The XX Factor

The Ines Sainz Scandal Is Sexy but Flimsy

It’s been so long since there’s been a scandalous story about female sports reporters being harassed that I was starting to think it was the 21 st century or something. Aside from Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl’s weird grab of ESPN’s Erin Andrews during a halftime interview a couple years ago and Joe Namath’s legendary drunk interview in which he said he wanted to kiss ESPN’s Suzy Kolber back in 2003, it seemed like we’d come a long way, baby, since Patriots owner Victor Kiam called then- Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson a “classic bitch” after Olson said she was harassed by a player during a locker room interview.

But now we have the story of Ines Sainz, the former Miss Spain and current TV Azteca reporter who was subjected to catcalls and other Neanderthal-like behavior at a New York Jets practice on Saturday. The Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM) has leapt to her defense and called for the NFL to investigate. The Jets owner has apologized . Expect more apologies to come as the Jets look to avoid the wrath of no-nonsense commissioner Roger Goodell.

Sainz’s story will garner a lot of attention in the lull between Monday Night Football and next weekend’s games, but it’s hardly worthy of the outrage. Outbursts like we saw from the Jets are fairly rare. (What’s most disturbing about this is the apparent collective nature of it. Reports indicate that not only were players making catcalls, but coaches were intentionally misthrowing passes so they would land near her, giving players an opportunity to check her out. ) Teams and leagues have long since figured out how to accommodate female reporters. Women have been allowed in NFL locker rooms since 1985. The rise of ESPN and its multitude of channels means that there are more cameras in the locker room, and no one wants their friends to see that on SportsCenter, so players wear towels or dress in the showers.

More subtle behavior-ogles, “flirty” comments, comments behind a woman’s back-is probably still not uncommon. (It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a locker room.) But honestly, women who go into sports journalism are largely not the type to be offended by minor wrongdoing. To be interested in sportswriting, you have to be into sports, and with that comes the understanding that athletes are not always the most upstanding citizens . Suggestive comments, ogling, and outright propositions are inexcusable, but they’re also probably inevitable. (If you think there is any chance of a pro locker room ever being free of sexual stereotypes, go read the comments by the Redskins’ Clinton Portis from a radio interview on the topic.)

There are other, arguably more serious problems regarding women in sports journalism. A survey of 378 AP-member newspapers showed that, in 2008, only 6 percent of sports editors were women , along with 6 percent of columnists and 9 percent of reporters. It’s incredibly difficult to work in sports media and have a family. The hours are soul-sucking, and the pay generally doesn’t make up for it. (It’s not easy for men, either, and I’d be interested in seeing the divorce rates among beat writers who cover pro basketball and Major League Baseball, in particular, because of the long seasons full of travel.) Aside from that, at least on television, women are still frequently relegated to sideline reporting jobs and covering women’s sports, which have much lower ratings.

The Jets are holding an obligatory “educational session” for players, and Sainz herself is trying to put the matter behind her . But “Ines Sainz pictures” and “NY jets reporter” are still popular searches on Google, and something tells me that doesn’t have too much to do with indignant feminists sticking up for the rights of female reporters. The Jets might be guilty of crude behavior. But they’re not the only ones.