domestic violence and other similar issues, and her background in reporting on them.
McManus will be part of tonight’s special “espnW Presents: The State of the NFL” on ESPN Radio and ESPNRadio.com (9-11 p.m. ET).
“When I was hired at ESPN NY, one of my first assignments was the Lawrence Taylor statutory rape court proceedings,” McManus said. “I remember being really disturbed by some of the allegations and talking to a lot of reporters, who seemed not as disturbed as I was. There were terrible things going on with this case, and I was getting a sense of apathy [from others]. It certainly made me aware of these kinds of situations – violence against women, sexual violence, domestic violence – and when one of these cases came up again, I paid attention. I was definitely sensitive to it.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years, whether it’s attorneys or experts: Judy Kluger, a former New York City prosecutor and now executive director of Sanctuary for Families; [former National Organization for Women president] Kim Gandy, who is one of the experts the NFL spoke with; [Move to End Violence co-founder] Tony Porter. Those are just off the top of my head. I feel like that’s part of the job, to familiarize yourself with the issues.
“When espnW came along, there was a forum to write about these issues other than the news and the headline. espnW gave me an opportunity to explore these issues – the idea of masculinity and femininity in sports, why masculinity is so important, why femininity is so dismissed. What that means for women’s sports, what that means for women who are around sports.
“I did a column after the first Ray Rice video was released, and it pulled together the strings of [track and field’s] Oscar Pistorius and [NBA star] Raymond Felton [each the focus of domestic violence allegations]. I was able to get into a few of these issues [in the column]. If it hadn’t been for espnW, I don’t know how much of a platform there would have been for those kinds of discussions.”