SEC Network Analyst Criticized for Saying He Wants to See 'Scantily Clad Girls' at Gymnastics Meet
A college sports commentator is facing backlash for comments he made on-air about female athletes over the weekend.
On Saturday, during a Missouri-Arkansas men’s basketball game broadcast on the SEC Network, which is owned by ESPN, analyst Barry Booker made a brief remark about being interested in an upcoming gymnastics meet in order to observe “scantily clad girls.”
“Go hang out with the ladies … I mean, I wanna go see some scantily clad girls,” Booker can be heard saying in a clip shared on Twitter, laughing off the comment as an idea for a Valentine’s Day date night.
Richard Cross, the other announcer engaging in banter with Booker, quickly distanced himself from the remark, explaining that gymnastics events are “one of the great family atmospheres that you will find in all of college athletics.”
In a statement on Sunday, the SEC Network condemned the comments and said the matter would be handled internally.
“The comments made during yesterday’s telecast were inappropriate and unacceptable,” the statement read. “We take this matter seriously and are addressing it internally. SEC Network respects all student-athletes, and is committed to showcasing women’s sports with the utmost regard.”
According to the Washington Post, this is Booker’s sixth season as an analyst for the network after previously working at Fox Sports, CBS Sports and ESPN.
One former Arkansas gymnast, Sydney McGlone, told the outlet that she was “disappointed” by the on-air comment.
“I was mostly disappointed with the comment due to the ill intent and the sexualizing of a sport that has already faced so much when it comes to sexual abuse,” said McGlone, 22. “A lot of times gymnasts are already seen in a negative manner for what we have to wear, and the fact that a trained professional would make such a comment was just discomforting.”
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According to KATV, Booker apologized for the joke later on in the telecast.
Booker could not immediately be reached for comment. ESPN and SEC Network had no further comment.
Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, issued a statement on Sunday, saying that the remarks “do not meet the expectations we have for the SEC Network.”
“The comments related to the sport of women’s gymnastics made by basketball analyst Barry Booker during yesterday’s telecast of the Arkansas at Missouri men’s basketball game are inappropriate and do not meet the expectations we have for the SEC Network,” said Sankey. “The SEC’s women’s gymnastics student-athletes deserve our support for many reasons, including their dedication and achievement.”
He continued: “We are in communication with the SEC Network and ESPN personnel, and I am confident this issue will be handled appropriately.”