Love her or hate her, Danica Patrick has traveled quite a long track in getting to where she is today.
Count Ross Shimabuku among those in the group that hates her.
On Monday evening, the sports anchor on Fox affiliate KSWB in San Diego showed his true colors about NASCAR’s popular female driver, who will participate in her very first Sprint Cup race on Sunday in the Daytona 500, in which she starts in 29th place. She also won the pole for Saturday’s Nationwide Series season opener in Daytona (unfortunately, she crashed on lap 49).
“All right, Danica Patrick is such a pretty girl,” begins Shimabuku. “She makes a lot of money in sponsorships because of it. But what’s not attractive is that she’s sexy and she knows it.”
The station then cues to video of Patrick from NASCAR Media Day on February 16, in which she lamented why media didn’t have a more favorable description for her. The accompanying chyron on the screen reads under her name, “I’m sexy and I know it!”
Danica: “I don’t quite understand why when you’re referring to a girl – a female athlete, in particular – that you have to use the word ‘sexy.’ Is there any other word that you can use to describe me?”
With that, the smug Shimabuku returns to the screen with a rather sexist answer.
“Oh, I’ve got a few words… Starts with a ‘B’, and it’s not ‘beautiful…”
As he closed his segment, Shimabuku, in letting viewers know they can watch the Daytona 500 “right here on Fox 5,” also reminded viewers of his disdain for Danica.
“She always has a chip on her shoulder, trying to prove something…”
Anchorwoman Kathleen Bade tried to reason with Shimabuku: “Well, she’s a woman trying to break in in a man’s world, that can’t be easy.”
Later, anchorman Loren Nancarrow jumped in: “If she’s trying to lose the sexy image, the GoDaddy commercials don’t exactly further that cause.”
Shimabuku responded: “What she says and what she does, two totally different things.”
Granted, he didn’t use the word “bitch” on the air. But it’s clear by the condescending context of his report that when he said, “I’ve got a word that starts with ‘B’ and it’s not ‘beautiful’,” the word he had in mind wasn’t “barrier breaking.”
It’s no secret that Danica Patrick has her share of critics, most notably Kyle Petty. So when you’re a female driver looking to excel in a male-dominated sport, it kind of comes with the territory.
And it’s ironic that the Shimabuku ordeal had transpired on the heels of the whole Jeremy Lin “chink in the armor” thing: Lin, an Asian-American, like Patrick, is looking to excel in a sport dominated by other ethnicities. And while I can’t confirm Shimabuku’s nationality, he was born and raised in Hawaii. But that’s beside the point. When you have the responsibility of being a sports anchor, you must always deliver fair, acceptable reporting of all athletes, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, orientation or disability. In fact, we live in a world where you can’t even post your personal thoughts on things on your Twitter or Facebook accounts, especially if you’re a well-known media figure or personality.
Maybe Nancarrow has a point that Patrick’s participation in an ad campaign for GoDaddy – whose commercials usually end with a prompt for viewers to log onto their website to “see more” material, which is usually designated as “unrated content” – somewhat defy her plea for journalists to refer to her using adjectives other than “sexy.” Perhaps if Shimabuku expressed that viewpoint – and no doubt, it’s one shared by many - it would be far less brass than insinuating that Danica’s a “bitch.” He should not have let his personal feelings about Patrick get in the way of his objective reporting.
The Women’s Media Center took notice of Shimabuku’s arrogant piece on Patrick and initiated a petition for KSWB “to reprimand” their sports anchor “for calling Danica Patrick a bitch.” It only managed 113 signatures before the time period allowing additional signatures to the petition had expired. I don’t know if Shimabuku could or should be suspended for his choice words about Patrick. There have been broadcasters that have been suspended for far worse comments about public figures. Last year, radio host Ed Schultz was suspended for a week without pay for referring to Laura Ingraham – another radio host whose political leaning is not on the same side of the spectrum as Schultz’s, let’s say – as a “slut.” And recently, Los Angeles afternoon drive hosts John and Ken just got finished serving a seven-day suspension for referring to Whitney Houston as a “crack ho” on their radio show. (That’s just plain disrespect for the dead, if you ask me.)
Yes, Ross Shimabuku’s comments about Danica Patrick were pompous and demeaning. (And the graphics certainly were no help, either.) But Danica has been hearing these sentiments for years – and she’s only managed to make her way to the top circuit of auto racing.
Ross, meanwhile, will probably be confined to California if he doesn’t keep his feelings under control.
UPDATE: This was not on KSWB’s website when this story broke on Saturday, but on Sunday, a video of Ross apologizing on Tuesday for his anti-Danica comments he made on Monday magically appeared on their website.