Skip to comments.Oklahoman Changed ESPN Forever
Posted on 09/06/2004 8:31:37 AM PDT by Osage Orange
Oklahoman changed ESPN forever
By Jenni Carlson
Karie Dombrowski never expected she'd get invited to the birthday party.
Her father thought differently.
"I'm really mad they didn't ask you," Lanny Ross told his 45-year-old daughter.
"Dad," she said, "did you think they were going to?"
ESPN is throwing a birthday bash. After 25 years broadcasting sports and changing American culture, a celebration is in order, and the media giant is doing it up big. Flashbacks. Rewinds. Reunion shows. It's how the History Channel would do sports.
Dombrowski is very much a part of ESPN's history.
Known then as Karie Ross, she became the network's third female on-air talent in 1987. It was the job of a lifetime for a gal who was raised in Clinton, educated at Oklahoma and started her career at KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City. ESPN changed her life.
And she changed ESPN.
During a staff meeting in 1989, Dombrowski stood in front of more than a hundred of her co-workers, many of them males, and demanded an end to sexual harassment at the network. She talked about editing time being traded for sex, about men groping and grabbing female employees, about women constantly coming to her with terror in their eyes.
"I'm tired of women coming up to me upset because they can't do their jobs without some jerk trying to sleep with them," she told co-workers stunned not by the accusations but by them being addressed publicly.
A few months later, Dombrowski's contract went unrenewed.
"I had a lot of bitterness there for a while," she admitted via telephone from her home in Glenfield Hills, Mich. "A lot of those thoughts and feelings and experiences, I don't even think about them that much any more."
All of those emotions, though, were front and center when the book "ESPN: The Uncensored History" was released. In his expose of the network, New York Times writer Michael Freeman addressed the problems of sexual harassment and trumpeted Karie Ross' bravery.
She now remembers her role differently.
"I did not know what the heck I was doing," Dombrowski said. "When I read the book and the people at ABC are saying they were thinking I was going to file this big, gigantic lawsuit, that didn't even enter my mind.
"I just wanted a good working environment for the women there."
Many of the women would come to Dombrowski with their fears and problems. She wasn't a network executive, but as one of the on-air talents, she was one of the few women in a position of power.
And she knew she needed to do something.
It was a lesson she learned back in Clinton from her mother. A school teacher all her life, Janet Ross fought for teachers' rights in a state on the bottom end of the pay scale.
"My mom has instilled so many strengths in me as far as being independent, standing up for what you believe," Dombrowski said.
So, she stood up that day in 1989.
Her experience at ESPN had been good. She loved being on College GameDay and traveling to storied football venues. She enjoyed the camaraderie and made friends with whom she still stays in contact. Yet, she couldn't ignore the problems of so many other women.
"It was a complete shock to management when I brought it up," Dombrowski said. "Whether I changed things down the road or paved the road for other women, I don't know."
Evidence suggests that she did. ESPN now has more female broadcasters, including one doing play-by-play of college football, and it televises more women's sporting events than any other network. How that translates to women who work behind the camera is difficult to know -- one study suggests than almost two-thirds of workplace sexual harassment goes unreported in this country -- but outwardly, ESPN looks like a more tolerant place.
Much seems to have changed in 15 years.
That is definitely the case for Dombrowski. She is out of television, having bounced from Washington D.C., to Las Vegas to Miami, then marrying baseball executive Dave Dombrowski. Now living in suburban Detroit, where Dave is the general manager for the Tigers, Karie spends time raising their children, Darbi, 6, and Landon, 4, and doing charity work.
Fifteen years removed from her stint at ESPN, she doesn't view it as evil.
In fact, she doesn't watch it much at all anymore. Too many other things to do.
"In our house," Dombrowski said, "we have to watch 'Baseball Tonight.' "
Even though ESPN might not be always on her television, it had a lasting impact on Dombrowski. It changed her completely, especially in her political views. She went in a conservative Republican and came out a liberal Democrat.
"Now, I cannot talk politics with any of my friends or family," said Dombrowski, whose views changed largely because there were no laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace when she was at ESPN.
"I am the so-called black sheep of the family because I'm a Democrat."
She knows she's a black sheep at ESPN for other reasons. The accusations back then. The comments in that book a few years ago.
That's why she chuckled when her father suggested ESPN should invite her to the party.
"It didn't even cross my mind that they would," Dombrowski said. "They're not going to have someone like me back."
But they should.
Because we all know that liberal Democrats like Bill Clinton were fierce in their opposition to sexual harassment of women in the workplace. [/sarcasm]
BTW, Carlson is a liberal dimwit.
Why would ESPN turn someone from conservativism to liberalism?
It changed her completely, especially in her political views. She went in a conservative Republican and came out a liberal Democrat.
It shore is purty in Tulsa today!
"BTW, Carlson is a liberal dimwit."
Oh, ok... so it's just this writer. I was wondering why the Oklahoman would run something like this.
As I recall according to the Clinton apologists male co-workers are allowed "one free feel" of female co-workers. It only becomes harassment if the male persists after being told no.
ESPN is just as biased as ABC/CBS/CNN/ etc.....
ROSS, KARIE MS
MIAMI, FL 33141
PLANNED PARENTHOOD ACTION FUND INC. PAC (PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERAL PAC) $250 08/29/00
More of the infamous dems fighting for the 'little guy'. In light of all evidence to the contrary, they are still able to have success with that phrase. Has she not heard of Clinton, McGreevey, Condit - the list could go on and on.
Though to be fair, Condit's was merely an affair with accompanying murder and cover-up.
Either she, or the writer, is a liar.
Nobody goes backwards like that. Nobody.
Thank-you for your service to our country..!!
Carlson has been there for awhile....generally sticks to sports.
But overall & sadly....since the Gaylord girls have taken over the paper...it's moved left.
Karie Ross was not well-liked at the ABC affiliate in OKC, and the guys in the sports department were especially glad when she moved on. She was a drag on the system & very naive...perfect lib-dem material. I suspect at some point she realized she'd never have gotten her job if some general manager hadn't been ordered to hire a female. Also, hailing from Clinton I doubt she was exposed to much conservatism when she was growing up. The Clinton-Elk City-Sayre area played host to one of Jimmy Carter's Town Hall Meetings in the late 70's.
Thanks for the post. I also read where Karie Ross' mother was an activist teacher named Janet Ross. What it all adds up to is this - - if Katie Ross (Dombrowski) indeed claimed to have once been a "conservative Republican", then she is a liar.
"A school teacher all her life, Janet Ross fought for teachers' rights in a state on the bottom end of the pay scale. "
If that isn't right out of the NEA/DEMO talking points, I'm made of green cheese.
ESPN does strike me as having a liberal tone on the rare occasion that some sort of ideological or political item sneaks in.
I remember a few months ago on that awful, train wreck of morning show they have called Cold Pizza, they publicized the release of David Brock's hit piece on conservatives on that ticker that runs at the bottom of the screen. That struck me as a bit odd, and I seriously doubt that they'd do the same for the next Ann Coulter book.
There was also the whole Rush Limbaugh/Donovan McNabb incident. When he said it, none of them made an issue of it. The next week, they were all going on and on about it, making a mountain out of a mole hill including that Jackson guy relating some absurd story about a friend of his telling him that his son wondered now if he could be a quarterback because he is black?
Then you have the SportsReporters that comes on Sunday mornings. These guys clearly go left on just about every occasion where an opportunity is presented, including that Lupica guy taking a shot at the SwiftBoatVets out of nowhere.
I agree with everything you said except the rare part. The only thing I can really watch on ESPN is sports events. All their specials definitely have a leftward tilt.