By: DOROTHY GIOBBE
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING General Manager Phil Esposito was fined $10,000 last week and sternly reprimanded by the National Hockey League for his obscenity-laced tirade against a female reporter from the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press.
Sports reporter Kisha Ciabattari was attempting a post-game interview with Esposito in the visitor’s locker room following Tampa Bay’s loss during the NHL playoffs at Philadelphia’s Spectrum Arena.
When Ciabattari asked to speak with the former New York Ranger and NHL Hall of Famer, he spun around and had let loose a barrage of stinging insults.
The following is Ciabattari’s recollection of the confrontation:
Ciabattari: “Phil, do you have a second?”
Esposito: “I wouldn’t f?-ing talk with you if you were the last person on earth.”
Ciabattari: “Well, I guess that makes me lucky.”
Esposito: “F?k you, you little s?t.”
Esposito: “Who do you work for? Get the f?k out of here.”
As Ciabattari walked away to interview another player, Esposito told her to “Go s?k a d?k.”
Ciabattari was prepared to dismiss the incident, but a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times wrote about the diatribe in the next day’s newspaper.
The Press sent a letter of protest to the NHL and the Tampa Bay team. Later that day, Esposito telephoned Ciabattari and John Quinn, Press managing editor for sports, to apologize for his tantrum.
Esposito was fined the maximum amount allowed under NHL bylaws.
In a letter to the Press, expressing regret on behalf of the NHL, commissioner Gary Bettman said, “The National Hockey League strongly believes that the media must be treated with dignity, given the access necessary to do their jobs and have a suitable environment to work in. This includes not being subjected to verbal or physical intimidation.”
Bettman added that he had been assured that Esposito supports those policies, “and that he will refrain from such behavior in the future.”
“I consider myself to be tough, and unfortunately on subtle levels there is this sexism that [female sports reporters] have to put up with,” Ciabattari told a reporter from her own newspaper. “These kind of words he used, though, obviously were pretty exceptional.”
After accepting Esposito’s apology, Quinn said he considered the matter closed.
“I believe he knew he made a mistake and he wanted to rectify it,” he said. “I applaud the NHL for their response. It puts things in the proper perspective, that you can’t just do that to a reporter.”
It’s not the first time a reporter has been subjected to Esposito’s wrath. Helene Elliot, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, said that Esposito made sexist comments to her repeatedly when she covered the Rangers for Newsday. Specifically, she remembers Esposito ignoring her questions during press conferences and instead commenting on her dress or her perfume.
And Phil Mushnick, a sports columnist for the New York Post, told the Press that Esposito “would try to defame reporters whom he had problems with, through whispering campaigns that suggested that they especially enjoyed being in the locker room because they liked looking at naked men.”
Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Phil Esposito will pay $10,000 for
expletive-filled rant against female reporter
?(“I consider myself to be tough, and unfortunately on subtle levels there is this sexism that [female sports reporters] have to put up with. These kind of words he used, though, obviously were pretty exceptional.”) [Caption]
?(? Kisha Ciabattari, sportswriter, Asbury Park (N.J.) PressA 1979 Topps hockey card of Phil Esposito during his playing days) [Photo & Caption]
?(A 1979 Topps hockey card of Phil Esposito during his playing days) [Photo & Caption]