NFL: Ines Sainz, New York Jets, and the Problem With Locker Rooms

Ben SteigerwaltCorrespondent ISeptember 15, 2010

Ines Sainz of TV Azteca during Media Day prior to Super Bowl XLI at Dolphins Stadium in Miami, Florida on January 30, 2007.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

For those of you who have been following the Inez Sainz-New York Jets saga, a number of opinions have been expressed regarding who is to blame for her alleged mistreatment in the Jets’ locker room, women in the media, and the culture of football players. Many of those opinions, sadly, have matched those which would’ve been expressed regarding female reporters in a football locker room 50 years ago.

All of those opinions have missed the point.

This entire situation is not a product of culture, attire, or misogynist jocks. Rather, it is the product of a locker room culture that hasn’t changed since even the oldest and crustiest male reporter conducted his first locker-side interview.

I may be the oddball here, but doesn’t it seem a little strange for a bunch of millionaires to shower and change clothes in the same room? Personally, I’ve never felt a sense of community or developed a bond while in a room with other naked guys.

(Note: this is a matter of personal preference, not the outrage of a homophobe.)

Teams spend millions, and in some cases, billions, on state-of-the-art facilities for their players. But by all accounts, the format and culture of locker rooms has yet to be updated. Including that vaunted locker room smell.

Given the amount of money invested in football and made by the teams, I have to assume that the layout of locker rooms being communal is, for some reason, deliberate. A common shower and changing area seems more like the design of prison facilities than that which someone would voluntarily use.

In other words, if players wanted private or semi-private facilities (a la Brett Favre), they would have them.

So others can make their case that Ines Sainz used questionable judgment in her choice of attire for a locker room interview. I can follow that line of thinking to a slight degree, but when it turns to the old “women in tight clothes are asking to be raped” argument, which is at the heart of most of those contentions.

Look, I don’t think it’s great judgment to wear suggestive clothing into a room with 40-50 undressed and oversized men in it. But keep in mind that it is a workplace and, allegedly, a professional environment, despite those circumstances.

This also isn’t exactly Sainz’s first rodeo as a reporter. She has been in locker rooms before and dressed like she does before. Yet for some reason, this situation hasn’t happened before.

Blaming a criminal act, be it harassment, assault or rape, on how a woman speaks or dresses seems a bit off base. While an attractive woman in provocative clothing can certainly affect how I judge or react to her, I’m still in control of my own actions. If I say or do something out of line, I fully expect to be accountable for it.

In other words, Sainz can wear whatever she pleases and the involved Jets employees are male chauvinists at best, sex criminals at worst, again assuming the allegations are true. Pretty simple.

Back to the main point here. It is unfathomable that in an industry that provides live game updates and quotes via Twitter, reporters are still expected to go up to man in a towel (or less) to get quotes and game reactions.

Given that it is a supposedly equal playing field (when was the last time a male journalist was called into question for what he wore?), what needs to change here is the way post-game reporting is done and the environment in which it is done.

Let players and coaches react immediately after the game and then give formulaic responses at the press conference. As fans, we know that’s what to expect anyway. There seems to me to be little value in what the man in the towel has to say in contrast to what can be gleaned from the alternatives.

And for goodness’ sake, put some pants on.