On Tuesday, March 4, Montclair State University kicked off Women’s History Month with a sports panel conducted by Professor Marc Rosenweig with filmmaker Annie Sundberg and The Record’s Sports Columnist Tara Sullivan.
Women in America have come far in the last 100 years thanks to feminists of the past paving the way. Within the media industry alone, women have come far, especially female journalists covering sports.
It was to be assumed that gender impacted reporting over four decades ago. Female sports journalists of the 1960s and 70s were assumed to be soft and were taken as a joke.
Access to the locker room was not granted until former Sports Illustrated writer Melissa Ludtke came along and challenged the Major League Baseball Commissioner. In 1978 it was declared illegal to bar a female from the locker room. That was the first step to breaking the glass ceiling female journalists reached. Legally speaking, females have access to the locker rooms but there is still a problem even today.
“I remember being stopped by a female security guard from going into a locker for post game interviews,” said Tara Sullivan.
After Sullivan tweeted about the experience the problem was rectified in a timely manner. The security guard was made aware that female reporters are indeed allowed into the locker room to conduct interviews.
“Demoralizing movement, telling a person you are not equal,” said Sundberg describing some of the atrocities female journalists faced when covering sports.
Lisa Olson is another sports writer that has made sacrifices in order for female writers to be where they are today. While Olson conducted interviews, she was subjected to sexual harassment. To witness a man fondling himself in front of you while conducting an interview it enough to cause emotional trauma and result in an incomplete interview but Olson continued her interview while remaining focused on her interviewee’s answers. Eventually the harassment Olson faced evolved from sexual to physical. The tires of her car were slashed and she received many threats that caused her to move to Australia to start fresh.
Female sports journalists would not have made it as far as they have if not for a handful of athletes sympathizing for them.
“They found support from certain athletes in particular black athletes and other athletes who felt targeted themselves,” said Sundberg. “There was solidarity where they were much more willing to help these female reporters because they all felt as if they were fighting for footing.”
From helping these females get quotes to complete their job to publicly speaking out, a select few of athletes made it possible and showed that there is a bit of compassion in players.
“They have to find a woman who has thick skin and who knows her sport,” said Sullivan when discussing characteristics a future female sports anchor should possess. “She will be scrutinized to a degree male anchors are not but I believe that we’ll get there someday.”
Sundberg touched on how physical attractiveness also plays a part in women reporting on sports. Not only in other aspects of life is a female replaced by a younger more attractive female but it is common in sports regardless of the knowledge level the new female may have.
Although female reporters have faced many challenges there are more challenges to be faced in the future. Just as some athletes sympathized for female reporters, it can be assumed that female sports journalists with empathize with the new wave of openly gay athletes such as the Michael Sams in sports.
Montclair State | New Jersey