National Catholic Register


Poll: Female Reporters Should Not Be Allowed in NFL Locker Rooms

BY Danielle Bean

| Posted 10/8/10 at 7:59 AM


A few weeks ago, when I heard that reporter Ines Sainz complained of being harassed in the NY Jets’ locker room, my first reaction was: Why on earth was she in there??

Apparently, I am not the only female to think such “sexist” thoughts:

Female reporters should be barred from National Football League locker rooms, according to a majority of women surveyed in a Seton Hall University poll.

The telephone poll conducted this week among 1,026 randomly selected adults nationwide found 59 percent of 556 women and 47 percent of 470 men said female reporters should be banned from NFL locker rooms. Thirty-four percent of the respondents said all reporters should be banned. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Much of the immediate reaction to Inez’s complaint focused on the fact that this particular reporter is not exactly known for dressing modestly and as a result she might have been “asking for it” in the men’s locker room.

I think that is not quite fair. A real gentleman will treat even a woman in provocative clothing like a lady. But whatever inappropriate remarks that were aimed at Ms. Inez in the Jets locker room that day were not the first infractions of decency. The first infraction of decency was when Ms. Inez entered a men’s locker room—a place where men have a reasonable expectation of privacy from the opposite sex.

I thought that allowing women in men’s locker rooms was a double standard, as surely we would not allow male reporters to enter a women’s locker rooms ...

But I was wrong. Our standards of decency are just as messed up in the women’s locker rooms too.

In 1978, a federal judge ruled that male and female reporters should have equal access to the locker room after a Sports Illustrated reporter was banned from interviewing players in the locker room while she was covering the 1977 World Series. By 1985, the four major sports leagues had adopted policies in accordance with that ruling - the NBA and NHL in 1980 and the NFL and MLB in 1985.

Attitudes discouraging women reporters from entering locker rooms are unfair. If women don’t come into the locker room, they don’t have access to the same post-game atmosphere, the same quotes or the same story that the male reporters will leave with.

Women’s sports leagues, like the WNBA, for instance, have rules similar to those of the NFL, guaranteeing equal access in the locker rooms to male and female reporters. No one assumes that male reporters are doing anything other than their job.

If we are truly concerned about fairness, wouldn’t a saner approach be to ban all interviews in the professional sports’ locker rooms? Let professional athletes take showers and get dressed before facing the press? That sounds like a decent proposal to me.