Jets hubbub reopens debate over women in locker rooms
Male athletes have evolved to the point that a female sports writer doing her job in the locker room is considered normal.
No longer do they lob jockstraps at women media members, as happened with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982. Sexually aggressive comments have all but disappeared.
As Pirates reliever Joel Hanrahan puts it: "We've had a woman in the locker room every day this year, and it hasn't bothered me one bit."
Still, a recent controversy at the New York Jets practice facility and comments by an NFL player and an NFL analyst have called into question just how much progress women in sports media have actually made.
Last month, reporter Ines Sainz of Mexico's TV Azteca Network went to interview Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Sainz became the target of catcalls and sexual comments. Jets assistant coach Dennis Thurman threw footballs in her direction so players could jog over and retrieve them. No physical contact occurred, but she tweeted that she was "dying of embarrassment."
Sainz accepted owner Woody Johnson's apology, but the Association of Women in Sports Media (AWSM) filed a complaint with the NFL on her behalf, causing the league to reaffirm its 25-year-old equal-access policy for female reporters. The NFL announced a training program for all 32 teams to begin this season on "proper conduct in the workplace."
Sainz, a former model, said she was surprised by criticism of her wardrobe that includes tight-fitting jeans and low-cut blouses.
"C'mon, this is not the first time you've seen an attractive woman doing her job," she said in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers.
Other female journalists disagree, claiming clothes do make the woman.
"I don't need to stand out anymore than I already do," said Jennifer Langosch, who is finishing her fourth season covering the Pirates for MLB.com. "You don't need to be drawing attention to yourself by what you are wearing."
Said Miami Herald reporter Michelle Kaufman: "Anytime I get dressed, any time most female sportswriters get dressed, we think about what we are wearing. You are judged by the way you look."
Steelers kicker Jeff Reed is accustomed to seeing woman reporters in the locker room, but he doesn't think it's right for them to dress provocatively.
"It's like you are trying to get people to notice you," he said.
The NFL Network's Brian Baldinger, a former offensive lineman, blamed the Sainz incident on her "painted-on jeans."
"If you come into the NFL dressed the way that she is dressed, you are just asking," he told a Philadelphia sports radio show. "I mean, the boys are just having fun. If she walked into any locker room in the league, the exact same thing would have happened."
He added that the Jets had no need to apologize.
The NFL wasn't amused. In a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press, the NFL Network said: "We discussed with Brian his comments. He understands they were not appropriate."
But Baldinger is not alone.
Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said women shouldn't be allowed in locker rooms, no matter how they are dressed.
"The locker room is the place where us guys, us football players, we dress, we shower, we're naked, we're walking around and we're bombarded by media," he told NBCChicago.com . "A lot of times, I'm asking the media to wait until I'm dressed."
Free-lance writer Susan Fornoff, who wrote the book "Lady In the Locker Room" about her career as a sportswriter, has no problem with how Sainz dresses.
"If a woman wears a tight skirt and gets an interview she couldn't get if she were frumpy-looking, good for her," Fornoff said.
Sometimes, a woman's name alone can cause a stir.
The Tribune-Review's Karen Price, a sports writer for 12 years, remembers an e-mail from a reader who accused her of having a "high school crush" on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury when he was 18.
She said her stories about Fleury were not unlike others written on the impressive start to his career.
"I finally realized the only big difference between my story and (others) was that mine had a woman's name after the word 'By,' " she said. "And I just remember thinking, 'You have to be kidding me.' Is it such a big deal and so foreign to someone to have a woman writing about sports that I write about how well an athlete is playing and the automatic assumption is that I must want dinner and a movie• It just blew my mind."
Many years after she was hit by a jockstrap in the Cardinals locker room, Paola Boivin of the Camarillo (Calif.) Daily News was interviewing Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Tony Womack when she felt a tug on her jacket. She looked down to find the young son of outfielder Steve Finley.
"Miss, miss," he said. "You can't be in here. This place is only for boys."