Sports scribe exposes sexual harassment by her mentor

Sarah Waris explains what happened before she posted her viral story about what happened at the hands of a senior colleague

Sarah’s Facebook post

The spotlight is on sports in more ways than one. The football World Cup has got millions in a frenzy while a video with the hashtag ‘Let her do her job’ is gaining online traction.

A dozen female sports reporters put up the video in response to recent incidents where female reporters were kissed, harassed or abused while doing their job in and around Brazil’s football stadiums.

The wave of revolution has reached Indian shores too. Sarah Waris, a  freelance sports journalist, has come out against the harassment she faced at the hands of a reputed sports editor from Bengaluru. In a  Facebook post, she detailed the experience without naming him. However, everyone in sports circles recognised him as such allegations had surfaced earlier, albeit secretly.

Sarah recounts for Metrolife the incidents that led to her putting up the Facebook post.

“The accused had sent me a Facebook message a few months ago, showing interest in my articles and an eagerness to help me out in my features. As he was a reputed name in the field of cricket journalism, I was initially both surprised and excited to have him as my mentor. However, after a few texts his messages started to make me uncomfortable. Once he redirected me to his fake account (the pseudonym showed it was a girl’s account) and started sending me even texts that made me even more uncomfortable. I confided in a dear friend who works in one of the biggest cricket organisations in India, and got to know that the journalist had chatted up other girls from his fake account as well. Once he started texting a few friends of mine and offering jobs that were hard to resist, I knew that I had to take up the responsibility of warning the girls so they would not fall into his trap. This is how the Facebook post came about.”

Why didn’t anyone else point this out earlier?

This did surprise me as well because almost 70 percent of the fraternity knew who he was as soon as I posted the status. He was ousted from his previous workplace following charges of harassment, but the topic had been brushed under the carpet. As the perpetrator was a respected journalist, many were hesitant to speak up, fearing for their careers.

What has the response been to that post?

I hardly expected the post to attract as much attention as it did. I just shared it because I had the moral responsibility of saving innocent women from his clutches, but I had hardly thought that by the next morning the entire fraternity would be talking about it. The biggest names in the field, from ex-cricketers to journalists from Australia, South Africa, West Indies, England and of course India, reached out to show solidarity and promise quick action. My idols in the field, writers who I had looked up to, got in touch; it was overwhelming as they made me realise that I belonged to the same family.

Did you try talking to anyone in the organisation before you took to social media?

I had some very close friends in the organisation and I did speak to them before taking to social media. I wouldn’t shy away from stating that I too was apprehensive, fearing for my career. I spoke to Cricket Country chief editor Abhishek Mukherjee extensively before I came out in the open. Abhishek da knows a number of journalists and is widely recognised in his field. He provided me with the much-needed emotional support and coaxed me to state what should have been stated much much earlier. I had some supportive friends from the field who helped me take the case further.

Is this is a problem with sports journalism at large?

I think this phenomenon is present in all fields. Men who like to take advantage of women, using their power, are present elsewhere too, so just singling out the sports industry is unfair. I have been in the field for four years, and never before have I heard comments that demean me or my knowledge of the game just because I am a woman. While the fraternity has been
really kind, it is the readers who at times opine that women deserve no place in writing, talking or analysing cricket. While a few rotten apples might exist in the global sports fraternity, I feel the spectators or fans should stop making any judgment based on the bylines alone.

Action taken

Sarah later put up a post saying her harasser’s accreditation with the Board of Cricket Control in India had been cancelled and the International Cricket Council had also suspended him.

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Sports scribe exposes sexual harassment by her mentor

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