Sunday, August 10, 2008

NASCAR's Own Echo Workplace Concerns


There was quite a build-up to the Sunday morning episode of ESPN's news program entitled Outside The Lines. As it turned out, there was a good reason why.

ESPN anchor Mark Schwarz hosted this program while series regular Bob Ley was on vacation. The Lead Reporter for OTL is Kelly Naqi, an ESPN veteran who worked her way up through the ranks.

The premise of this week's episode was that NASCAR had filed their response to the Mauricia Grant lawsuit and it was time to talk to other minorities who work in the NASCAR world and get their perspectives. ESPN got an earful.

This week, stories have been published documenting Grant's personal legal struggles over the years. From a drunk driving arrest to a long since expired restraining order, the public interest into Grant's real motivation has begun.

ESPN took this weekend as the opportunity to dive right into the issue as a whole. It was time to talk about workplace treatment of minorities in NASCAR on national TV. NASCAR fans knew well in advance this was going to be interesting.

Naqi spoke with several professional employees, beginning with Mauricia Grant. Unfortunately, the feature on Grant had been seen before on ESPN and that was disappointing. Starting the show with a repeat of an earlier ESPN feature was perhaps not the best way to open-up this topic.

Naqi transitioned to additional interviews with DEI's Max Siegel and others. Siegel is a powerful speaker and his words made a lot of sense where integrating the sport is concerned. Chris Justice, Antonio Morrison and Michael Hayden are African-American and also current pit crew members. Their comments echoed Siegel's in terms of being in the middle of a slow transition of NASCAR to today's real world.

Nicole Starzynski was a former computer technician for NASCAR and her comments were explicit. She was very clear that she had experienced workplace harassment first-hand. Naqi documented this former employee's issues in very clear terms. This was a new face in the NASCAR workplace issue and perhaps the most interesting of the program.

Naqi followed-up with other women like Lisa Smokstad and Katie Muir who are currently employed in the sport. Smokstad and Muir are both women navigating their way through a very diverse sport. Their comments showed the wide variety of experiences employees can have in a workplace with thousands of personalities involved on a regular basis.

Marcus Jadotte joined the program as the NASCAR representative. He is currently the Director of Public Affairs and Diversity. Jadotte was the most effective NASCAR representative that has been heard in public on this issue. He addressed these topics in a professional manner and left viewers feeling that they had perhaps identified someone who was dealing with these very issues on a day-to-day basis.

Unfortunately, Schwarz was drawn into asking Jadotte about why there are no black or female drivers. This was a bad mistake. He then tried to badger Jadotte on issues like attending races and Jadotte indicated he had attended more than half of the Sprint Cup races. The tide had turned and Schwarz came away as ineffective.

This show left more on the table than it should have and Naqi's use of the older footage of Grant was unfortunate. Where damage to NASCAR is concerned, Jadotte addressed every issue raised by Schwarz. It was an effective response to say the least.

As suspected, OTL lumped all the NASCAR series together even though there had only been allegations against the Nationwide Series officials. In the end, ESPN's news division came away as offering some new footage addressing these issues, but did not effectively present any real evidence that might back-up all of the claims Grant makes in her lawsuit.

Whether Grant's claims are excessive, she is an isolated case or everything she states is true will ultimately be decided in civil court. It will be interesting to watch the NASCAR programs on TV today and see how they follow-up on the OTL program.

What are your thoughts on this episode? We are not asking for your opinion on the lawsuit, only on the Outside The Lines episode of Sunday morning. It should be interesting to see if NASCAR offers Mr. Jadotte to other TV programs throughout the day.

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23 comments:

darbar said...

Wow, this is one amazing show. One question that popped into my mind is, what will sponsors such as Hefty and Kingsford do once they see this program? No matter what, these allegations, if true, reflects poorly on these sponsors and could appear to the general public that there is some kind of tacit approval of discrimination.

But, as a woman who worked in one of the most macho environments, a trucking company, I really have to shake my head at the woman who said she was called a whore because she was pregnant. A fellow co-worker of mine at the trucking company was pregnant out of wedlock, and the men from all generations treated her with respect. While I don't doubt that comments are made by overly testerone-filled Neaderthals, I just have a hard time believing that a pregnant woman would be called a whore, unless there was some kind of knowledge of her behavior that these men were aware of. But to ridicule a woman just because she is expecting, I just don't bite on that one.

One interesting thing I noticed, why didn't the woman reporter verbalize the team name when speaking of the individuals who experienced harassement? Yes, the crawl on the screen said what team, but all she would say is "the 57 team or the whatever number team".

Another thing. Isn't it up to each individual team owner to take care of such harassment issues? Nascar can't police each team and their issues, so this is a team problem if the issue involves team members. But did you notice, the two team members who reported no problems were from very high profile teams, Hendrick and JR Motorsports? Does that say anything?

Daly Planet Editor said...

darbar,

I think that one big mistake was due to the thirty minute program format.

OTL never took a moment to talk about the structure of NASCAR. The pit crew members are employees of their various teams and while that was mentioned, it was not made clear how NASCAR works.

Mr. Jadotte did his best to present the idea that NASCAR is one of the last sports where the media freely wanders through the garage and pits almost anytime.

He reinforced the idea that ESPN's own cameras are on-hand at every race and as he said, the pits are basically "transparent."

If they had presented Grant with new footage, we would have been able to get her present day perspective on the issues.

JD

Jo said...

The OTL segment just aired.
The most puzzling part is the fact that Mark Scwartz & Kelli Naqi do not realize(or care)that NA$CAR does not "own" the teams unlike the NFL. They definately used the "stick & ball" model of sports. That showed a lack of complete preparation. And they made it sound as if everyone works in 1 giant garage every day.

That said was there racism at the different independetly owned teams, yes undoubtedly.I noticed each of the men dealt with it in a different way, yet got the same results, respect & long term employment.

Is it worse than other workplaces? Mostly. Auto industry & other blue collar workplaces can be just as bad. (I use auto & factories as my reference because thats where I worked. I am a woman) It was like that in the late 70's & early 80's when I worked there. I would hope that would have been a thing of the past by now.

2 women NASCAR employees claim to have had a very rough time, 2 women at SEPERATELY OWNED TEAMS not NASCAR had & have an easier time of it.

I liked what Lisa Smokstad ( sp?)said she "demanded respect".

As far as NA$CAR, the common thread is they worked DIRECTLY for NA$CAR, and both women dealt with Starr in HR. Both times she screwed up, and if she is in charge of "diversity training" that explains how it got to this point.

Mr. Jadotte was fairly well spoken, I wish Mr. Schwartz would have not tried to talk over him, just let him finish a sentence & ask the next question, then edit it.

Basically it was a balanced report,but, not earth shaking.

Anonymous said...

I think once again this show and the media are taking things out of context and blowing everything our of proportion. The lawsuit is old news now. Nothing new has happend except we learned ms. grant has been arrested before.

Its too bad OTL couldnt has done this show when the lawsuit first came out. Now they are just stirring the pot.

Jo from SC said...

It was better than I had feared, but not as good as it could have been. One thing I noticed about the two women who said they hadn't been discriminated against: Lisa Smokstad works for Hendrick, and so does her husband. She demands respect, and so does her husband--and it may be less likely that a woman will be harassed if her husband is around. Katie Muir works for JRMotorsports, which is run by Kelley Earnhardt--and having a very hands-on woman as a manager may help improve the environment for female employees. I agree that the revelations by Nicole Starzynski were more interesting--especially since she worked for the sanctioning body and not an individual team.

I wasn't as impressed by Marcus Jadotte, whose answers were pure political smoke; he's a "suite guy," not a garage guy. While he may have gone to 23 races in 2007, that doesn't mean he's in the pits and garages and hears the kinds of things that are alleged to have happened. He's going from sponsor suite to sponsor suite to show that NASCAR is diversified. I wish that Schwartz had gotten him to answer the question he asked about hearing the N-word; instead, Jadotte got off the hook. Still, all in all, at least OTL got this discussion going; now the people who care about it have to ensure it continues.

Anonymous said...

The irony of the fact that a black guy is in charge of diversity at NASCAR and yet couldn't--or wouldn't--explain why there are no black drivers in the top three series was notable.

The report was pretty well done, but a full 30 minutes' exploration wouldn't have been out of place.

Anonymous said...

"I wasn't as impressed by Marcus Jadotte, whose answers were pure political smoke; he's a "suite guy," not a garage guy."

If I'm not mistaken, Jadotte was hired from the political arena. Chief of staff for a senator or congressman in Washington and also had a big role in some presidential campaign in 2000 or 2004, I don't know which party's candidate.

So he's probably very good at the "I'll talk without saying anything substantial" comment.

Lisa Hogan said...

ESPN has shown, once again, that the decision makers do not understand NASCAR.

One cannot take any “sports reporter” and stick them into a NASCAR story and expect it to work.

When the reporters do not know the difference between a team employee and a NASCAR employee and do not know what it takes for a driver to move up to a NASCAR series, it makes one wonder about the entire report.

Richard in N.C. said...

When I saw Mark Schwartz instead of Bob Ley I expected to see a hatchet job, so I was impressed that it was reasonably even-handed. I did find 4 things interesting-

1. In the beginning where it could have been noted that even ESPN had experienced allegations of sexual harrassment it was not mentioned;

2. No information was provided regarding Miss Grant's claims other than the statements of the parties, which was probably as it should have been;

3. There were no statements by any of ESPN's NASCAR experts, although Brad D. was mentioned in passing; and

4. There were no statements by any of ESPN's in-house legal experts like Roger Cossack, whose name I probably misspelled.

fan1234 said...

Regarding "Jo from SC's" comments -
Jadotte is regularly in the garage areas. Be careful with the assumptions . . . .

Dot said...

Why is it NASCARs' fault there are no minority drivers. Do you think the teams would turn away a Josephine Logano, Jose Logano or J'oseph Legano? I think not. They WANT a competetive driver who can run well and/or win.

Drivers start out when they're young. Unfortunately, it is an expensive sport. Stick and ball sports cost almost nothing. That's what most kids are exposed to. Walk or bike ride down the street and you're playing your sport. Not that easy for a racer.

I would like to know if most of the comments made in the gargage were malicious. Going for a joke or said with love makes a big difference.

I thought this show was one sided against NASCAR. I wonder what happens next.

Gymmie said...

@anon 2:33--they said he was a Deputy Director of John Kerry's Presidential Campaign.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know if most of the comments made in the gargage were malicious. Going for a joke or said with love makes a big difference.
Have you actually read the complaint?

I suspect if you had, you wouldn't be making this statement, because the things the people are accused of saying and doing cannot possibly be construed as being said "with love."

Anonymous said...

1. In the beginning where it could have been noted that even ESPN had experienced allegations of sexual harrassment it was not mentioned;

Why should it have been? It has no bearing whatsoever on the accusations against NASCAR.

Dot said...

To anon 2:07am,

I was not referring to the complaint. I was referring to the people they interviewed on the show. I got the impression from Eddie(I don't remember his last name), that he's had to suck it up to move up in the ranks. But he didn't seem offended. He's still works there.

I've always worked in a diverse atmosphere so I don't know what it's like to be a minority in the workplace. How do whites handle being the minority in the workplace? Are they made fun of? Sexually harrassed? I'd like to know. Let's see a story about whites in the NFL or the NBA.

Anonymous said...

This was a decent show - had some flaws but still good. I am very surprised that TV partner ESPN drilled NASCAR so hard. Marcus Jadotte did not come across very well - he had few answers.

Also, why is NASCAR now coming across with the dirt on Grant's past history prior to her hiring? DUI, restraining order etc. Wasn't this an issue prior to hiring her? Or maybe they did not perform a background check prior to hiring her? NASCAR is coming across looking bad and not very professional. They need to clean house and get some competant folks on board. Erase the "good old boy" board.

Anonymous said...

Marcus Jadotte is a "suit and tie" office guy. Not in tune with NASCAR at all. He is window dressing.

Maybe this head of HR for NASCAR Star George is one of the "Good Old Boys" (or girls) who covers stuff up too? Her name has come up alot lately in all the controversy. They want to be a top rate organization but they don't lead by example.

So far, only two part time officials have been let go and made scapegoats of.

Anonymous said...

Let's see a story about whites in the NFL or the NBA.

I'm sure we will, just as soon as one files a racial-harassemtn lawsuit.

Tracy said...

I imagine it was hard to get minority Nascar employees, currently on the job, to discuss discrimination issues. I dare say, next to impossible.

Jadotte's answer to the question about sticking up for minorities in Nascar (I'm widely paraphrasing here) stopped me cold. He said, essentially, that he was only responsible for handling issues that affected him, and him alone. (I'll try to write down the exact phrasing later when I run thru Tivo, but that's the essence of what I heard.) I couldn't believe it. It's okay if they come after other people, but you get into gear only when they come after you.?? What the??? I wasn't impressed. Too much of the politician, as someone else said earlier.

I got that the report was about the "culture" of Nascar. All in all, a good start, but there needs to be more digging. I just think it's going to be next to impossible to find people willing to talk.Why should they risk their livelihoods?

Jo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo said...

Tracy said...
Jadotte's answer to the question about sticking up for minorities in Nascar (I'm widely paraphrasing here) stopped me cold. He said, essentially, that he was only responsible for handling issues that affected him, and him alone. (I'll try to write down the exact phrasing later when I run thru Tivo, but that's the essence of what I heard.) I couldn't believe it. It's okay if they come after other people, but you get into gear only when they come after you.?? What the??? I wasn't impressed. Too much of the politician, as someone else said earlier.
------
Please re listen to the question & Mr Jadottes answer again. I know its hard thats the point where Mr Schwartz begins interupting him.
He was talking about something else,I already erased it, but I thought the same thing and had to re listen. Unfortunately I didn't remove the "erase after viewing" selection. I'm off to ESPN to see if I can get the quote.

ok got it!!


OK its online go to ESPN NASCAR page "outside the lines"
http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/nascar/index

Mr Jadottes interview is seperate from Kelli Naqi's report
the exchange between M. Schwartz &
M. Jadotte as follows
MS asks if "you heard the Nword in the workplace?"
MJ replies "never I can't speak for the experiences of others"
MS "don't you speak for them?"

MJ "for other indiviuals?"

MS "yes"

MJ "absolutely not I can speak only for myself - my experiences."


The two were discussing workplace experiences. Big Difference

Tracy said...

MS "don't you speak for them?"

MJ "for other indiviuals?"

MS "yes"

MJ "absolutely not I can speak only for myself - my experiences."

Hmmm. . . I see your interpretation, but I'm still not sure. As you said, it was a mess of an interview at that point - very hard when the interviewer is constantly interrupting to keep it clear and focused.

I'll call it a mess and leave it at that. Wish they'd had Ms Starr George, or whatever her name is, interviewed as well.

Jo said...

Tracy said...
Hmmm. . . I see your interpretation, but I'm still not sure. As you said, it was a mess of an interview at that point - very hard when the interviewer is constantly interrupting to keep it clear and focused.

I'll call it a mess and leave it at that. Wish they'd had Ms Starr George, or whatever her name is, interviewed as well.

August 12, 2008 10:22 AM
-----
I doubt they let Ms. Starr George anywhere near the media.
I agree with you on
the interview was a mess, very unprofessional.