September 15, 2010

Jets, Sainz situation represents progress, however unsatisfying

It’s not exactly news when some NFL players act like lowlifes. It’s certainly not news to any woman who works as a sports reporter, which includes my wife. Most are perfectly prepared to deal with frat boy behavior on the job. So when members of the New York Jets made inappropriate comments to Ines Sainz, a reporter for TV Azteca in Mexico, it became a news story largely because pictures of Sainz play well in today’s media environment. It’s no secret many foreign television networks hire women as eye candy, expect them to do less-than-serious stories while dressed, by professional journalism standards, provocatively. 

So the Jets situation made for an unsatisfying ethical tale.

On one level, it represented progress. The official response from the Jets and the NFL was swift and unequivocal: women reporters are to be treated professionally. The juvenile behavior is no longer winked at or embraced, as it was in 1990 when a group of New England Patriots harassed Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson. Patriots owner Victor Kiam led the charge, blaming her for his players’ actions while calling her a "classic bitch." The atmosphere was so toxic for Olson, she left to work in Australia for several years.

That stuff is pretty rare these days, especially in New York, which leads the universe in women reporters — including Olson, who lives in New York and writes for Both NFL teams here have had multiple women beat writers and women are a daily presence covering games and practices. Those women, including my wife, Lynn Zinser, a reporter for the New York Times who covered the Giants for several seasons, do not get treated to catcalls and degrading behavior. Why? Because they act like professional journalists and players respond in kind.