14 Sep Female Reporters in Men’s Locker Rooms
Spanish reporter Ines Sainz (former Miss Spain 1997) was reportedly “harassed” (that is, players in the locker room were making comments about her) in the Jets’ locker room, and now there’s all sorts of controversy. First of all, Sainz herself has posted a picture on Twitter of what she was wearing that day to show that she wasn’t dressed provocatively, “Algunos medios aseguran que iba inapropiadamente vestida con los Jets! Exactamente estaba asi!” (“Some media are reporting that I was inappropriately dressed with the Jets! I was exactly like this!”). She followed up with another couple defensive tweets: “Unos jeans y una camisa blanca de botones con unas botas no tienen nada de inapropiado!” (A pair of jeans, a white button-down shirt, and a pair of boots are not inappropriate!”) and “Esto por lo que se comentaba hoy respecto a mi presencia con los jets!” (“This is for those who were commenting today about my presence with the Jets”).
First of all, such problems are indeed plentiful throughout the industry—the women who cover men’s teams are regularly victims of boorish, sexist treatment by both players and fans. There is no excuse for such behavior, and the players involved here should be held accountable for their lack of professionalism. It is not Sainz’s responsibility to avoid such boorish treatment. She is doing her job, and these men should (and do) know better.
That said, for Sainz, the self-proclaimed “hottest sports reporter in Mexico” to then claim that she “deserve[s] to be treated as if she were a man” seems to want to have things both ways. Moreover, let’s not pretend that this has been anything but a wonderful bit of publicity for Sainz, who I certainly had never heard of before this but now, thanks to the publicity from this “issue,” has been plastered all over ESPN for a few days. That’s another pet peeve of mine—these sorts of manufactured publicity pieces end up reducing the impact of real situations of abuse that might not include such a beautiful woman—there are lots of excellent female reporters who aren’t “the hottest sports reporter in wherever” but receive similar mistreatment despite going about their work with the utmost professionalism.
As someone who has spent more than my share of time in locker rooms, I tend to agree with the idea (poorly expressed and then apologized for by Clinton Portis and unapologetically expressed by Jason Whitlock) that it would be better if female reporters were not permitted in the locker room. (To clarify: I am not vouching for most of what Portis said, though I agree with the larger point about reporters in the locker room). This isn’t only for the reporters’ sake; I know that not every athlete is especially comfortable with the fact that there are women in the locker room while they might be showering and changing, and many athletes have spouses that aren’t comfortable with the situation.
I should note that when I was at Florida State, there was a short period after practices, scrimmages, and games when media weren’t allowed in the locker room so that we could hustle through our showers and be dressed by the time anyone was permitted in the locker room. That is fairly standard, and it’s a reasonable work-around. Yes, I know it sounds sexist to say women reporters shouldn’t be in men’s locker rooms; but, generally speaking, male reporters don’t have similar access to the locker rooms of women’s sports (WNBA and NCAA tournament basketball excepted). A double standard does exist—largely under the assumption that female reporters can stay “professional” inside men’s locker rooms while men generally can’t do the same. Let’s put it this way: if a female athlete complained that she doesn’t want male reporters in the locker room, would we have the same negative reaction? Isn’t that sexist, too?
But I don’t think Portis and Whitlock went far enough. I don’t just think female reporters should be barred from the locker room but all reporters. My preference would be to bar all reporters from the locker room and have players come out to an interview area by request. This would be true equal treatment and would help restore some privacy and sense of sacred team space in the locker room. And no, the media doesn’t need access to the locker room to be able to see how athletes feel after the game (another pet peeve: “how does it feel” questions are the worst). This rule would help prevent such situations from occurring, though it is important to emphasize again that the presence of Sainz and other women in locker rooms does not give an excuse for boorish behavior by the men in those locker rooms. Contrary to what many suggest, it is possible to believe such men should be held accountable while also taking practical steps to make such situations less likely.