In the late 1960s, female sports reporters were denied access to locker rooms, waiting at the front door as male reporters simply waltzed in without a problem. Interviews often didn’t happen because the athletes wouldn’t want to do another interview, especially not with a woman.
The constant battle for equal rights never ends for women. In any field or career that’s been historically male-centric, men are assumed to be better and therefore more knowledgeable, but especially in sports.
In 2015, three female reporters were stopped in front of the men’s athlete locker room following the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts game because the male employee guarding the door was unsure if they were allowed to enter.
I have covered male sporting events all over the world and it took coming to Indianapolis to face my first gender discrimination. @NFL
— Graham Watson (@SAEN_Graham) October 4, 2015
“It’s an image that has been perpetuated and created for women historically that has bled over into our present day,” said Christina Barbieri, a Cal State Fullerton American studies professor.
When Title IX passed in 1972, it allowed women equal opportunities in university sports and in turn, opened up more positions for female sports journalists, but discrimination didn’t end.
A few years after Title IX became law, Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke was denied access to the New York Yankees locker room in 1978 because of her gender. This incident resulted in a successful lawsuit against baseball commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, for violating her 14th Amendment rights.
One step forward, another step back. Right when women could see potential breakthroughs in their career paths or their rights in general, a discriminatory incident reminded them that there were still improvements to be made.
The sexism that women face today may come along with intimidation or shock at the fact that they are becoming competitors in previously male-dominated fields. To be seen as an equal to the opposite sex or even gain respect, women have to become more knowledgeable in their career fields.
During a Carolina Panthers weekly press conference in October 2017, starting quarterback Cam Newton made a sexist comment toward Jourdan Rodrigue, Panthers beat writer at the Charlotte Observer.
Newton said it was “funny” that a female reporter would know a technical play within the sport in an attempt to undermine Rodrigue’s knowledge on football.
Here’s the video of Cam Newton saying “it’s funny to hear a female talk about routes” pic.twitter.com/hd9Kg4CCeu
— Jon Marks & Ike Reese on 94WIP (@MarksReeseWIP) October 4, 2017
Barbieri said part of the reason women in charge have a hard time gaining respect is due to a misconception that men balance the authority or friend role more easily than women.
No matter how hard women try to convince men that they are equal, the stigma of men being better at any type of job will continue to dominate the mind-set of generations to come.
“Feminism and that word has been twisted and manipulated to mean something that it doesn’t,” Barbieri said.“It just means that we want equality.”
Until then, women will continue to power through and shine light on the issue – whether through marches or standing up for themselves in times of discrimination, women will prevail.