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Thanks To Garbage Time's Katie Nolan, Sexism In Sports Gets Some Overdue Trash Talk

The host of a late-night comedy show about sports is using her platform to take on some not-very-funny issues.

Katie Nolan speaks truth to power on her sports show, Garbage Time. “Being small has helped us,” she says.

[Photos: Herring & Herring; Hair and makeup: Dina Calabro for Bernstein & Andriulli]

"Garbage time" is what happens in a blowout game when teams send in their second-string players. It’s also the name of former YouTube vlogger Katie Nolan’s weekly sports and pop-culture comedy show, which premiered in early 2015 and airs on cable channel Fox Sports 1. Though Garbage Time With Katie Nolan is shot in a closet-size New York studio, it’s gained outsize attention thanks to the outspoken Nolan, who’s the only woman to solo-host a national sports opinion show.

Fast Company: Garbage Time breaks the format of traditional sports programming. Instead of doing commentary or news, you’re asking NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. to do dramatic readings from Mad Men or ranking the staleness of hockey-stadium pretzels. How did you develop that approach?

Katie Nolan: We are a new show, and some weeks it’s not as much about who we want [to book as a guest], but who we can get. Maybe it’s not LeBron James, but we’ll come up with a great idea that makes the guest pop instead of just interviewing them. Being small has helped us, because we’re coming up with ideas that people will watch even if they’re not a die-hard fan of whatever player or team.

You gained some notoriety in October 2015 for condemning pro football player Greg Hardy, the NFL, and the media after Hardy’s suspension for domestic assault. Why did you decide to use your humor-based show to address violence and sexism in sports?

After the Ray Rice assault, for months I watched women on sports television read the news story and then open the conversation up to a panel of men. I thought, I’d love for a woman to say something. I finally said, I don’t care what my role is. This is something important that needs to be said. I was like, I’m trying to write a comedy bit, but I’m so pissed off about this that I have to address it right now.

What should leagues be doing that they are not?

It seems like a smart business decision to make women feel comfortable. Not by saying, "Hey, look, we made our jerseys pink! We have free manicures on ladies’ day!" But by taking it seriously when a player punches a woman in the face—telling players that if you do that, you’re out of our league. There hasn’t been as much blowback [for speaking out about sexism and violence in sports] from people in the industry as I initially expected. There are people open to acknowledging that it’s been a boys’ club for a very long time.

Emmy Winner Katie Nolan Explains What Makes Her Sports Show "Garbage Time" So Special

A version of this article appeared in the June 2016 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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