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‘Let Them Wear Towels’ Examines Gender Equity In Sports Reporting

Robin Herman, sports writer for the New York Times, is confronted by Chicago Black Hawks doorman Gordon Robertson outside the Black Hawks dressing room at Chicago, Jan. 24, 1975. Robertson kept Miss Herman from interviewing Black Hawks players until Chicago Black Hawks coach Billy Reay felt the team was presentable. Black Hawks won against New York Islanders, 3-1. (AP Photo)

Robin Herman, sports writer for the New York Times, is confronted by Chicago Black Hawks doorman Gordon Robertson outside the Black Hawks dressing room at Chicago, Jan. 24, 1975. Robertson kept Miss Herman from interviewing Black Hawks players until Chicago Black Hawks coach Billy Reay felt the team was presentable. Black Hawks won against New York Islanders, 3-1. (AP Photo)

Four decades ago, there was a protracted battle over whether female sports journalists should have access to athletes in the locker rooms like their male colleagues.

Eventually, after court rulings and a few open-minded team managers, they gained access. Many have faced vitriolic comments in the process about their gender and some vitriolic comments remain today about female sports journalists.

A new documentary by ESPN, “Let Them Wear Towels,” details the struggle for equality among female sports journalists. The documentary airs Tuesday night as part of the “Nine for Nine” documentary series, examining women in sports as part of the 40th anniversary of Title Nine, the law requiring women get equal opportunity in sports.

Guest

Melissa Ludtke, a former reporter for Sports Illustrated covering baseball who sued for equal access to players in the locker rooms in 1977.

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  • Kathy

    This was a fascinating and amazing show. Thank you so much for reminding me of why I started to listen to public radio in the first place. Maybe you could drop a line to NPR’s national office.

    • Sportsfan7

      This is such an abhorrent feminist double standard. If it is so professional why are not female athletes subject to this invasion of privacy? No male reporters are allowed in a women’s locker room while the athletes are in any state of undress. In the WNBA they are ushered out after 20-30 minutes so the women can change in total privacy. Could you imagine the feminist law suits if the shoe was on the other foot! In the U.S. it was a feminist female judge that made the ruling that a woman’s right to getting a quote after a sporting event was more important than a man’s right to privacy and decency. This situation is a feminist double standard and not any type of measure of equality. In professional and most college men’s sports female reporters as well as female college interns are permitted into the locker room 10 minutes after the game ends and can stay until the last athlete leaves. Male athletes are forced to shower and change in their presence. A law made punishable by fine by a feminist female judge. Male athletes deserve the same rights to privacy as female athletes. Somehow feminist equality only works one way!

  • Jim Guttmann

    I missed most of the show but, in the discussions I have heard about female reporters in men’s sports locker rooms I haven’t heard much discussion about men in women’s sports locker rooms.

    Thanks,
    Jim Guttmann

  • veritas78

    Also missed the show, but my strongest feelings lie not in a woman’s right to the locker room but to an argument that NO entry should be allowed to writers, immediately following a contest.

    I know the cons…”But we’ll miss the spontaneity!!!!”

    Tough.  I’ll survive.

    The need for a ‘scoop’ at the cost of a player’s heat-of-the-moment remarks really isn’t required.

    An effective writer doesn’t need the desperate grab for whatever scuttlebutt s/he hears while players are decompressing.  

    It’s time that the Players’/Owners Associations place this on their agendas the next time the networks come calling.

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