If you’re a Minnesota Twins fan, you’re probably already well aware of the allegations that independent photographer Betsy Bissen went public via Twitter a couple days ago with her #MeToo experience involving Twins star Miguel Sano. I won’t go into all the details but you can easily find them with a quick browser search.
In a nutshell, Betsy’s account is that, following an autograph session at a memorabilia store in 2015, Sano forcibly attempted to pull her into a restroom. The struggle, from which she ultimately extricated herself, lasted several terrifying minutes.
Over the past few weeks and months, we’ve seen victim after victim of male abuse of power/position come to light, most predominantly in the Hollywood, political and corporate environments. However, to my limited knowledge, this is perhaps the first allegation against a major league professional athlete, at least since the #MeToo movement came to prominence.
Given the historically misogynistic world of professional sports, the only surprising thing is that it took this long for experiences such as Betsy’s to become public. Her allegation may or may not have been the first involving a MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL player, but I think we can be pretty certain it won’t be the last.
MLB is beginning an investigation into the allegations regarding Sano, as is their responsibility and duty, apparently, under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement with the MLB Players Association. It is proper, I know, for those who know neither Sano nor Bissen personally, to decide they want to hold off on judgement until MLB does it’s investigation thing.
Most of us who know Betsy at all (I consider myself her friend, though we are not what either of us, I’m sure, would consider to be close friends) are not generally feeling compelled to wait out an investigation before expressing our unequivocal support for her.
In fact, since she went public, she has received what would at least be considered public corroborative support from various parties who have, in the past, been at least somewhat familiar with Mr. Sano’s treatment of women in manners not inconsistent with what Betsy described.
One person, Mike Holmdahl, recounted via Twitter that he had observed Sano making a female usher in Chattanooga uncomfortable during Sano’s playing days with the Lookouts earlier in the same season that the event involving Bissen took place. That person was told by a senior usher there that they were so aware of Sano’s activities with regard to female ushers that they had made an effort to avoid posting females near the home dugout. (You can find Holmdahl’s full recounting as part of Brandon Warne’s excellent piece at Zone Coverage.)
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports wrote that he had been told by, “five people, including teammates, ex-teammates and confidants, with whom he has spent time,” that they characterized Sano as someone who, “saw the pursuit of women as sport,” One of them called Sano “a ticking time bomb.”
Jeff Goldklang, a member of the ownership group that currently owns the St. Paul Saints (for whom Bissen does some photography work) and previously owned the Twins’ class high-A Ft. Myers Miracle related via Twitter that, “I’ve seen enough of both people to have absolutely no doubts in this story’s veracity. I’ve personally seen Sano act inappropriately towards a woman- while in uniform, no less.”
In fact, given these statements of at least partial corroboration, it does lead one to wonder what the Twins’ front office knew about Sano’s issues with women and when they knew it. But that’s a question for another day and, if the MLB and the media do their jobs, we’ll possibly get some answers some day.
All of this is just by way of saying that it would appear that Betsy Bissen is worthy of the support that her friends and many others are giving her.
But I’m not writing this to say I support her. She deserves more than that.
I’m writing to say, “Thank you,” to Betsy for having the courage to speak out, knowing that the result would not be 100% supportive – that there would be a significant – and very vocal – segment of the population of Twins Territory who would demonize her for speaking out (conveniently hiding behind anonymous social media pseudonyms in most cases, of course}.
I will admit that Betsy’s public allegations made me uncomfortable, just as the whole #MeToo movement has made me uncomfortable. But you know what? It’s SUPPOSED to make me uncomfortable.
It’s supposed to make me take stock of my own views and treatment of women – past, present and, in particular, future. And it has done just that.
I’m a 61 year old man. And while I certainly have never behaved toward any woman the way that Betsy related that Sano behaved toward her, I’m absolutely certain my words and actions toward women at various points in my life would not stand up to the spotlight that #MeToo is shining on us today.
I’m not naive enough to think #MeToo and people like Betsy Bissen are going to quickly and dramatically change the way we view and treat women in our society, especially, perhaps, in an era where our country has elected an openly misogynist President, sending a signal to a considerable segment of our population that it’s OK to behave similarly toward our wives, girlfriends, sisters, daughters and granddaughters.
In fact, I doubt we’ll see the kind of change that is needed take hold fully during my lifetime.
But, thanks to people like Betsy and others possessing similar courage, I have hope that my two grandsons (ages 2 and 4) will grow up in a world where they don’t even question whether it’s appropriate to treat girls and women with respect and, frankly, just common decency.
More importantly yet, I have hope that my not-quite-yet born granddaughter will grow up in such a world.
I have hope that she will grow up knowing that, if she aspires to be a sports photographer (or an actress or a political aide or a corporate executive), she shouldn’t have to accept that being subject to what Betsy Bissen went through (or much worse) is considered just the price of admission into her chosen profession or avocation.
So, on behalf of my granddaughter and myself, let me just say it.
Thank you, Betsy.
Note: I’m not interested in a debate of this matter within the comments section of our site, so I won’t be opening this post for comments. If that bothers you, I’m sorry (but not very). I’ve seen enough of the hate being cast toward Betsy elsewhere. There’s no shortage of places you can go to make those sorts of comments, but this won’t be one of them. – Steve