Simple question here. If you have a daughter, wouldn’t you want her to have every opportunity available to excel and succeed in her chosen career? Careful gentlemen on how you answer this question. Answer it one way, you’re a feminist, another, someone may consider you a knuckle dragging Neanderthal. But seriously, wouldn’t you want every opportunity for your daughter to succeed in her chosen career field?
I’m going to keep this personal and try to hit at your heart strings here. Here’s your daughter, who, grew up watching Sunday football with you trying to make it in the world of sports reporting. Here’s your daughter who you taught how to throw a softball, hold a bat, kick a soccer ball, wanting to make a name for herself in her chosen profession. Here’s your daughter, who received a college scholarship for volleyball, now stuck doing high school football stories while her male co-worker advances on to bigger and better things, all because he was able to have access to big name sources (players) to provide quotes and substance for their articles. Your daughter, unfortunately, was not allowed the same access based on her gender.
The argument over women in the locker rooms isn’t new. In fact, during the 1977 World Series, Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke had been denied access by then Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Sports Illustrated Time, Inc., filed suit and in 1978, the District Court of New York ruled that female reporters should be granted equal access to the Yankee's club house. By the mid-eighties, the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB adopted policies that had brought them in compliance with the Federal ruling (1) and gender exclusion from locker rooms were removed.
Look, I understand the question as to why should women be allowed in the locker room in the first place. The excuses (and yes, they’re excuses) as to why they shouldn’t be allowed, which range from the issue of privacy to “it’s a man’s sport and women don’t know men’s sports”. Here’s a question, think Jennifer Allen, daughter of former NFL coach George Allen, doesn’t know anything about football? If it truly is a man’s sport, then why are there women in the stands on game days?
While some are quick to point out that there are women’s sports that women can cover, this is true, however, as SI columnist Ann Killion points out, that there is nothing comparable in the venue of women’s sports (2). “There is simply no female equivalent to professional men's sports. There is no billion-dollar female sports league that fuels millions of jobs, the way the men's professional leagues do.”
“But what about a players right to privacy”…yes, I know this is a question that’s been asked as every sports columnist and analyst around the country has expressed their opinions over the latest outrage of the Jets-Sainz issue. “There are naked men walking around the locker room during this time and the players have the right to privacy”. While I’ll address the privacy issue later on in this series, I’d like to point out about making an argument on privacy and naked men in a room filled with television cameras and photo-journalists may leave some folks scratching their heads (including me) about the logic to this question.
The thing is, that since the 1980’s, women reporters have and will continue to have access to the men’s locker rooms at the same time their male counterparts have (just as men have access to women’s locker rooms). There's said to be an advantage that a reporter may never have if they didn't have access to the players at the end of a game. One specific question, or one specific quote could allow a reporter to submit for print or airing something different then what every other reporter may be turning in at deadline. As Ms. Killion points out, women in men’s locker rooms are now an every day occurrence. In other words, if you see a gaggle of male reporters, your likely to find a female reporter in their midst. And while the incident involving Ms. Sainz seems to be a new issue, it isn’t. And while many want to blame it on the political correctness of today’s NFL, it goes back further then some of the young folks may think.
So…how about them women in the locker room?
(1) Women Reports in the Men's Locker Room , Womens Sports Foundation, www.womenssportsfoundation.org.
(2) Athletes behaving like Boorish Frat Boys is a Tired Act , Ann Killion, Sports Illustrated, 9/14/10