Yes, the comments by New York Jets players were juvenile and inappropriate. And yes, Ines Sainz, the TVAzteca reporter at the center of the “women in locker rooms” controversy, is the Erin Brackovich of professional sports by American media standards. What rankles me are reports — not only by Sainz, but other female sports reporters — that they routinely ignore similar, although not as blatant, comments and behavior from players. “It’s just a part of the job,” they say. Since when is a hostile work environment part of anyone’s job?
Of course, a locker room is almost by definition a hostile work environment — for reporters both male and female who really do not belong in there. Because Sports, Inc. and Big Media ignore this reality, this has naturally been an issue for women in sports journalism ever since locker rooms were opened to female reporters in 1985. Just ask the New England Patriots, who were embroiled in a locker room sexual harassment scandal in the early 1990’s. Given employment law on sexual harassment and hostile work environments, it’s hard to comprehend this still happening in the NFL and professional sports.
Hasn’t the NFL learned yet that mixing the sexes in intimate situations is a recipe for trouble? Even our armed forces, with a far more solid authority structure and more discipline than the NFL, have the common sense to not mix the sexes in shower facilities. The current situation of allowing reporters of either sex into locker rooms is not only outrageous but disrespectful all the way around.
- It disrespects female reporters who must join their male colleagues in the locker rooms or risk losing their jobs. Their dignity and professionalism demand they be given a level playing field with their male colleagues, without unnecessarily placing them in such awkward situations.
- It disrespects players who have their privacy invaded by strangers.
- It disrespects the players’ wives and marital vows.
- And it should bring shame on ball clubs that expect consistently high standards of professional conduct from rather young and often immature men when they are forced to bare all in front of the opposite sex. Don’t these teams have enough legal trouble with their players already without inviting sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims?
There is no reason for anyone not affiliated with the team to be in the locker room while players are changing clothes. There are some that say the locker room is the only place to get good, spontaneous, off-the-record comments from players, but I beg to disagree. If reporters are barred from locker rooms, publicity-loving players will seek them out elsewhere. There is no reason for anyone to chase them into the showers.