Female sports fans are pissed about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ new RED program targeted at women, and it’s easy to see why. While the program may have had good intentions to welcome football fans of the female persuasion, it comes across as a sexist, stereotypical mess.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers say their new RED women’s movement is designed to “reinvent the female fan experience.” The women out there with a brain (who aren’t barefoot and pregnant, as the Bucs assume) can quickly smell a rat: As Juliet Macur points out in her The New York Times piece, the Buccaneers’ patronizing campaign is taking us straight back to the 1950s.
Across the Internet, the RED program has been called infuriating, sexist and condescending. It’s gotten so bad that some female football fans, who happen to be season ticket holders, are considering skipping the games altogether.
What exactly did the Bucs do that has women so “hysterical”? The RED program offers exclusive opportunities to women in the hopes of attracting female fans — opportunities that include undeniably sexist promotions, like tips on the latest NFL fashions and ideas for sharing on Pinterest.
Because women are only interested in fashion and Pinterest.
The Buccaneers couldn’t have failed harder if they tried. After a few very public examples of violence against women among NFL players in the past year, sexism in sports has become a topic of national conversation. As much as we’d love to think we’ve progressed in the 21st century, male sports fans still weren’t happy when Jen Welter was recently named the first female coach in NFL history.
NFL fandom represents a funny paradox. Of course NFL teams want to attract women — because reaching out to 50 percent of the population will do nothing more than increase your fan base and drive profits. But these same sports teams who are inviting women to join the crowd are also turning a blind eye to what’s really going on.
Female sports fans don’t need this special treatment. According to an ESPN poll, 44 percent of football fans are women — almost half. It’s reasonable to assume that these female sports fans didn’t flock to the stadium because of the Dallas Cowboys’ underwear. Just like the men, these women have probably been enjoying football for years as a family affair and for the love of the game.
Here’s where the Buccaneers’ epic fail comes in. By pandering to women in this way, by attempting to give them special treatment related to their “girlie” interests, the Bucs shot themselves in the foot. Women who have seen the RED campaign aren’t happy — they’re offended. And as hard as this may be for the Buccaneers to swallow, this female resistance is actually a good thing. Smart female sports fans understand something the rest of the world is just starting to grasp: Enjoying sports has nothing to do with gender.