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Major repercussions follow harassment of reporter at soccer game

CityNews reporter confronts vulgar comments at Toronto FC game


(Canadian OH&S News) — A worker has been fired from his job after a female reporter was harassed on-air at a Toronto FC soccer game at BMO Field in Toronto. The Hydro One employee will also be banned from Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) facilities along with the other men who took part in the May 10 incident involving CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt.

Hydro One announced that it would be terminating the employee for violating the company’s code of conduct in a public statement released on May 12. “Respect for all people is engrained in the code and our values. We are committed to an environment where discrimination or harassment of any type is met with zero tolerance,” read the statement.

Although Hydro One would not confirm the identity of the worker, judging from a video of the event, the employee appears to be Shawn Simoes, an assistant network management engineer listed on the Sunshine List as making more than $100,000 per year and a player on the company soccer team.

Hunt was recording a news segment at the game when some men hurled vulgarities at her. It is part of a growing trend of people, usually young men, shouting “F**** her in the p****” into the camera or microphone, while female television reporters are taping live hits.

In this case, Hunt decided to confront the men, asking them why they would do such a thing. A video of the exchange posted to YouTube has gone viral, garnering more than 3.5 million views as of May 15.

In the video, a man wearing a Toronto FC T-shirt responds, “I feel like it’s quite substantial.” Hunt then tells him that it is degrading. “I’m sick of this. I get this every day, 10 times a day,” she says.

Another man, who appears to be Simoes, defends the lewd comments, saying, “It is f***ing hilarious.” When Hunt questions whether his mother would condone such behaviour, he responds, “My mother would die laughing eventually.”

Once the individuals involved in the harassment are identified, they will be banned from MLSE events and facilities, the company has announced. “We’re appalled that this trend of disrespectful behaviour would make its way to our city, let alone anywhere near our stadium,” read a statement issued by MLSE on May 12.

“Our organization is committed to an environment where everyone can feel safe and included and discrimination or intolerance of any kind will be met with swift and serious response. We’re thankful to our vast majority of fans for standing up against such sexist behaviour and working with us to help prevent it in the future.”

A spokesperson for MLSE said that a fan code of conduct protects fans’ experiences. “We have asked TV assignment desks to alert us to female reporters doing live hits outside our venues during games, so we can ask security personnel to pay specific attention and assist where needed,” said senior director of communications Dave Haggith.

According to Haggith, this type of occurrence is not common at games. “This is a further example of an issue that has been happening to reporters around the city for the past 18 months,” he said.

Canadian television reporters have said in media interviews that they frequently get bombarded by the “F*** her in the p****” vulgarity while on the job, sometimes as often as a several times each day.

“Being a journalist does change the dynamic of how we interact with other people because of the kind of work that we do, but it doesn’t change the way that we as people interact with other people in our society,” said Hugo Rodriguez, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. “Women are more likely to be harassed and to be threatened as a whole.”

Rodriguez suggested that employers encourage their employees to report incidents of harassment. Journalists are often expected to be “disinterested observers”; however, they still must respond to abuse and, if appropriate, pursue criminal charges, he said.

“If we’re being harassed in a criminal manner, our being a journalist does not prevent us from doing the same thing that any other person could do in that scenario.”

Municipal, provincial and federal politicians, including Kathleen Wynne, have come out in support of Hunt. In a tweet, Wynne thanked CityNews for how it handled the incident. “Whether or not it’s caught on film, sexual harassment at work is no joke,” she said in the message. In press scrums filmed by CityNews, John Tory called the conduct of the Hydro One employee “reprehensible” and Minister of Justice Peter Mackay said that such actions “should be frowned upon.”