Player's Perspective: Should women be allowed in locker rooms?
By: The Football Girl | Posted: October 18, 2010
Note: Clint Oldenburg is the author of his piece and will be getting his own name tag stamp in the coming days. And, as he mentions in the conclusion, he'd love to get your thoughts on the issue.
Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about the place of women sports reporters in the locker rooms of NFL teams. Should women be allowed in a male locker room? Should the NFL have a policy directly addressing this? Should women even be involved in male sports at all? It’s a valid discussion in all forums and its one that NFL players are having amongst ourselves, too. I can't speak for everybody in the league, but I have my own opinions on the matter.
I think a woman has as much a right to make a living as a sports reporter as a man. If she is qualified and does her job like expected, she should have the same privileges in getting interviews as a male reporter. In many instances, the locker room is the only place where some reporters can get any face time with the players they cover. However, there should be some rules, or at least some guidelines that should be followed by any professional, regardless of gender.
#1) The wardrobe should match the job. If you work in a restaurant, it’s not illegal to wear a bathing suit to work, but I'm sure you'd be fired if you did. If you work in construction, I doubt you'd want to wear a white dress to work. So, if you're a sports reporter, I think you should be dressed in business attire and look professional while on the job. I'm not going out of my way to take shots at anybody in the media because I don't personally know of any woman or man who has not dressed in a professional manner, but it should just go without saying: in a professional environment, look professional.
#2) Ask good questions. In addition to the way a reporter looks, I also think the content and words with which they work do a lot to portray an image. The questions asked, the stories written and the quality of the coverage are all considered when a player decides how serious he is going take a reporter. If a media member, man or woman, wants to be respected as a serious member of the sports-journalist world, he or she should conduct themselves in a serious matter and ask serious questions. If fluff inquiries with no relevance are the content of an interview, that reporter will be taken as a fluff reporter, offering no substance to the player-media relationship.
Moving on the environment itself, the locker room, the debate gets even more polarizing. For years, it’s been OK for women to enter the locker rooms of male athletes. What would the backlash be if male reporters were allowed into a female locker room? I think we can all agree, it would be serious. Why the double standard? I honestly don't have an answer to that question. It's just the world we live in today and there are varying opinions as to why.
I'm not in the position to judge the policies of NFL media coverage, but I am a football player and I know the locker room is a sacred place among all athletes. Perhaps it should be off limits to everybody else and all interviews could be done in a different setting.
However, since it’s been standard practice in the NFL to conduct interviews in locker rooms, I don't see the setting changing unless it absolutely has to. I remember the first time back in college that I found myself in the locker room with female reporters present. I have to admit, I was apprehensive for a moment. I had nothing but a towel on and I didn't know whether I should hide or go about my business. So I just looked around and did what my teammates were doing: I went about business as usual and got dressed. I've never had a second thought about it again.
Players are accustomed to the whole procedure, believe it or not. I can see how people on the outside would look at this with a lot of wonder, but it’s really not a big deal unless somebody turns it in to one. If both parties present in the locker room - the media and the players - act in a professional manner, there should be no issues. Granted, that's a perfect world scenario, but it’s also a feasible expectation.
There will always be exceptions that make everybody on both sides look bad. If the problems increase, (which I don't foresee in the aftermath of the Ines Sainz situation), the league will probably make some rules on the matter. But I believe most the women (and men for that matter) covering the NFL belong and do a really good job. Obviously when an incident takes place we will hear about it much more than when it doesn't, leading fans to believe that women in a male locker room is a much bigger issue than it really is. As a player, all I can hope for is that these incidents don't have an overbearing negative effect on the NFL or those who cover it.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter as well. I hope to see some comments posted by the readers on this issue to get a feel for what exactly the fans think.