Okay, I know that I am going to catch some flak for this, but I have to say it. The recent disclosure that Ines Sainz, a female sports reporter for Mexican media outlet TV Azteca, may have been harassed in the New York Jets' locker room after the game last week illustrates very clearly that the NFL needs to rethink its media "all-access" policy. Publicly, people are saying all the right things.
"There is no place for this type of behavior in society."
"She is a professional trying to do her job."
Off the record, though, everyone is thinking the same thing: why are women in men's locker rooms in the first place? Have you seen a photograph of this woman, the self-proclaimed "sexiest sports reporter in Mexico?"
Not exactly what you would call professional attire, is it?
"Sainz said on her Twitter account last Saturday that she felt 'very uncomfortable!' in the Jets' locker room, where a few players made catcalls as she waited with two male co-workers to interview quarterback Mark Sanchez, who is of Mexican descent," reported the Associated Press.
You can think it, but don't say it!
"Of course you feel it when you are being stared at and when you are being spoken of in a certain way," Sainz told The Associated Press. "I opted to ignore it ... I tried to not even pay attention."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a statement to the media after conducting an investigation into the Jets' behavior, said "Sainz herself was unequivocal in saying both that no physical contact occurred, and that no player or other Jets staff member made any comment or gesture that could be construed as threatening, demeaning or offensive."
Respecting others' privacy is a basic societal tenet. Nudity and professionalism are an awkward fit, don't you think? This is why we have men's and women's locker rooms and restrooms. What as a society are we trying to prove here? That we are so evolved that we can be simultaneously naked AND professional? An NFL locker room seems a curious place to conduct such an experiment in developmental behavior. I understand that a woman doing her job should not be subjected to verbal or physical abuse no matter where she is, but the league needs to recognize that the players do not work under ordinary circumstances and that granting these women access to the post-game locker room, where emotions may still be running high and where there absolutely will be nudity, is just asking for trouble. A few years ago, Fox Sports embarrasingly broadcast a postgame scene in the Vikings' locker room that gave the world a shot of Visanthe Shiancoe's privates.
This is an issue screams for a dose of common sense. I understand that female reporters are trying to do their jobs and that the vast majority are completely professional, but this wouldn't even be an issue if the geniuses at NFL headquarters barred the media from the locker room. Why do any reporters–men or women–need to have access to players immediately after the game? The fact that male reporters are not granted access to women's locker rooms seems to me an admission that men cannot be trusted to act professionally or dispassionately. If male reporters cannot be trusted, why then should we place this burden of professionalism on the uber-men of the NFL? The men who play professional football are modern-day gladiators. They are paid to spend each Sunday trying to knock each other flat out. Can we accept that perhaps there is an overabundance of testosterone in NFL locker rooms after these players have just spent three hours trying to kill each other? Can we not allow these warriors a few minutes to chill out, shower, and dress before we wait breathlessly for them to give us the same tired old quotes week after week? Are "we are just thankful for the win" and "we are just taking is week-by week" such earthshattering revelations that we have to have this imparted to us before the guys even get their pads off?
"Did you just browse me?"
Hey NFL, here's what you do. Make the locker room off limits to the media for an hour after the game. Let the players come to the team's media room if requested to do so, either before showering or after. The sanctity of the locker room may be an antiquated concept to some, but it isn't to the players. Considering the health risks they take, it seems reasonable to allow them some time after games to shower and compose themselves before having to face the press.