The flap around sports reporter Ines Sainz and her ‘beef’ with the NY Jets has brought to light a number of troubling issues within sports that we’ve been discussing for the past 30 years including; sexism in a league that has no shortage of disturbing incidents, accessibility and professionalism. We’ve seen this movie before. The story line goes, attractive reporter in a male dominated sport is ‘doing her job’, when high-priced players and in this case the Jets head coach Rex Ryan and defensive back coach Dennis Thurman decided to behave in a way that we would not tolerate off the sports field in other work environments.
In this incident, Ryan and Thurman reportedly threw balls in Sainz direction during a Saturday afternoon practice causing players to run near her while she waited for an interview with quarterback Mark Sanchez. She said the ball throwing wasn’t really the issue and didn’t take it too seriously. She said she didn’t really take the cats calls she got in the locker room seriously. Sainz claims it was the reaction she got from other reporters that eventually caused her to communicate to the world via twitter that she was ‘feeling uncomfortable’.
The fall out was predictable. NY Jets owner Woody Johnson apologized and promised to look into the matter and hold the feet of those responsible to the fire. The NFL is investigating. Women sport writers and reporters of every type have been brought to the fore front, interviewed and asked how things have changed over the years. Most of their reactions have been cautionary like Teri Thompson who pretty much said; ‘Yes things have improved, but we still have a long ways to go’, seems to be the mantra
Next we have the age-old discussion about attire. One one hand we have some saying a reporter like Ines Sainz sends the wrong message with her provocative style of dress. Saturday she wore tight jeans and a halter top. On Monday night she wore a mini dress with a revealing neckline and stilettos. Sainz has coyly defended her head turning outfits. She claims its how she dresses and while she hears the cat calls ‘noise’ she ignores them and goes about doing her job.
Many have supported her laying claim that it doesn’t matter what she wears. In no way shape or form, should any woman be harassed. Some have even pointed out that her attire of dress is cultural and that in many places throughout Mexico and Latin America where Sainz is from, her outfits wouldn’t cause such a stir. Obviously they have here in the US.
On the other hand, many aren’t buying it. One long time sports fan named Cynthia —– dedicated a Dave Chappelle video to Ines Sainz stating that while she agrees women shouldn’t be harassed for what they wear, one needs to take into account their motivation.. She asserted ‘Some females PRETEND not to like the attention.
As of late last night this debate on attire was raging on the airwaves, in blogs and on twitter. Long time activist and author Hadji Williams (Can’t Knock the Hustle )who goes by the twitter handle Black Canseco was knee-deep in this conversation as he wound up relating his long tenure in corporate America where he claimed Sainz attire of jeans and halter top would’ve been deemed unprofessional.
“I’ve worked 15 yrs in corporate gigs. I’ve seen women rip each other apart over attire. Inez would get torn down at places I’ve been at” he noted.
When challenged about why should women have to dress a certain way in order to not get harassed, Williams asserted that he was not defending the players. He felt those responsible should indeed be held accountable.
He added; “One wrong doesn’t negate another wrong. What the players did were wrong and should be dealt with. Inez Sainz outfit was still unprofessional.”
Sadly Ines Sainz and discussions on her outfits take away from the more serious issues of sexism and harassment within NFL with players like Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger who had his suspension for reckless and harassing behavior reduced from six to four games and now former player turned reporter Shannon Sharpe who is accused of domestic violence, rape and issuing death threats against Michele Bundy the mother of his kids. Sharpe has decided to take a leave of absence from his post at CBS until the issues at hand are resolved.
The issues around attire can easily be dealt with. The NFL can simply implement a dress code. Any reporter on the field or in the locker room needs to have on appropriate business attire. Since many of the harassment problems seem to occur in the locker rooms, how about the NFL simply keep that space for the players and conduct all interviews on the field after the game? Why not make it a condition that all players must stick around for 15-30 minutes after the game to talk with reporters who seem to feel its important to get the raw emotions of players after a win or loss?.
Will any of this stop all the cat calls? Not totally, but maybe it will lessen the types of remarks and attitude we heard espoused by players like Washington Redskin running back Clinton Portis who yesterday suggested that women reporters in the locker room have ’53 packages’ to look at and may want one.
In the meantime, not just the NFL but society in general needs to find more efficient ways to work on the problem of sexism, violence against women and other related issues. Sure we can punish Rex Ryan and whatever Jets player made cat calls, but shouldn’t we be concerned about the hundreds of thousands of folks who woke up the other day and made Ines Sainz top ten in searches as folks sought to get a glimpse of her outfits. Not a whole lot of folks were interested in stopping sexism in the NFL when they went googling her name. If you don’t believe me check out how many folks are looking up Shannon Sharpe this morning. Check around and see how many discussions are being had about a man who is accused of raping and issuing death threats against a woman. That’s what we should be concerned about.
As reporters what role do we have in all this? Are we beholden to a corporate agenda that would say go out and cover the game as if nothing happened because too much money and important relationships are on the line, hence one can’t afford to be rocking too many boats? Or do reporters who feel that a strong message needs to be sent step up and take some bold steps like doing some serious investigative reporting or not giving an offending team and its players any coverage at all..
How pervasive is domestic violence in the NFL? How many owners are covering up behavior that we saw with players like Big Ben Roethlisberger? If this is really about changing a damaging sexist culture then maybe reporters will have to go beyond the quotes in a locker room and deliver the type of hard-edged journalism that unearthed the rape cover ups in the military where it was discovered that almost 1/3 of the women enlisted were violated and that oftentimes its covered up or ignored. Wouldn’t it be great if Ines Sainz was one of those reporters peeling back those painful layers and kicking up dust around this issue? Imagine her interviewing Big Ben as opposed to Mark Sanchez?
Where it stands now Ines Sainz is the hot topic who will likely parlay this incident into bigger and better things. People will point to the fact that the Jets apologized and how coach Rex Ryan won’t cross that line of harassment again, but sadly none of that won’t prick the surface of what’s really at hand. It’ll require all of us who are concerned to push the NFL to come down harder on those who cross the line. It’ll require us to push sports reporters to come down harder and make things uncomfortable for the players the way Sainz said she was made to feel uncomfortable. It will require all of us to start moving young people in a different direction so they won’t some off like Clinton Portis. It will also require all of us to draw lines in the sand.
written by Davey D