American TV commentator Booker slammed after calling gymnasts 'scantily-clad girls'
An American basketball broadcaster’s comments referring to gymnasts as ‘scantily-clad girls’ has infuriated his employer and drawn criticism from fans and athletes.
Barry Booker, who works for ESPN-owned SEC Network, made the inappropriate remarks on Saturday night during an Arkansas-Missouri NCAA college basketball game.
The channel used a time-out to promote its coverage of upcoming gymnastics Friday Night Heights, prompting co-host Richard Cross to suggest the event make a fun Valentine’s date-night out.
Booker responded to Cross by saying: “Go hang out with the ladies! I mean, I want to go see some scantily-clad girls!"
Cross immediately tried to salvage the situation.
“No!” he exclaimed. “One of the great family atmospheres you will find in all of college athletics is gymnastics meets.”
But Booker brushed off his colleague’s effort and laughed as he added to his original statement, saying: “I’ll stay home and watch. Actually, I’ll be on the road. I’ll be somewhere in my hotel room watching Friday Night Heights.”
A viral video of the incident quickly sparked outrage and many called for Booker to be sacked.
SEC Network tweeted on Sunday: “The comments made during yesterday’s telecast were inappropriate and unacceptable.
“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.”
Meanwhile, former Arkansas gymnast Sydney McGlone told the Washington Post Booker’s views highlighted a much bigger problem.
USA Gymnastics last month proposed a $215 million settlement to more than 180 athletes who were abused by former US national team doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar, whose victims include American Olympians Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, is serving up to 175 years in prison for his crimes.
McGlone said: “I was disappointed due to the ill-intent and the sexualising of a sport that has already faced so much when it comes to sexual abuse.
“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.”