Guest Blogger: Matt Hursh

Women in Sports Media

Ines Sainz was just trying to do her job…well allegedly.

About a week ago, reports surfaced that Sainz, a female journalist for a Mexican television station, had been harassed while attending a New York Jets practice in pursuit of a story on Mark Sanchez, the football team’s quarterback. Allegedly, Sainz, and admittedly attractive woman, was harassed by Jets players in the team locker room and on the practice field. The <em>New York Post reported that a coach purposely threw passes that landed near Sainz on the sidelines and players made suggestive comments in the locker room directed towards Sainz.

The Jets public relations’ team unsurprisingly issued an immediate public apology to Sainz, which she publicly accepted. However, the issue did not immediately go away. A day later, Clinton Portis, a football player for the Washington Redskins, told the Washington D.C.’s 106.7 The Fan radio station the following:

You know man, I think you put women reporters in the locker room in positions to see guys walking around naked, and you sit in the locker room with 53 guys, and all of a sudden you see a nice woman in the locker room, I think men are gonna tend to turn and look and want to say something to that woman.

NFL analyst Brian Baldinger also threw this statement at Tony Bruno during his radio show on 97.5 The Fanatic of Philadelphia:

Listen, these are painted on jeans. She’s got a shirt that’s glued to her body. There is nothing out of place. If you want her to do an interview with Mark Sanchez, put her in a room with Mark Sanchez. Don’t take her through the locker room. I don’t think the Jets are wrong in any of this. I don’t think they have to apologize for any of this. And for her to make claims on harassment…I think she is just inviting it all upon herself.

Baldinger also said that Sainz was “just asking for it” based on the clothes she wears and her attractiveness.

Man is there a lot to say here, but I’ll try to keep it relatively short. While Baldinger’s remarks were obviously misogynistic and ignorant, he makes a sensible point in saying that Sainz should not have been allowed in the locker room. Locker rooms are a private situation that is teeming with testosterone, and allowing an attractive reporter into that setting seems to be inviting trouble. It’s not a case of restricting the rights of women reporters (she can still do her interview, but in a different setting), but is rather a case of sensibility. Women reporters don’t need to be in that particular setting to do their job well, just as men that cover women’s sports shouldn’t be allowed/don’t need to be in women’s team locker rooms as well.

As for Baldinger’s statement that Sainz was asking for it based on her appearance, I cannot possibly defend that opinion. While any reporter should be dressing professionally, it’s hard to draw a line there that can be agreed upon by everyone. No one is in any place to tell Sainz what she should or should not wear, as long as it is professional and respectable.

However, this brings up the question of whether women are afforded equal opportunity in sports media. What does everyone think?

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12 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Matt Hursh

  1. Matt, I am so glad you wrote a guest blog about this. Since I want to go into sports journalism, this is an issue that really hit home with me.

    The question of whether women should be allowed in men’s locker rooms, or vice versa, is a common debate in sports media. I can see the sides of both arguments. On one hand, men should not be allowed in women’s locker rooms or women in men’s. That’s the black and white rule. However, it’s important to note how the institution of sports/sports media/sports journalism changes this notion. At the end of the day, it’s the reporter’s responsibility to get the story, get the interview, get the quotation, and get the job done. By entering the locker room, Sainz was doing her job.

    The subculture of locker rooms is interesting. In sports, a locker room is a private, team space. However, in professional sports especially, this intersects with the institution of journalism. Reporters must write their story, which requires talking to the athletes. And the writer is always on a deadline, which means they must complete their interviews as quickly as possible.

    When it comes to locker rooms, there is definitely a double standard. If I were told I could not enter the New York Yankees locker room to interview Derek Jeter because I’m a woman, I wouldn’t stand for it. Perhaps the etiquette of post-game interviews needs to change. A hard-and-fast rule like no press in the locker room seems like the way to go, but it would be impossible to enforce. Even if one reporter broke the rule, that would be force others to do the same. If there are two stories and only one has a quotation from Derek Jeter, which one are you going to read?

    Now, onto the topic of Sainz’s clothing choices. I’ve always been told to dress for the job you want. If you wear presentable, appropriate clothing, you will give the impression of professionalism. But, let’s be honest. From all the Google images of Sainz, it looks like she was on her way to the mall or heading out on the town. Tight jeans and low-cut shirts are not work appropriate, even if you’re covering a sporting event.

    As a woman working in the world of sports, Sainz should know dressing like that would provoke comments. Like Matt said, I’m not telling her how to dress, but she needs to be aware of the impression she’s giving off.

  2. Erin Meehan says:

    I think Matt brings up an interesting point. Our society has been built around the idea of being male or female. It is so ingrained in our world that tasks as mundane as going to the bathroom are decided based on one’s gender. This I have often wondered, why do we have separate bathrooms for males and females? I live and share a bathroom with both and I can say first hand that women are much messier than men. That is besides the point but what I wondering is why can’t we all just share a bathroom. This would help make the ladies bathroom line much shorter half time sporting events or intermission at concerts!
    But it is not just bathrooms that are the problem. You want to go see a movie how about a chick flick? I was at the doctor’s the other day and the nurse commented on my Red Sox baseball t-shirt. I replied that I was really not that big of a baseball fan and she said, “as much as we can be, right?”. By we did she mean women in general…. because I know a lot of women who are die heart baseball fans. In terms of Saniz Matt proposed the question are women given equal opportunity in sports media. Since Saniz’s gender has lead to difficulties in the work place than I would have to answer. If being a sports caster means going into men’s locker rooms and Saniz cannot do that safely then she is now allowed equal opportunity. Maybe a rule should be enforced that no newscaster is allowed into the team’s locker room. I mean why are they in there anyway? If I had just finished a football game all I would want to do is shower, and go home. Its also an invasion of privacy. I do not even know if reporter’s are allowed into female locker rooms after sporting events, but part me tends to doubt it.
    Ultimately, I believe these strict gender roles we have embedded into our worlds only lead to more problems, usually in the form of prejudice. A man cannot cry without being called a pansy, and women cannot go into a bathroom without being sexually harassed. I know that the elimination of gender would be absurd and completely unrealistic. Instead we should embrace all genders; male, female and transgender. This means making rules and laws that allow for equality. If it is not safe for Saniz to go into the locker room than no reporter should be allowed in the locker room. I feel it is that simple, and these roles we are forced to play just complicate things.

  3. Here’s the logic I fail to see: these athletes cannot control themselves, so we punish the victim of the harassment and bar her (and other reporters) from the locker room? If they put a gay male reporter in there, would they feel even more insecure. I think the harassment is a way to assert their masculinity–after all, think about how homoerotic football is. Maybe if we say to the players, ‘She’s a professional. She’s doing her job. You don’t like it when fans come and boo you. you don’t like it when you mess up a play and blow the game. She doesn’t like your disgusting comments–nor should she have to hear them!’

    I say, let the female reporters in! Why punish her because of the pigs she interviews?

  4. Claire says:

    I am glad this issue got brought up via a blog. I face the challenge of coming to an exact resolution, as it seems previous bloggers have. I agree with Carrie in that, looking professional is an important aspect of doing your job. Our society often judges people based on first impressions, and first impressions are commonly based on looks. The male sports reporters are often in jackets and ties and look “the part”. The images of Sainz show her in tight clothing and cropped shirts, which I believe looks unprofessional. What makes it challenging for me in regards to this issue is tha, no one deserves to be sexually harassed. No one is “asking for it”, and this idea of blaming the victim is a poor excuse for inappropriate behavior.

    Women already constantly worry about being “checked out” or harassed, whether it be in public or private places. A female journalist doing her job shouldn’t have to worry about being harassed while trying to get a story or interview. The issue of locker rooms that Carrie discusses is one that I believe deserves a closer look. A locker room is a “sacred space” for a team. It’s a private environment that unites members of a team. I think that having reporters in there in the first place is a mistake. There are other ways to get information regarding the players. Sainz entered a place where she faced 53 professional football players that couldn’t respect her role as an active journalist. Locker rooms should remain a private place, out of the public eye.

    What happened to Sainz is unfortunate because it continues to feed this exclusion that women face in both the workforce and in the sports sphere. I am sure it was difficult for Sainz to enter a locker room because not only is she facing off against 53 men, but she is trying to break a mold by being a women journalist in a male dominated career. There is no excuse for the teams behavior, even if her clothes were unprofessional. Her clothing should be appropriate for her job, but not an excuse for being harassed.

  5. Tom Michaud says:

    ok stephen, what about a guy going into a women’s locker room after practice or something to do an interview? Some would throw a hissy-fit! You know that a guy going into a womens locker room would be a way bigger story, with much more grand consequences. He’d probably be fired, or end up having to be fired due to pressure from outside sources. this a complete double standard, i say dont let any reporters into the locker room. Its a private space no matter what your sex is or your sexual preference. I dont think the guys on the team would feel awkward if there was a gay man doing the interview, and they certainly wouldn’t be sexually harrassing him either.

    and also your comment of how the players dont like it when people boo them for their performance, i think thats bull. Players have to put up with horrible commentary everyday. Thats part of the job; if you cant stand the heat get out of the kitchen. So if she can’t just brush these comments off like the players do, i see no need for her to be interview people she clearly can’t handle. Im not saying what the players did was right, but im saying that if you put a woman in a room full of huge, half-naked men there are probably going to be problems. Why couldnt she just wait till Sanchez came out? or get him on the way in? A guy reporter should have to do the same thing in my opinion. They have no place in a room designated for a brotherhood. This is a team sport, and there is a very close bond between these people. Back the f*** off reporters! All of you!

  6. Chris Bramwell says:

    Stephen, football players, or male/female athletes in general are not pigs. Even if they make “derragatory comments” occasionally they are not pigs. In the future I urge you to try to understand why they might have acted the way they do and did. In this particular case, I feel as though being under constant public scrutiny and pressure to perform might have had an impact, but that also does not mean my speculation is an absolute reason or excuse. In this particular case, I also feel as though understanding is more than just reading testimonials; it may actually involve walking the proverbial mile in another’s shoes. Does this mean I support what they allegedly said? (I say “allegedly” because the reporter later denied her initial statements) No. This does mean however, I do not support people who are quick to attack athletes for living the life they do, which given the pressures may occasionally cause them to act in a the way they normally might not.

    As for Erin, separate but equal facilities for genders are necessary sometimes. If men went and women shared restrooms, then that opens up the possibility for sexual suits, which is something that few institutions are willing to chance – Consider this, if a woman gets raped in a stadium bathroom that is a multi-personed coed facility, then not only would the defendant be at fault, but the stadium/venue as well under products liability (basically, the venue should have foreseen the possibility of sexual suits and implemented the reasonable alternative, which would be separate facilities).

    As for the initial question, I think a relevant parallel question might be, why don’t we ever hear of men being sexually assaulted by women in the sports media? I’m sure if you get a sexy man to wear skin tight clothing in an all women’s locker room, especially when these athletes have been surrounded by the pressures of their sport, offensive “cat calling” to the male reported might ensue. The point is, it is not a perfect system. Just as Carrie alluded to, it would also be unfair to prevent one sex from entering a locker room to get a quote from a male or female athlete while the other can, so I propose the focus should be on improving the system rather than condemning the athlete or chastising the reporter. Maybe all athletes should allow a set time of questions immediately after the game, and that’s it. There should not be the post-game locker room interviews in addition to televised post-game interviews that regularly happen, it should be one or the other. The way it currently is places too much pressure on the athlete to maintain a sense of decorum while simultaneously decompressing from a highly emotional game. One set of rules for all and that’s it. Anyone who violates them, reporter or athlete, should be fined? Too hard to enforce? Possible. Thoughts?

  7. Evan Gove says:

    An interesting way to look at this issue is to change the scenario around. What if it had been an attractive male reporter trying to get an interview with a famous female athlete? Would it have been as big of an issue?

    Probably not.

    When people think of sexual harrasment, it is generally a woman who is the victim. Had it been a female team making suggestive comments to a male reporter you probably never would have heard about it. Actaully most men would probably feel mildly flattered if a group of women directed sexually suggestive comments at them.

    The issue of her attire is secondary to the main issue, which is having respect for other people. We do not live in a society where women are second class citizens, thus they should not be treated as such. Allowing women to be sports reporters goes along with basic human rights and here in America everyone has the right to pursue whatever field they choose.

    That being said, there are occupational hazards that accompany every job. Being a woman in a male dominated field is certainly going to have its challenges and this is a perfect example. Playing fields and locker rooms are extremely masculine places and those who occupy them are often hypermasculine themselves. An attractive woman is going to turn heads in all phases of life, not just on the sideline at a football game. Its certainly regrettable that she was subjected to the cat calls and disparaging comments but you can’t tell me it was the first time it had ever happened to her. The reporter was trying to do her job and be professional and that is comendable, but part of being a professional is knowing everything about your field, including your limitations. As an attractive woman she needs to realize that she has an immense amount of power over men and when she sets foot in a locker room there is potential for altercation.

    I thought Stephen had an excellent comment about punishing the vicitim for the comments made about her. However, I thought calling football players insecure homoerotic pigs was a step too far. I think its a sweeping generalization to assume all the players made comments to the female reporter and its also wrong to assume all football players would be insecure around a gay reporter. Many football players have wives and children and are very aware of the stigmas that surround women in the locker room. To catagorize them all as “pigs” is terribly ignorant in itself.

    Obviously we cannot blame one gender or the other in this situation. There are factors on both sides that led to the altercation. The only thing we can do is learn from this situation so it doesn’t happen again. We as a society need to realize that we have a different set of expectations for men and women in the workplace, and when someone deviates from those expectations it can cause a serious uproar. You cannot rise above these expectations because of our two-fold construction of gender in society. We can argue for or against the actions of the football players all we want, but in the end there is no right answer.

  8. Courtney Notte says:

    Of course Ines Sainz accepted the apology. No doubt she was under intense pressure to accept it. I’m willing to bet refusing an apology and taking further action would have been more trouble than it was worth. Maybe there really was nothing in the reports and Sainz was happy to accept the apology and move on – or, maybe, if she hadn’t accepted the apology, the consequences for her would have been far worse than a knock-down, drag out fight with the Jets. In my mind, it makes sense that Sainz would have been reluctant to cause trouble for the media outlet she was reporting for and jeopardise their future communications with a powerhouse club like the Jets, especially if she plans to stay in the business of sports reporting. She wouldn’t have been a great candidate for another sports reporting job if she was known around town as the girl who cried sexual harassment. So why create more trouble for herself? If she had refused to accept the apology and made a bigger fuss, the onus would have been on her. She would have been facing losing her job – not the Jets players involved in the alleged incident, not any member of the administrative body at the club and not any member of the media pack or other clubs who made disparaging remarks about why female reports go into male locker rooms. As someone with a little experience in sports reporting, I can tell you why female reports go into locker rooms. We go in for the same reasons male reporters do – to report. Change rooms and showers are certainly a private domain and people should be respectful of players’ privacy, but that is something all reporters should be aware of, not just female journalists. The fact that Sainz seems to have been invited into the change room by a member of the coaching staff is pretty telling but it’s being overlooked. This woman was just doing her job. What’s really interesting to me is the fact that this woman was just trying to do her job but was thwarted by the actions of not just players but coaches at the club – but who has come out of the experience with a tarnished reputation? Not any of the men involved or any of the people who have since made problematic and offensive comments regarding the incident. Everybody seems to be making this about what she did wrong. Let’s look at the basic facts: a male reporter wouldn’t be criticised for turning up to a women’s tennis match in tight jeans, would he? But women are condemned for dressing “inapproriately”, which as far as I can tell, means any way that might attract attention from an adult man who can’t control himself when faced with an attractive woman. What this example ultimately points to is a culture crisis within sporting clubs and a definite need to address issues of sexual discrimination within that culture.

  9. Nick says:

    I am glad that Matt wrote about this, I think that it definitely reflects some gender issues in sports. A few of these matters have been addressed and I think that this subject has some interesting elements. I guess a part of this has to do with the locker rooms. I do not know much about women’s sports but I would assume that there are no male reporter’s allowed in the locker rooms, but maybe they are. It is also true that no matter what, these reporters should be treated with respect but we all know that is not possible, because there are idiots everywhere not just in sports or football. A part of me feels like sending an attractive young reporter into a room where over fifty males change is a bad idea. It is strange how her level of attractiveness seems to matter and the way she was dressed. Not that sexual harassment is ever ok, but she was definitely dressed to draw some attention. Also Carrie was right about her images on Google. Nothing ever came of this, so I am not convinced it wasn’t just for attention because I saw an interview with her and she did not seem to have a problem with anything that happened. But I do think it says something about gender. This would probably not happen with a women’s team and I think part of that is because of the gender differences. There is really no way for a male reporter to dress inappropriately, at least that I know of, and I think it has to do with differences that exist in body structures. It is probably also true that most sexual harassment problems are a male toward a female; it seems almost like human nature and a lack of self control. Sexual harassment and sports has been a topic of discussion over the past few years, I think gender roles are heavy in the sports world.

  10. mh2105 says:

    I seem to fall in the group of people who think that no reporter, regardless of gender, should be allowed in the locker rooms of men’s or women’s sports teams. It is a provate space that should only be permitted for team members. I would argue that not allowing anyone in the locker room would provide an equal standard for male and female reporters while keeping the players happy. However, this does not seem likely to occur, so we have to look at the current situation of sports reporters in locker rooms.
    I think the real question comes down to whether it truly would have been necessary for Sainz to enter the locker room? Did she need to go into that space in order to get that story? Probably not, in my opinion. If she wanted to interview a player after practice, she should have been abo catch him on his way to the locker room, or have access to him once he leaves the locker room.
    Of course, Sainz has the right to do her job as a reporter and get her story however she can. But it almost seems like Sainz was blindly exercizing that right just for the sake of excersizing it, instead of in pursuit of her story. She also has the right to be in the locker room, but I would argue that she did not need to enter the locker room in this case to get her story. While reporters have rs regardless of their gender, they also need to demonstrate professionalism and good judgement in terms of the way they get their story. Therefore, I believe Sainz’s approach in this case was miguided.
    However, it is important to remember not to deflect blame away from the players. They need to be held responsible for their actions as well, and their comments shed light on the masculine culture in sports today.

  11. Michael Kane says:

    I agree with you mh2105!

    I do not feel that any reporter should be permitted into the locker room. The room should be regarded as a private space where players can escape the spotlight. In preparing for the game, this is where they strategize, this is where they prep. After the game, it is where they reflect and where they should be allowed to cope with a loss. When reporters are allowed into a locker room, they are intruding on the sactuary that a player should be allowed to have. Interviews that take place within the locker room catch players off gaurd and too often players speak off of their emotions rather than reflecting on the game and preparing conclusions.
    If reporters were kept out of locker rooms, I believe players would have to spend far less time retracting statements and eating their words. They would be better prepared to answer tougher questions and would be able to check their emotions before having to deal with intense scutiny.
    Furthermore, reporters in locker rooms are demeaning to both the reporters and the players. Players may be either uncomfortable or a little too comfortable when less than fully dressed. Either situation puts people in situations that are not desirable. There are gender issues with co-ed locker rooms and even more issues exist when co-ed locker rooms are forbid.
    The easiest way to deal with all these issues is to keep reporters out of locker rooms. Hopefully, this is a change we see in the very near future!

  12. Yanli Guo says:

    I am not a big fan of any kind of sports, but I already knew that it will be problematic for an attractive young woman covering an all-male sport like football. Is it appropriate to have a young female journalist going inside the player’s locker room to do an interview? I certainly think there are better places to do an interview than in the locker room. Players will probably be taking showers or changing their dirty uniforms. Let’s put in this way, I don’t think male journalists will be allowed to go in the all-female sport’s locker room because it is just unacceptable. If I were her (Sainz), I will try to avoid that location and find a more suitable place to do my interview. On the other hand, I believe that female reporters absolutely have the ability to do a fine job no matter what/who they’re trying to cover. They shouldn’t be discriminated when trying to cover news from an all-male sport team because of their gender. As long as we are able to draw a clear line on the proper setting, they should be given a fair chance to do well in the sports media industry. However, I do agree that all journalists should try to dress as formal as possible no matter what they will cover. This will show respect to the audience and able to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings among various groups. It’s not a requirement that you must wear a mini-skirt and a tight shirt in order to do a good interview with a football dude.

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