Over the weekend, I learned that Fox Sports was doing away with its “Fox Sports Girls” program. It started as a tip on Friday; on Saturday, a spokesperson for FSN confirmed it with a statement that read:
FOX Sports is constantly evaluating our marketing programs in an effort to keep them fresh and provide the most engaging experience for our viewers. As a result, we have decided to end the FOX Sports Girls program to focus on other projects that serve our fans.
Since Fox Sports launched the “Girls” program in 2011, it’s been met with mixed reviews. The same could be said for the comments that followed this weekend after it was disbanded. Fans dislike the concept and like the concept for roughly the same reasons: there are pretty women on TV and at events.
“What’s not to like about that?” some fans say.
“It’s a sexist and demeaning concept,” others say.
I’ve always come down more on the side of the latter group, and I’m guessing there were enough viewers (many of them female, including my wife) who felt alienated by the concept that Fox was compelled for that reason to pull the plug.
In 2015, in my mind, the Fox Sports Girls — they had them for all the regional networks, just FSN, and all of them are going away — to be an antiquated concept that opened itself up to more criticism by calling the participants “girls” and by only referring to them by first name. They were somewhere between sideline reporters and cheerleaders — nice people caught in a strange assignment.
I have not, however, ever BEEN a Fox Sports Girl. But I did interview one of the original FSN Girls, Jenny Taft, for a 2013 story (when she was just “Jenny”). Back then, she encouraged me to replace “Girls” with “Ambassadors” when thinking of the role she and others played. That helped to a degree.
“We are trying to be a connection between fans and athletes,” Taft said back then, “and trying to get an inside look at teams and athletes from a fan’s perspective.”
Taft, who played hockey in high school at Edina and lacrosse at Boston University (where she also studied journalism), was able to parlay her FSN Girls gig into a job with Fox Sports One as a reporter and host.
Reached Sunday, Taft (pictured above as both an FSN Girl and in her current job) said she had heard about the FS Girls program disbanding, though she had not heard an explanation as to why. But she did offer her own perspective on what it had meant to her.
“I enjoyed the job and I was very proud of the Fox Sports North Girls concept,” she said. “I worked with great people who were supportive and I believed in the concept. It also helped me start my career, so I was very lucky to be a part of it.”
Maybe Taft, who was given more on-camera responsibility by FSN as her time there continued, would have risen to her position at FS1 regardless, but so much of breaking into any industry, particularly in the media, is getting a foot in the door.
Maybe that foot in the door shouldn’t have had to come in a role that some would consider degrading, but Taft took it at face value. If the person doing the work doesn’t feel degraded, how do we ultimately judge it? That’s a bigger question that would require thousands of words to even begin to explain, but let’s end here:
Maybe Taft is an example, at least, of something good that came out of something many considered flawed?