Ines Sainz and the Jets: Have we learned nothing?

  • Ines Sainz, a reporter for TV Azteca, works on the sideline during the New York Jets' season opener against the Ravens.
Ines Sainz, a reporter for TV Azteca, works on the sideline during… (AP photo )
September 20, 2010|Susan Reimer

The National Football League has scolded players and coaches for the New York Jets, and everybody is scheduled for consciousness-raising sessions after a female television reporter Tweeted her followers that the players were making her feel "uncomfortable" with their practice field antics and the locker room leering that followed.

Ines Sainz, who works for the Mexican network TV Azteca, did not file a complaint, and in the interviews that followed she played the tough girl, refusing to blame the team she covers. Smart move if you want anybody from the team to step in front of your microphone again.

The controversy opened an old wound around the treatment of women sports reporters — especially when they report from the locker room — and it is one that seems to erupt with each new generation of players. Apparently you can lead professional athletes into the 21st century, but you can't make them think.

The consensus seems to be that Ms. Sainz, a former Miss Spain, is too pretty, too flirty and her clothes are too sexy, so there is no reason to either take her seriously as a reporter or treat her decently as a human being.

Having covered sports back in the Ice Age, when I deliberately dressed like a boy and kept the lowest of low profiles, I am too weary to make the argument yet again that a woman has as much right to cover sports as any guy and that she deserves the same access to players and coaches that male reporters are granted.

What has not been resolved, the Ines Sainz situation suggests, is what is appropriate workplace behavior and workplace attire for women sports reporters? There ought to be standards, even when the workplace is a football field or a locker room and when those around you may be in various stages of undress.

And I think Ms. Sainz, with her super-tight jeans and her plunging necklines and her bare midriff, violates those standards.

Male sports reporters for newspaper and radio can look like a walking sack of dirty laundry, and no one says much. Their television counterparts can carry sartorial splendor to new heights, but nobody is showing any skin.

It does not seem unreasonable to me to expect women reporters to dress for the job and not for the nightclub. And, even when glamming it up, to show some restraint.

Modesty, like pornography, is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps only women observers would agree with me that Ms. Sainz, if the photos of her that appeared on the Internet are any indication, is rarely dressed modestly, much less appropriately, as a television sports reporter.

When Meredith Vieira asked her on The Today Show if she thought her clothing might be a distraction from her serious purpose, she didn't seem to understand the question.

The trouble is, it isn't just the Inez Sainzes of the world. Too many young women arrive at work showing lots of leg and cleavage and inviting the boorish behavior of male coworkers. I don't want to sound like some kind of grumpy old prude, but, ladies, if you dress like catnip, the cats are bound to act silly and stupid.

Back in the day, men would say that women couldn't cover sports because they'd never felt the smack of the ball in the glove. And there were always whispers that we were window-shopping for husbands.

It doesn't feel like we have come very far.

Susan Reimer's column appears Mondays. Her e-mail is

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