Are Andy Benoit’s tweets about women’s sports being unwatchable really worth all this chaos?

by Kent Sterling

Little did Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit know he could tweet himself into journalistic exile by voicing disdain for women's sports.

Little did Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit know he could tweet himself into journalistic exile by voicing disdain for women’s sports.

Poor Andy Benoit.  He tweeted his silly thoughts on how women’s sports aren’t worth watching, and his world exploded.

The Sports Illustrated editor isn’t a fan of watching women, said so, and has been excoriated in the media ever since.  Sure, his position was dopey – watching anything where score is kept can be either scintillating or tedious – but the resulting barrage of invective being hurled at him has been even more absurd.

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What doesn’t offend us these days?  A guy with 12,500 twitter followers writes that women’s sports aren’t worth watching, and all of a sudden Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers bully this guy into submission.  Deadpan and Awful Announcing joined the piling on, and every self-righteous boob in America has been eager to show how enlightened he or she is by yammering about the majesty of Serena Williams, the WNBA, and the Women’s World Cup.

Not too long ago, America would have shrugged at the rantings of a person who uttered silliness, but somehow our society has turned into a giant club of bullies who can’t wait to wallop anyone who argues a point that brushes against the grain.

Benoit is a young guy who has written well about the NFL for SI and Peter King’s MMQB website.  He tweeted that women’s sports is not worth watching, and now he is a societal pariah.  ESPN’s Keith Olbermann anointed him the world’s worst person in sports, although he was good humored in his bashing of the journalistic piñata Benoit has become.

I don’t agree with Benoit about women’s sports, but I’m not going to bloody him with yet more hurtful denunciation.  What outrages me is that a significant portion of our culture has decided that bullying is wrong unless it’s against people with whom they disagree.

The joy that is derived by the “enlightened” who feel empowered to belittle and demean those who espouse a poorly articulated and sloppily researched opinion like Benoit’s is no less embarrassing than the initial tweet that led to this unending cascade of unpleasantness aimed at a guy who committed the unpardonable sin of not enjoying women’s sports.

Polite discourse is dying in America, and Twitter is more about exerting effort to not offend than to share honest opinions.  The thin-skinned responses to anything vaguely anti-anything is evidence revealing our own weakness and inability to engage in reasonable debate.

Just because a position, like Benoit’s, is unreasonable, doesn’t mean the sky is falling – or that piling on should be encouraged.

Bullying is terrible – all bullying.  Targeting those who post the occasional idiotic tweet is no more excusable than bullying people for any other reason.

Benoit’s rant was worthy of a shrug as we watched the Women’s World Cup or another WNBA game.  A virtuous tweet about how women’s fast pitch softball is often a more exciting option than watching the slow-pace of Major League Baseball would have been a better response than the insults that have filled Twitter since Benoit ignited anger among those who enjoy women’s sports in the opposite proportion as Benoit.

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The glee of those who have rallied to shout down Benoit, forcing him to hide under his desk for the past five days is the most embarrassing aspect of the whole sordid affair.

There is nothing so awful about being wrong, and I hope the volume of the hate hurled at Benoit doesn’t keep him from participating in an exchange of ideas – even if some of them are ridiculous.

For people who purport to be evolved and tolerant, the opponents of Benoit’s perspective have represented themselves very poorly.

11 thoughts on “Are Andy Benoit’s tweets about women’s sports being unwatchable really worth all this chaos?

  1. Jeff Gregory

    Good post! I agree all the way around. I enjoy women’s sports when it is good, avoid it when I deem it not so good. I happen to do that with men’s sports, also. I would rather watch a woman’s basketball game than a men’s soccer match. The point is that I can have an opinion about it and shouldn’t be dubbed “evil” by anyone that disagrees with me.

    The same is true with Benoit. I hope he has a thick skin and thrives on the abuse rather than cowers at it – even if I don’t share his perception. Look at Ann Coulter. She says horrible things by almost anyone’s standard, but she loves it. I wouldn’t want Benoit (or anyone else) to provoke the PC crowd on purpose with insensitive tweets for the sake of controversy, but when he does say something unpopular in sincerity, I hope he can “enjoy” the ride instead of avoiding the amusement park altogether.

  2. Dan

    “Not too long ago, America would have shrugged at the rantings of a person who uttered silliness.” C’mon now…One man’s “silliness” is another woman’s fed up. Yeah I don’t feel bad for this guy at all. You don’t get any pity from me for saying dumb stuff on twitter. Sure, he can have his opinion, but we are all allowed to have an opinion right back. I hate this double standard of protecting people for saying inflammatory stuff, and anyone who reacts is come sort of crazy person. I’m sorry, but if you can’t watch women’s sports than you probably shouldn’t be an editor for sports illustrated. And it’s not like he said he doesn’t like women’s soccer- he said he won’t watch ANY women’s sport! As if he has watched them all? I highly doubt it- which tells me he is totally biased and shut off to women’s sports for no particularly good reason.

    I would love to see this guy have a daughter who is as talented as the athletes on the world cup team. See if he won’t watch then.

    Also- the Seth Meyer’s skit is pure gold. I highly recommend it. It’s funny how you describe that skit as bullying Benoit “into submission” yet you downplay his tweet as “silliness”…..hmmmm, just an observation.

  3. Abby

    Andy Benoit is certainly entitled to his opinion (as we all are), no matter how sexist that opinion is. But tweeting your sexist opinion is another thing. It’s up for public consumption. If you don’t want your sexist opinion of women’s sports criticized and attacked, maybe don’t put it up on the Internet. Andy Benoit is no victim, and your article is silly (your word) to suggest that. Benoit is no stranger to the Internet and is not to be pitied. He used his position and reach to say something derogatory about women in a public forum, and now other people have an opinion on that. What would be disappointing is if no one called Benoit out for his remarks. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about preferences. It’s about his narrow-minded thinking that in all sports across the board, women are not as compelling to watch. And considering the wide variation of sports, the only common factor I can find is the women. So good for you, Internet for not letting Benoit off easy. He could stand to reconsider his position.

    1. Kel

      Well said. While I understand that men in general, are physically superior, that does not by any means make elite women athletes unworthy of our attention. For example, the fastest man in the world will be faster than the fastest woman. However, that fastest woman will be faster than most men in the world. It doesn’t make it any less watchable. Should women just not play sports at all? Of course not. These are elite athletes playing at the highest level. What they are able to do is remarkable. They are capable of feats the average person, both male and female, are not. They are pushing the limits of the human body.

      For my part, I enjoy watching the women’s US team much more than the men’s. Not only because they win, or because I grew up being inspired as a little girl who loved soccer, or because it is legitimately entertaining and compelling. The women you could argue, are more watchable than the men because they don’t flop or whine and complain nearly as much as the men do.

      Clearly and fortunately, most people don’t agree with Mr. Benoit. The USWNT just shattered the record as the most watched soccer game in the US — and that includes men’s matches. And all of this despite the fact that much of the World Cup was not broadcast on one of the major networks and with little advertising and promotion.

      Currently, Abby Wambach is perhaps the most iconic and well known soccer player in America — including both men and women. In her time, so was Mia Hamm. Now, how many girls are going to try and emulate Carli Lloyd?

      So proud of the US team. They deserved this win and played fantastic football, particularly towards the end of the tournament.

    2. kentsterling Post author

      No need to applaud Benoit, but eviscerating him as some evil curse against humanity is as silly – my word, again – as it is pointless.

      Holding people accountable for their opinions is a very slippery and dangerous slope upon which to embark. I suggest you consider others who have advocated holding people accountable for their opinions before you evoke that phrase as a position of righteousness.

  4. Lisa

    Kent, save your compassion for someone who deserves it. You’re saying more about yourself in this article than you are about the misogynist who made the statement that woman’s sports are unwatchable. I cannot stomach it when someone condones bad form by playing the role of benevolent defender.
    Benoit’s statement was way off base! There. Is that a language you both can understand?

    1. Kel

      Actions have consequences, including speaking (or I guess ‘tweeting,’) before thinking. He said something idiotic in a very public way and got some backlash for it. Death threats in response would be wrong. Comedians doing their job and making fun of a stupid comment? Not so much.

    2. kentsterling Post author

      Your sensitivity is overplayed. You choose to watch something. I choose to watch something. Andy chooses to watch something. Getting riled up over it is ridiculous. If Andy were in a position of power to condemn or stop women from competing as they like, then I would join in your outrage. Some guy whining on Twitter is not worth anyone’s outrage. Relax. Take a deep breath. Fight worthwhile fights.

      1. PeanutButter

        I’m curious, Kent. How do you determine fights worth while especially in a society where casual discrimination is rampant – one of the main causes to our discriminatory issues in the US? I understand your point of view of freedom of speech, being over punishing minor offenses, and needing “thicker skin”, but you calling someone oversensitive or sensitivity is being over played is proof that the consequences of casual discrimination is in full effect. You’re apathetic/desensitized to the issue at hand (women’s negative image in society). Yeah, everyone has the right to watch and say whatever you want, but when a public figure makes a casual comment that’s fuelling a big societal issue, you can’t stay silent.

        Also, using “oversensitive” is a terrible argument and a sexist response often used to shut down a women rights/image discussion. It just attacks opponents’ arguments as being “emotionally” stemmed instead of being logical and sound. Instead of spewing fallacies, focus on cementing your arguments (you had valid points with over martyring Benoit and etc.).

        1. kentsterling Post author

          You are correct in that I am conflicted. While I loathe the idiocy inherent in discrimination, I also hurt for those who seem to thrive only when feeling victimized. Obviously, Benoit’s tweets reflected an ill-conceived philosophy on sports media, but we can’t control stupid – and shouldn’t. What can be controlled is our response. To elevate Benoit as a pundit – shining a spotlight on him because of his ridiculous perspective – and allowing our own blood pressure to rise is counterproductive.

          Marginalizing idiocy through ignoring it is a much more productive response. We’ll be happier, and opponents of reason will be left to shout in an empty auditorium.

          Yelling every time sensitivities are violated is a fear-based mode of defense that serves little purpose other than to raise the blood pressure of everyone involved.

          Who cares what Andy Benoit thinks about anything other than the NFL? Shrugging would have shown Benoit exactly who and what he is in an important national debate..


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