When Damage leads to Success

Almost seven years have passed since female sportscaster Erin Andrews made her spotlight debut. Unfortunately for her and for aspiring women in sports, her debut wasn’t a positive one. On July 16, 2009, a video of Andrews where she appeared completely nude was posted online and quickly went viral.

I can remember when it all first went down. As a sophomore in high school and an aspiring sports journalist, I could only feel sorry for Andrews. I had been told over and over again how tough it is for women in the industry and this seemed to be making things worse.

There were debates on whether it was a publicity stunt. There were people saying it was another reason why women should not be in the industry.

The video was filmed by Michael David Barrett with a cellphone through a hotel peephole at the Nashville, Marriott adjacent to Vanderbilt University. Barrett was arrested in October 2009 and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. He has already served over two years.

Prior to the incident, if someone had dropped Andrews’ name I would have been like, “Who?”

Since the video’s release Andrews’ career has taken off. Before the video, people described her as the blonde girl on ESPN; after the video everyone knew who Andrews was.

The idea that it was all a publicity stunt followed Andrews for a while via the media. But even when the news forgets, people do not. When reporting from the sidelines there are still men who yell down at her, “I’ve seen your video! I saw you naked!”

In October 2015, Andrews filed a complaint against the Nashville Marriott and Barrett for $75 million. The hearing began on Feb. 22, and on March 7 the jury awarded Andrews $55 million. The jury found Barrett to be 51 percent at fault and the Nashville Marriott 49 percent at fault.

When I heard that the jury went in favor of Andrews, I could not be happier for her. But at the same time I can’t help but feel for her because once again she is the topic of conversation and not in a fully positive light.

There were comments on articles saying that the two parties should not have to pay because she did not suffer any damages. There were comments saying she abused the system. Comments saying she should be thankful that someone thought she was hot enough to go to those lengths.

“Her career skyrocketed, her career went up, so from our perspective, none of the benchmarks that would indicate a serious mental injury existed,” Marc Redman said after the verdict.

Redman is a lawyer for the two companies that owned the hotel at the time.

My question to the lawyers of the hotel companies: Would you have preferred Andrews to let everything she worked so hard for disappear?

I was never a big Andrews fan. When I would tell people I wanted to be a sports reporter, they’d ask, “Like Erin Andrews?” And I would always reply with no. But her strength through everything that happened, staying in the business, charging forward and not letting all the comments get to her, at least not in the public eye, made my respect level soar.

Women in the sports industry walk an extremely thin line. We need to be extra cautious of our actions and our words. We need to constantly be on our A game.

Andrews may never get the $55 million, but that isn’t what matters. The result of this lawsuit represents assault victims alike. It can hopefully help Andrews heal. And most of all it will hopefully act as a benchmark so that future incidents never happen.

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