In light of the ongoing media coverage of the New York Jets’ alleged harassment of a female reporter in their locker room, the Association for Women in Sports Media would like to emphasize that equal access to the locker room is supported by law, and several court cases support this dating back to 1977.
Decades ago, professional sports leagues decided that the majority of media interviews, central to reporters’ jobs, were to be conducted in the locker room. These policies make the locker room a functioning workplace. Once a media member is credentialed by a sports organization, the organization is bound to give that reporter, regardless of gender, the same access to the locker room afforded to other media members.
Legal precedent was set at the 1977 World Series when then-Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn denied Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke locker-room access. Her employer, Time Inc., filed a lawsuit and a U.S. federal judge ruled that male and female reporters should have equal access to the locker room.
As for the NFL specifically, in 1979 the Fort Myers-News Press threatened a lawsuit against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to gain locker-room access for Buccaneers beat writer Michele Himmelberg. The Buccaneers eventually opened the locker room to all media. Two years later, the Sacramento Bee prevailed in a lawsuit against the San Francisco 49ers, who then opened their locker room to Himmelberg and all female reporters. By 1985, the NFL and other professional sports leagues had established league-wide policies ensuring equal access for all reporters.
AWSM also would like to emphasize that equal access to the locker room for male reporters covering women’s teams is the norm. The WNBA, for instance, has an equal-access locker room policy as does the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
AWSM continues to monitor issues regarding locker-room access and is committed to helping create and maintain a work environment that is free of harassment and hostility.
Please contact us if we can provide further clarification on the issue.