Having just spent fifteen days covering the US Open championships for WFAN Radio, this space should be devoted to Rafael Nadal, the determined, gracious champion who won his first U.S. Open title and 9th Grand Slam championship by beating Novak Djokovic in four sets last evening. Instead, this story about the TV sports reporter from Mexico who was the subject of on-field antics and locker room catcalls has grabbed my attention as someone who spent the first part of my career interviewing athletes in and out of locker rooms for radio, television shows, and series.
First and foremost, no form of harassment should ever be tolerated. In the mid-eighties, I worked for ABC Radio Sports as a 'stringer,' covering every team in the New York metropolitan area. I then continued to cover a variety of teams and sports stories for WFAN Radio, where I hosted a weekly call-in sports show for over 22 years. I was at a different game every evening, in a different locker room after every game, interviewing players and getting sound bites for the radio network. Whether one is a male or female reporter, the locker room is not a place you want to be. Particularly after a loss, the guys can be cranky and downright rude. The place is a locker room -- smelly, sweaty and normally busy, as print, radio and television reporters jockey for position to get their necessary sound-bites and interviews. But having said that, most of the guys know by now that anything other than 'professional' behavior can't be tolerated. The 'boys will be boys' mentality can no longer be used as an excuse for misbehavior towards women.
Most of my female colleagues, veteran sports reporters who have worked long and hard to establish their reputations and careers and to open doors for other women pursuing careers in sports broadcasting and sports journalism, will have a story (or two or three) of being mistreated at one time or another, whether in the locker room, on the sidelines or somewhere along the way as they were doing business. These women put up with not only harassment such as catcalls and other child-like antics, but they also had to fight for the opportunity to even go into the locker rooms to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts to get the interviews.
However, I will guarantee you one thing -- and this does not take away from my original statement that any form of harassment should not be tolerated -- but every 'serious' female sports reporter that I know and have worked with, when working, dressed professionally. When I was covering every team in New York and going into locker rooms, I would not have even thought of wearing anything too sexy or provocative in fear of encouraging taunts and comments from the players. Yes, this sports reporter from Mexico who is the subject of the NFL investigation with the Jets based on their behavior towards her, is an attractive woman. But do you have to dress provocatively, with tight fitting jeans and a top while covering the team practice? And then wear a tight black dress as if you are going to a nightclub while covering the game? Poor judgment! Call me old-fashioned, but professionals, whether male or female, should dress appropriately. Again, I am not condoning harassment toward a person -- even if he or she is dressed inappropriately -- but this sports reporter could be probably even more effective and taken more seriously as a 'reporter' if she wore a suit or at least something a bit more professional. I'm not saying they would have treated her any differently, and that is an issue female sports reporters have been struggling with for years, but she would have represented the professional female sports reporter more appropriately. After all, we have all worked for years to earn the 'right' kind of respect and acceptance in the sports world. Save the skin tight outfits for your day off.
Ann Liguori is a sports talk show host, reporter, author, executive producer and President of Ann Liguori Productions. She is one of the original sports talk show hosts on WFAN Radio, is the station's golf and tennis correspondent and is the owner, host and producer of the longest-running sports interview series, hosted by a woman. 'Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori' aired each week on sports cable networks from 1989-2003. Visit her web site at www.annliguori.com
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