A taboo subject for the media

By Bonitta Best
Updated: September 16, 2010

Ines Sainz

Ines Sainz

DURHAM — Lisa Olson was a bright, intelligent and respected sports reporter for the Boston Herald.

Then, on Sept. 17, 1990, the unfathomable happened. A group of pigs disguised as New England Patriots terrorized Olson as she conducted an interview in the locker room.

To make a long story short, naked football players made crude and vulgar comments and lewd gestures. According to an NFL 108-page report, one player, Zeke Mowatt, fondled himself near Olson and asked her, “Is this what you want?”

Other players gyrated behind her and dared her to touch their private parts.

After Olson went public about the incident and players were fined and staff members fired, she received death threats and obscene phone calls, and even had her apartment burglarized.

Olson isn’t the only female sportswriter to be harassed or heckled by a bunch of Neanderthals, but because of the sheer brutality by those players, her case is the poster child for women sportswriters.

All of us over 30 know the Lisa Olson story.

Female sportswriters have grown exponentially since women began entering locker rooms in the mid-1970s. A lot has changed for the good, but the bad is still there too.

This week, Ines Sainz, a reporter for a Mexican TV Network, tweeted that she felt “very uncomfortable” in the New York Jets locker room as she waited to interview quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Sainz wrote that she “tried not to look anywhere,” but players made catcalls in the locker room and a coach threw footballs in her direction. I have to assume this was her first experience in a locker room because if those few incidents got her rattled, she’s not long in this business.

The worst thing Sainz did was tweet about it. (Why do people feel the need to tell their business to strangers?) Now, the players know they’ve gotten under her skin and it’s on now.

Professional football, basketball and baseball are nothing but testosterone on steroids. I hated going into locker rooms when I covered the NBA. They stink profusely and, yes, all eyes are on you.

Only an egomaniac athlete would believe any woman would want to suffer through the smell and hostile environment just to peek at his Tootsie Roll. I never had any problems during my stint, but I did get plenty of cold stares.

I’d do it all again if I had to. Head held high and eyes forward.

You’d think these things wouldn’t happen in 2010, but, hey, you’d think people wouldn’t still be racists either. Today’s players are the BET, MTV, SlutTV and every other kind of TV generation that denigrates women.

I see it all the time with young people like Sainz. They naively believe times have changed and sexism and racism don’t exist. Or, and this is my favorite line, “No one has ever bothered me.”

Then, when something happens, they don’t know how to handle it.

ESPN reported Tuesday that Sainz wasn’t in the Jets locker room after their Monday night loss to the Ravens, but she has been making the rounds of the TV circuit to tell her story.

Too many women pioneers have suffered much worse to pave the way for steps like mine. It’s not a job for wimpettes, but it is the best gig in town.

Quitting has never been an option.