An off-the-cuff but inappropriate comment about an upcoming NCAA gymnastics competition has placed Barry Booker, an SEC Network basketball analyst, in hot water with his employer.
The comment occurred during Saturday’s Arkansas-Missouri basketball game, as Booker and announcer Richard Cross discussed an advertised gymnastics broadcast.
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As Cross mused the meet could be a good Valentine’s Day activity, Booker countered that his interest was in the “scantily clad girls.”
Cross immediately countered with a loud “No!” and said the competitions are “one of the great family atmospheres in all of college athletics,” but Booker continued laughing.
The comments received an official response a day later, with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and the SEC Network both releasing statements calling them “inappropriate.”
The network said it would handle the matter internally, while Sankey said the conference is in communication with the network and its parent ESPN.
“The comments made during yesterday’s telecast were inappropriate and unacceptable,” SEC Network said.
“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.”
Outrage over Booker’s ‘inappropriate’ comments
Former Arkansas gymnast Sydney McGlone condemned the comments and welcomed the news that Booker would be reprimanded.
She expanded on the harm of such comments to The Washington Post:
“I was mostly disappointed with the comment due to the ill intent and the sexualising of a sport that has already faced so much when it comes to sexual abuse,” McGlone, 22, told The Post in a text exchange.
“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!”
Fans and fellow journalists were also highly critical of Booker.
The statements by Barry Booker were disgusting. He should at least be suspended. https://t.co/Cp6ZMCPlUb— Brian Stultz (@brianjstultz) February 9, 2020
It’s one thing to be a terrible announcer, but it’s another to disrespect the powerful and strong ATHLETES that gymnasts are. They are NOT “scantily clad women” there for your misogynistic enjoyment. You’re gross, Barry Booker, and a part of the problem. @SECNetwork— Brittany McElroy Crow (@bmac_crow) February 8, 2020
Barry Booker’s comment about SEC Gymnastics was absolutely unacceptable. “Scantily clad” women.... seriously?? @SECNetwork— Maddie (@maddie_prince) February 8, 2020
@SECNetwork Mr. Barry Booker needs to walk back his comments about women’s gymnastics. They are not “scantily clad girls” to be objectified by him. They are elite athletes who deserve his respect. Shame on him. Shame on the network if no action is taken.— Heather Poe (@hpoe72) February 8, 2020
Booker also reportedly apologised for the comments later in the broadcast.