Molly Knight has been on the frontlines of sports reporting for the last decade, and you can currently find the bulk of her reporting at the sports website The Athletic. She has been published everywhere including The New York Times Magazine, Men’s Health, and ESPN the Magazine, amongst others.
Despite all the advances around equality in the workplace, the sports industry still feels like an old boys’ club. Knight has not only managed to create powerful narratives and thrive in the space, she’s also a powerful voice for women in the industry and providing a no-nonsense take on issues in the sports world. Her heart may be in baseball and with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but following her on Twitter is a MUST for any sports fan. Her debut book, The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse, was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the PEN America Award for Literary Sports Writing.
Oola: There are more women than ever working in sports in the front office, reporting, and even on the sidelines and dugout. How have things changed for women in sports over the course of your career?
Molly: I started my career fifteen years ago right out of college, and for the first twelve years it seemed like there was no movement whatsoever. Then Becky Hammon got hired as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs and Katie Sowers got hired by the 49ers. This year the San Francisco Giants will have Alyssa Naken as the first full-time female coach in MLB. So there’s been a lot of progress on the coaching front, but not as much as I would like to see in front offices. There are somewhere around 150 general manager jobs in the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and MLS and not one of those positions is filled by a woman. You cannot convince me that there are 150 men more qualified for those jobs than the top qualified woman. There’s not a chance. I think teams are still scared of hiring the first female general manager in part because they’re scared to fire the first female general manager, but that’s the way those jobs go.
From a reporting standpoint I would say that the #metoo and Time’s Up movements have brought more awareness to the added layers of harassment and obstacles women face in almost every industry. As a woman in sports I have not checked my Twitter mentions from strangers in years. I think people are finally starting to understand like, whoa, male sports reporters on social media never get nasty comments about how they look, their face, their weight, their hair, their shoes while women in sports get those comments all day, every day. We still have a long way to go, obviously, but it does seem like the tide has shifted in a major way toward believing women, whether it’s something as serious as a sexual assault or something basic like just dealing with people wanting to dismiss whatever you have to say about sports because you’re just some dumb chick who doesn’t know anything.
I think people are finally starting to understand like, whoa, male sports reporters on social media never get nasty comments about how they look, their face, their weight, their hair, their shoes while women in sports get those comments all day, every day.
Oola: In your opinion how long before a female is the GM of a major sports franchise?
Molly: Probably not for at least another ten years. I hope I’m wrong, but men have all the power in sports and I don’t see them wanting to give it up that easily.
Oola: You recently tweeted about how imposter syndrome still plagues you with your writing no matter what you have accomplished. So many women struggle in their jobs with that very thing. How do you overcome that, and any advice for the rest of us?
Molly: It’s so tough. As women especially, I think we are taught to just be happy and to accept whatever the rest of the world is willing to give us, whether that’s a salary below our worth or a romantic partnership with someone who dims our light. Writing is a weird profession for men though, too. Talent is subjective; some people think Hemingway and Faulkner are overrated! I’ve learned number one to protect myself. I never stray too far into the comments sections under one of my stories because the human brain is wired to forget 99 compliments and focus on the one criticism as a survival mechanism. Constructive criticism is vital, and lord knows every writer is only as good as his or her editor. When you stop listening to feedback you stop getting better. But it’s very important, no matter what line of work you’re in, to only seek out feedback from people who are gentle and kind and have your best interests in mind.
Something I try to remember is there is so much that’s out of my control. I can spend weeks or months on a story and post it and no one cares. Or spend an hour on a story that goes viral. I can’t attach self worth to results because it’s so dangerous. That means not taking cruel criticism too seriously but it also means not taking rapturous praise as gospel truth either. When I sat down to write my book I had never written anything longer than 6,000 words before. My book wound up being 103,000 words. At around the 20,000 word mark I was so overwhelmed by how much I still had to write that I had a weekend long panic attack and wondered how I was ever going to finish it. Berating myself and pushing my body and brain past the point of exhaustion was not going to work. So I slowed down and just started writing 500 words a day, no matter what. Some days those words were junk. But at least they were on the page. The next day I’d usually go in and clean them up and improve what I’d written the day before, then add another 500 words. Those words added up pretty fast. I think it’s a good approach to life, really. I think we all feel completely overwhelmed from time to time, and it can be paralyzing. But if instead of trying to do 50 things on your daily to-do list you focus on doing just two or three things the best you can, it’s the best antidote to paralysis.
Oola: You are an important, and powerful voice on social media—on sports and a wide range of topics. What’s your secret to dealing with internet bullies, or do you have any guidelines or personal rules of engagement to share?
Molly: I don’t read any comments after my political tweets! You’re never going to win a political argument over social media, so there’s really no point in trying to engage. I think one good thing about growing up with the Internet is I learned a long time ago that you can never win an Internet fight because even if you win, you lose. Of course I still get frustrated from time to time and may sass someone, but it’s usually when I feel I’m speaking truth to power, rather than some anonymous troll with two followers. I keep my personal life off social media and that has been a good decision. If someone is just a constant spew of hatred I block them. If someone is exhausting I mute them. If someone is threatening I report them. I have it a lot easier than most. I think about famous women who have stalkers and I don’t know how they cope with that. I worry about famous young women on Instagram and all the nasty comments from trolls and I think it’s great that a lot of them have recently changed their settings so that only people who they follow can comment on their posts. I saw the abuse Hailey Baldwin was getting from women who are mad she married Justin Bieber and it made me so sad. She has no clue who I am but I wanted to like physically, shield her from the vitriol being thrown her way. I truly don’t know how famous young women cope in the age of social media.
Too much time on Twitter puts me on edge, even when I haven’t posted. And it’s not because I’m sifting through comments people make on my posts but it’s just because I don’t think our brains and our nervous systems are meant to handle constant influx of news, especially when negative stories are the ones that get the most traction. I’ve never watched local news in my adult life because it’s 95% stories about murders, robberies, bullying, and other horrible things. Yet now I’m addicted to twitter which is a highlight reel of all the worst local news stories in the world.
Oola: You are a reporter for the Athletic, a contributing writer to a number of publications, and you wrote your first book a few years back. Any new and upcoming projects to share in 2020?
Molly: Not yet! But they’re coming. 😉
Oola: Finally, what’s your Dodgers prediction for the 2020 season?
Molly: Well I never predict they will win the World Series, so maybe I should start. The Dodgers will win the 2020 World Series.