White's latest target: women reporters

MEDIA WATCH

April 13, 1999|By MILTON KENT

Former Green Bay defensive lineman Reggie White didn't have a great 1998 in terms of his public pronouncements, and 1999 isn't starting out particularly great either, what with a poorly timed diatribe against female reporters in the locker room.

A portion of White's forthcoming book "Fighting the Good Fight" regarding his disdain for the presence of reporters of the opposite sex in locker rooms, was excerpted in last Thursday's Wall Street Journal, and it was almost as noxious as the anti-gay, anti-Hispanic, anti-Native American spew he put forth before a meeting of the Wisconsin legislature.

Some 21 years after a federal judge ruled that female reporters had just as much right to be in a locker room as male reporters, White is railing against the policy.

In his diatribe, White contends that male athletes shouldn't be forced to "walk around naked in front of women who aren't their wives," and extends his concern to WNBA players who have to face male reporters in various states of undress.

White further complains that an open locker-room policy could give female reporters and camerawomen the opportunity to film players showering or walking to their lockers naked.

"They can keep the film for themselves, make copies, give it to friends -- and who knows what else?" wrote White.

There are so many mistaken notions attached to White's "thinking," but let's try to address a few of them.

Let's start with the premise that a locker room full of sweaty, naked people -- male or female -- is necessarily a sexual turn-on. A reporter's presence in a locker room is a practical matter brought on by the combination of unrelenting deadlines, competition and the need for access, both before and after games. The overwhelming number of sportswriters and broadcasters I know find very little alluring about the locker room, and no one would be there unless they had to.

Secondly, no player in any sport is forced to walk around naked in a locker room. There are towels and bathrobes available to anyone who wants them, and most reporters gladly respect a player's desire for modesty.

And the notion that a photographer or camerawoman would collect pictures or videos of nude athletes and trade them is so laughable so as not to be taken seriously. However, what should be taken seriously is a particularly disgusting portion of White's article where he recounted the 1990 incident in which Lisa Olson, then a reporter for the Boston Herald, was sexually harassed by three New England Patriots, who deliberately exposed themselves to her while she waited in the locker room for an interview.

White, while calling the players' conduct "boorish," comes awfully close to excusing it.

"I don't condone what they did," wrote White. "But I can see why those guys from the Patriots were driven to this kind of vigilante action. I've seen a lot of female reporters and camerawomen ogling guys in the locker room. There's not much a player can do about it, which leads to a high level of frustration."

White also said Olson was notorious for staring at players when they were naked, and said she was called a "looker." White contends that some Patriots had raised the issue with management and got no success.

"That's why they took it upon themselves to teach her a lesson," wrote White.

One of the underreported parts of the Olson story is that she only went into the Patriots locker room after a player that she had requested to meet with in an interview room three times didn't show up. Only then did Olson go into the locker room to do her job.

White's charge about Olson staring at naked players is an ugly one, offered only with the backing of unnamed players, and from what we know of libel law, he's walking a fine line of a lawsuit.

It wasn't so long ago that Reggie White, an ordained minister, stood tall and noble among the charred rubble of his Tennessee parish, burned to the ground in a rash of hate-inspired church fires.

Apparently the chapters in White's Bibles relating to tolerance and compassion must have been burned in those fires, for he hasn't stood that tall in quite some time.

Masters magic

Final numbers will come later in the week, but it appears that Sunday's final round of the Masters did quite well in the Nielsen ratings.

The fourth round copped a 10.7/21 overnight rating in the survey of the nation's largest markets, an 8 percent boost from last year's 9.9/26, and an even nicer rebound from the 15 percent fall in third-round ratings from last year to this year.

Milton Kent can be reached via e-mail at mediawtchr (at) aol.com

Pub Date: 4/13/99

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