So, Clinton Portis really thinks that the main reason a reporter of one sex goes into a locker room is to check out athletes?
Mr. Portis seems to be suffering the effects of a loss of common sense and dignity and respect for others to do their job.
Portis did, at the not-so-gentle behest of the NFL and the Washington Redskins, apologize for his verbal misstep on a Washington area radio station Tuesday.
But in the midst of the fiasco at the New York Jets' training facility Saturday involving a female TV reporter, from TV Azteca, Portis' crack that "And I mean, you put a woman and you give her a choice of 53 athletes, somebody got to be appealing to her," threatens to further damage the already delicate dance that athletes and reporters do on a daily basis involving locker room access.
This issue is of particular interest to me on two fronts; one, as FanHouse's sports media writer, and two, as one of FanHouse's two women's basketball writers.
I am one of the guys who can answer the oft-asked "Do men get to go into women's locker rooms?"
The answer is: occasionally, yes.
The WNBA has a policy where the locker rooms are open to reporters 90 minutes before the game for a 30-minute session. After a 10-minute cooling off period after the game, the locker rooms are open again for 30 minutes, then closed for an hour, presumably to let players shower and dress, then opened again. The access times are slightly less than those for the NBA, but the policy is similar.
Meanwhile, during the NCAA tournament, while the head coach and a selected group of players are holding a press conference in one area, locker rooms are open to reporters for 30 minutes.
However, during the college regular season, individual schools and conferences set their media access policies and most elect to keep the locker rooms closed, with players and coaches usually available upon request.
The NCAA tournament policy generally works well, but has flaws that become evident when a player who might be critical to the action isn't made available to a larger media group.
A case in point: during April's national championship game, Stanford's All-America center Jayne Appel slogged through an 0-for-12 shooting performance from the field, while going scoreless in the Cardinal's 53-47 loss to Connecticut.
Appel suffered an ankle injury during the game that undoubtedly contributed to her play, yet the school did not bring her to the postgame press conference. So, a group of reporters, myself included, trudged to the Cardinal locker room to talk to Appel, who could not have been more cordial or gracious.
And therein lies the reason that locker room access is vital: there are simply some stories that cannot be told or told well without visiting an athlete in their surroundings, their workplace, if you will.
Since writers and broadcasters can't talk to athletes the millisecond after they've scored a touchdown or missed a buzzer-beating, 3-pointer or slugged a game-winning home run, talking to them in the locker room is the next best thing to make the stories you read and see better come to life.
To those who suggest that they don't care what athletes or coaches think after games, well, the fact that you're on this site at this moment belies that argument. Fans care, and they seek out what they believe is the best and most interesting information. And rest assured, if they don't get good quotes from one outlet, they go to another.
Appel's attitude, even in the most trying situation of her career, is, generally speaking, far more in keeping with what has been my experience over the course of my career in locker room settings, namely that female athletes are more comfortable with the presence of male reporters than male athletes are with female reporters, even though there have been women in men's locker rooms longer than the opposite.
That said, I am and have been over my more than 20 years as a sports writer, uncomfortable being in anyone's locker room.
The fallout from Ines Sainz, the aforementioned reporter in the Jets' situation, is example No. 1. You never know when you will be accused of lingering too long, of looking at someone unnecessarily or of generally violating someone's privacy.
It's a no-win situation, and the stories of the worst meltdowns between the sides are unfortunately infamous, a la Zeke Mowatt of the New England Patriots and former Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris, who crudely told a young female reporter that he didn't talk to women when he was naked unless he was on top of them or they were on top of him.
Contrary to Portis' view, there's nothing at all sexy about being around sweaty athletes who are just off the field and would just as soon not have to explain their actions to a group of reporters that they don't think understand them.
But, like democracy, the locker room setting for reporters and athletes is the worst situation -- save for any other arrangement.
By the way, I actually had a former colleague suggest -- jokingly, I think -- the chief reason that I covered women's basketball was to get dates. For the record, I did meet my wife while we were at a WNBA game. Also, for the record, we were both spectators.