This sucks. I feel dumb for trying to walk in, because now I’m just feeling humiliated by the team’s staff members or building’s security officers. “We can’t let you go in there,” they say. “There are naked men in there.” No kidding. There are showers. I know these things, even though I physically can’t see them. So I wait. I stand against the wall, tapping my foot, waiting for the team’s PR person to bring out the three players I requested. My deadline is approaching, and I know all my competitors (male writers, obviously) are chatting with whoever they want. They can get the pitcher, catcher and three players with key hits interviewed before I even get my first interview. Oh, and that interview will take place in the hallway, in between the locker room and the training room as players and coaches keep walking in and out of both. Real quiet. Eventually, the players I requested come out. Well, most of them. One is showering. Then he’s got to go to the trainer. He ran out of time because he already gave a 5-10 minute interview to the other beat writers.
That is a flashback to the summer of 2008, when I was interning at The Trentonian, a newspaper in Trenton, N.J. I was covering the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees’ Double-A team. I was 18 and female. I was also an intern, which is the excuse that the organization used for denying me locker room access. I think my bosses had to talk to the PR staff to explain to them that I was to be treated as any full-time reporter would be. But that was after a week or two of the humiliating wait-outside-the-locker-room-door routine. I still made deadline each night, but it was a struggle. And I didn’t get the best quotes. Eventually, I was given the access I deserved — and my stories showed the improvement.
I bring this up because of the uproar (and lack of uproar) surrounding the news that Bergen County Record sports columnist Tara Sullivan was denied access to the locker room at the Masters on Sunday. I saw some outrage on Twitter by other female sports journalists. I saw a lot of people buying the excuse that the Masters gave her — that it was a “misunderstanding.” Mark my words, it’s never a misunderstanding if it doesn’t happen to male reporters as well.
I’d like to think female sports journalists have come far enough in the field that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen. At least some people feel the same way; to Tara’s male colleagues who shared quotes with her, thank you. That’s wonderful and appreciated, and I hope if I’m ever in a similar situation, male writers treat me with the same kindness. But keeping in mind that it is illegal to prevent a female sports writer to enter the locker room if male sports writers are allowed in, this shouldn’t even be an issue. But things still happen.
I’ve had male sports agents deny me interviews in large part because I’m female and young. (Official reason? I think something along the lines of the athlete being too busy for the interview.) That’s something I’ve dealt with and grown from.
But locker room access is a right. And it’s downright humiliating to get shut out of there.