SMITHS STATION, Ala. (WRBL) — A sports reporter who covered the Alabama girls flag football state championship between Smiths Station High School and Hewitt-Trussville in Birmingham Wednesday is under fire for inappropriate comments he made about the teams on social media.
Parents, coaches, and school leaders say they are outraged after Bill Lumpkin III, a freelance reporter who covered the game for AL.com, made a Facebook post that sexualized the female athletes. The group is urging the AHSAA to ban Lumpkin from all high school sidelines.
In a since-deleted posted, Lumpkin posted a photo from the game with the caption: “Why does covering girls flag football make you think of lingerie football and pillow fights.”
Lumpkin’s father, Bill Lumpkin Jr., was the longtime sports editor of the Birmingham Post-Herald. He died earlier this spring at the age of 92.
Smiths Station head coach Megan Larsen said that after her team’s loss to Hewitt-Trussville, concerned parents alerted her to Lumpkin’s post.
“In this crucial time of their life when self-image and body-image are so important, for someone to speak about them in that way, regarding them as a ‘lingerie pillow party,’ it absolutely disgusted me,” Larsen said. “It made me so angry to think that any of my girls would ever be looked at in that way while they are out trying to play a sport. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that he was standing on the sidelines.”
Brad Cook, principal at Smiths Station, said as soon as the Alabama High School Athletic Association sanctioned flag football, he and Larsen have ensured the sport would be another opportunity for girls to excel on the field and be taken seriously as student-athletes.
“It definitely tarnished what they have worked so hard to get to that moment and really show what they are all about and what type of athletes they were, and the character that they had. For him to make that statement, it was deeply hurtful, especially for those girls and how hard they have worked all year.”
Larsen, Cook, and parents immediately reached out to AL.com, where Izzy Gould, senior director of content, offered an apology.
“We received an email alerting us about the post in question,” Gould said in a statement to sister station News 3. “We have addressed this internally and will seek to work with other freelance reporters for the remainder of the playoffs.”
Cook hopes the AHSAA will prevent Lumpkin from covering all high school athletics.
“It’s definitely something that made my skin crawl because we’re talking about my kids here,” Cook said. “And to compare that to lingerie football, I think that was a very disturbing comparison when you’re talking about kids.”
The Alabama High School Athletic Association told News 3 they had no comment on the situation.
Meanwhile, Larsen, Cook, and parents are committed to making sure the student-athletes who saw the post are taken care of. Larsen is hopeful Lumpkin will issue an apology. But, while Larson is ready to offer grace, she never wants to see Lumpkin on any high school sideline.
“I think the Alabama High School Association has done a great job this season of making our sport, this new sport, so exciting and so fun and so important for the girls,” Larsen said. “For this man to say it was like a pillow fight is very insulting to what they are doing. For me, I would never like to see him on any sideline of any Alabama High School Athletic Association event ever again.”
Larsen said her number one objective is to protect players. Her second is to build a flag football dynasty at Smiths Station High School. There is already talk of expanding the program and adding a Junior Varsity team.