Sexual-assault scandals, child-abuse charges, and hazing have all made national headlines in recent weeks as football teams and players from high school to the National Football League face controversy. In sports as in politics, too often such debates lack female perspective.
Timing, in the case of most sports incidents, is everything. CBS Sports Network launched a new talk show, “We Need to Talk,” on Sept. 30. Every Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET, the hour-long show features panel discussions, interviews with newsmakers, and many of the standard features of sports news and debate shows. The major twist? An all-female rotating cast of 12 panelists, plus women calling the shots as producers and directors.
“We’ve been talking about doing a women’s show for a long time,” says Emilie Deutsch, coordinating producer. “All the uproar with the NFL and the Ray Rice situation and the Adrian Peterson situation, I’d hear men on talk radio saying, ‘I talked to my wife about this....’ ”
Typically, women break through to the NFL, National Basketball Association, and other male sports leagues as sideline reporters with limited airtime. When women figure prominently into sports on TV, it’s usually in regard to women’s golf and tennis, ice skating, and other Olympic sports.
“We Need to Talk” instead takes aim at the most popular teams and leagues. CBS turned to pedigreed TV reporters and former athletes. Among them: former Oakland Raiders chief executive Amy Trask; Lesley Visser, a sports journalism pioneer and the only woman in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; retired boxer Laila Ali; the NFL Network’s Andrea Kremer; and Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders.
The first episode included a spontaneous discussion during which several panelists, including former Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, disclosed they had been victims of verbal or physical abuse in past relationships.
“The response [from viewers] made me glad I said something,” says Ms. Torres. “A lot of times, people are embarrassed to talk about it.” The emergence of women as serious sports commentators is long overdue, she adds. “I love talking sports. I grew up with four older brothers.”