‘What happened to Sainz is bigger than her’

Kevin Blackistone of FanHouse reads from the gospel of the women’s sports media organization that appears to be more worked up over what happened to Ines Sainz than the Mexican TV reporter herself:

“What happened to Sainz is bigger than her.

“What happened to Sainz is why the NFL in 1985 implemented a policy mandating that female journalists have the same access to players as male journalists. It is why a month after Olson was violated that then-NFL boss Paul Tagliabue levied what then was the biggest fine against a coach, Sam Wyche, after Wyche barred a female reporter from his Bengals locker room declaring that, “I will not allow women to walk in on 50 naked men.”

“I’ve never seen a nude woman in a women’s locker room, and never looked for one.”

Blackistone makes a decent and honorable case for why women should not be mistreated by doltish football players and coaches. So do Bill Rhoden of The New York Times and Eric Deggans at sportsjournalism.org. Ditto for Ann Killion of SI.com, someone whose work I admire deeply.

A number of women sports reporters in New York are firmly behind efforts to “re-educate” the Jets personnel who misbehaved. I’ve got no problem with any of that, as long as they don’t get too Maoist with their cant. The Jets gave Sainz a credential, and they didn’t treat her professionally, and the team owner already has apologized to Sainz.

Bravo for him.

But to ignore the fact that this woman is out for attention, and that her attire was a central component in all of this, is to pretend that women can go anywhere they want, dressed any way they want, at any time of day or night, and not expect unwanted attention.

This should be a matter of simple common sense, yet absolutist views on this topic make it difficult for honest discussion to take place. The incident brings back painful memories for women who have experienced what Sainz just went through. Male reporters are terrified of coming across as insensitive at the least, or condoning harassment at the worst.

I’m not saying Sainz “asked” for, or deserved, the treatment she got. She did not. But she also lacked proper professionalism because of her dress, although the fear of being politically incorrect means she’ll rarely be called out for it. Good to see Mark Kriegel doing so.

(Redskins running back Clinton Portis should be called out for this nonsense that revives old arguments about women being allowed in locker rooms in the first place.)

Yet to watch Sainz make the rounds on morning TV programs today was to see someone who’s hardly a clueless dilettante overwhelmed by juvenile football players in a locker room. This is a very shrewd woman who knows how to become the story, or who at least is very comfortable being the story.

This too undermines the work of women in sports media, and I might be one of the few women in the business who will admit it.

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