Jess Myers is a columnist for College Hockey News who recently wrote a piece comparing the firing of Minnesota-Duluth Women’s Hockey coach Shannon Miller to the past firing of Men’s coach Mike Sertich.
On the heels of Miller’s dismissal have come allegations that her termination was due to her gender and sexual orientation. With five national championships to her name in her 16 year career with UMD compared to one in the same span for the Men’s team, it’s hard not to see a bit of unfair treatment there, especially since Miller was willing to renegotiate her contract for a reduced salary which is perhaps also fair as UMD’s last national championship came in 2010.
With that having been said, it’s difficult to characterize the Myers piece so I’ll offer a variety of options. It is:
- An ugly smear of Shannon Miller’s character
- A woefully ignorant screed lacking in recognition of the inequities in men’s and women’s hockey
- Dishonest with itself
- Legitimately dangerous
- Exactly what Shannon Miller was talking about when she said :
- “As a strong, successful woman who is also gay, I feel they had other reasons – I can’t speculate on them, but I just know how I’ve been treated. There have been a lack of resources for the program and I felt they didn’t value the women. When you have a strong, winning female coach who is a good role model and known in the sport globally, you would think she would be treated with respect, but I’ve been totally disrespected.”
Here is the paragraph devoted to former Men’s coach Mike Sertich’s accomplishments with the program:
Notice that the paragraph lacks the word “championship,” probably because Sertich didn’t win any. There’s enough fluff in there for a couple of sandwiches though. Now here’s the paragraph chronicling Miller’s accomplishments:
Stop me if I’m wrong, but in comparing two coaches you would want to describe in full the achievements of both of them so you’re comparing apples to apples, right? Otherwise it just looks like character assassination. Right?
From Myers’s article you’d think Miller was some rando UMD plucked off the street to run their women’s hockey program and not one of the most successful Women’s coaches of all time. Myers mentions Miller’s name only once, presumably so his readers know exactly who he’s smearing.
Myers’s piece is especially disingenuous because he treats men’s and women’s hockey like equal things when they’re not. Do you know why a men’s coach might have a different reaction to being fired than a women’s coach? Because those firings mean completely different things in those separate worlds. Hell, they probably mean completely different things for male and female women’s coaches. There is a gender disparity favoring men within the coaching ranks of women’s hockey. Twenty-seven of the thirty-four division one programs are headed by male coaches, and that includes Miller set to depart at the end of the season.
Myers can’t even be credited with putting forth a unified point.
Mostly Jess? Mostly? Is it a pure financial decision or isn’t it? Myers can’t even cobble together some hasty point about UMD’s declining performance (they’re currently ranked 6th by the way) and the sad part is he probably knows he doesn’t need to. His condemnation of Miller’s character is probably enough for his readers.
Which is what makes Myers’s piece legitimately dangerous. Nowhere in his piece is a statement about how sexism and homophobia are bad things and that mayyybe one shouldn’t get fired for them, or about how mayyybe Miller’s experiences are true and valid, and that mayyybe there is some legitimacy to a potential lawsuit. Or even that mayyybe one of the most successful Women’s coaches of all time should be immune to financial struggles in the same way that a Men’s coach would. Mayyybe.
Does Myers think that allegations of sexism and homophobia automatically make someone classless?
Myers is telling marginalized individuals everywhere that standing up for yourself means you have no class or at least that’s the implication since he provides exactly zero context for or even any information on the Miller dismissal, not even a lazy link to some PR-ified school statement. It’s classic victim blaming. And maybe Myers didn’t mean to call Miller a liar that should shut up and take it, but that’s what he just did.
Which brings me to Miller’s quote about respect. When you respect someone you:
- DON’T name them for no purpose other than letting your readers know who you’re demonizing.
- DON’T name them for that purpose and then spend eleven paragraphs talking up the person you’re comparing them to.
- DO recognize the unique hurdles Shannon Miller faces because of who she is. Like not being able to marry in Minnesota until 2013
- DO recognize that the landscape has never been particularly friendly to Miller as a person or as a working professional.
- DO believe Miller’s experiences, or at least leave yourself open to believing them once the dust from the allegations settles.
- DON’T dismiss lawsuits regarding things like sexism and homophobia as classless and “trial by media” without offering or even pursuing any context or information.
Myers follows none of these and that last one is particularly galling because its harm extends beyond hockey.