Inappropriate tournament staff comments

A year or so ago I competed in a tournament. No other women signed up at my belt level so I was paired with a higher belt who was only competing in no-gi. We were the only higher belt women’s match (purple and brown), and we competed together twice in a round robin format.

Our first matches were right at the beginning of the tournament, so not too many people were around. Then we competed again early afternoon and had quite the crowd watching. One of the men in charge… he wasn’t reffing, but he was one of the main organizers and seemed to be managing things, was watching with one of the other refs close to the mat, inside the barriers since they worked there. At one point my partner and I were engaged in the match, close to the edge, and I heard this man say, “Sexy, sexy, sexy.”

Soon after that, either time ran out or we were asked to reset. I turned to look at him and said, “what did you just say?” and he looked stunned and didn’t reply. I was so mad, but I could tell no one else heard it.

After that I wasn’t sure who to talk to. I asked someone else who worked there who to speak to if I had a complaint and she indicated that I talk to the same man who had made the comment. I asked if there was anyone above him and she said no. It didn’t seem like I could speak with anyone there about this inappropriate comment.

On their website it’s tough to get in touch with someone and know who you are reaching. I knew the name of this guy from asking at the tournament, so I didn’t want to risk emailing and having him be the one to read it.

When I finally got in touch with someone from the tournament company, I told them what happened. The guy said that he spoke to this man in question and that he doesn’t deny saying it, but that he and this ref were talking about someone else. That it wasn’t directed to me at all. I knew this wasn’t true as everyone was really quiet during the match and I was close enough to these guys who weren’t talking to each other while they were watching us. The owner replied to me and basically said he believes his employee and isn’t going to take any action on it.

For me, this was both something that should not have happened in the first place and something the owner should have taken seriously. Instead, it was brushed off. In the future I won’t be supporting this tournament company or competing in any of their tournaments. I wish I had the courage to share this more widely with the community, but I’m not sure how to condense it into something that’s easy to share. I just know that what that employee did was wrong and the owner’s response was also wrong. I don’t think it’s the best environment for women competitors.