Females in a men's world still a sensitive issue
Don Cherry stirred up another hornet’s nest Saturday night during his Coach’s Corner soapbox on Hockey Night in Canada. This time, he sounded off about the presence of female sports reporters in NHL dressing rooms.
This isn’t a new issue by any means. Female reporters have been admitted into men’s dressing rooms in all major sports for a few decades now, and not much has been said about it. I seem to remember some previous controversy made of this in baseball back in the 1980s, but the female reporter in question’s rights were defended and not a whole lot more was ever said.
It is a sensitive topic, especially when it involves the proximity of female sports reporters to male athletes who are in various states of undress. In the end, however, it boils down to affording women the same opportunity as men to pursue their livelihoods. This was never an issue back in the 1940s and 1950s when female sports reporters were pretty much non-existent. As more and more women began to pursue careers of their own in the 1960s, many of them gravitated towards the field of journalism with some getting assigned the sports beat. Suddenly female reporters in men’s dressing rooms became an issue.
The sports media is a competitive industry. After the game, TV reporters need to get key interview footage on the air, sometimes within an hour of the final buzzer while newspaper scribes need to have their stories written and submitted to meet that night’s deadline. Barring female reporters from the dressing room until all players are showered and dressed puts them at a competitive disadvantage, allowing them less time than their male colleagues to get the same job done.
But while these female reporters are doing what they are assigned to do, 20 or more men are close by who are going to and from the showers and are changing into their street clothes. Many of these players have wives who likely aren’t enamoured at the thought of knowing their spouses are being seen naked by other women, even if those women are trying hard to look the other way. I’m sure most of these female reporters are embarrassed enough themselves to be among these nude and near nude men and only want to get the job done as quickly as possible so that they can hightail it out of there. Unfortunately, there are some players—the character types—who will purposely flaunt themselves in their birthday suits within spitting distance of these female reporters, and they’re the ones who stir up much of the controversy.
Yet Cherry made a valid point in his argument to better police the presence of female reporters. He said he felt embarrassed as a coach being interviewed in the dressing room by a female reporter when there were naked players walking about. What tends to be forgotten is that these players “have” to remove their equipment following a game, they “have” to shower off three hours of sweat and they “have” to change into their street clothes afterward. Most players probably take whatever measures are necessary to protect their dignity whenever women are in the room, but it’s not a perfect science. There are also players with religious convictions who are uncomfortable in such situations.
What it comes down to is the right of female reporters to have the same access as their male counterparts vs. the right of players to protect their physical privacy. As the policy currently stands, the rights are clearly in favour of women. Perhaps what needs to be done is to create an anteroom of sorts where all reporters—male or female—are corralled, and where they can request an interview with their player of choice who would then emerge in some state of decency. Surely to goodness, there must be a happy medium which professional sports leagues can conceive to address this issue.
Interestingly, online polls asking the public to respond to Cherry taking issue with female reporters in men’s dressing rooms are overwhelming supportive of his stand. When Cherry speaks, people listen, no matter if they agree or disagree with him.
Mike Jiggens is a Delhi resident. His column appears regularly in the Delhi News-Record