Liguori: A Fashion Faux Pas For Sainz

By Ann Liguori

Having just spent 15 days covering the US Open championships for WFAN Radio, this space should be devoted to Rafael Nadal, the determined, gracious champion who won his first U.S. Open title and 9th Grand Slam championship, by beating Novak Djokovic in four sets last evening. But, instead, I’ve decided to write about the Ines Sainz story, the TV sports reporter from Mexico who was the subject of on-field antics and locker room catcalls. As someone who spent the first part of my career, interviewing athletes in and out of locker rooms for radio and television shows and series, this story has grabbed my attention.

First and foremost, no form of harassment should ever be tolerated. In the mid-eighties, I worked for ABC Radio Sports as a ‘stringer,’ covering every team in the New York metropolitan area. I was at a different game every evening, in a different locker room after every game, interviewing players and getting sound bites for the radio network. I then continued to cover a variety of teams and sports stories for WFAN Radio in the early years, where I hosted a weekly call-in sports show for over 22 years.

Whether one is a male or female reporter, the locker room is not a place you want to be. Particularly after a loss, the guys can be cranky and downright rude. The place is a locker room – smelly, sweaty and normally busy as print, radio and television reporters jockey for position to get their necessary sound-bites and interviews. But having said that, most of the guys by now know that anything but ‘professional’ behavior can’t be tolerated. The ‘boys will be boys’ mentality can no longer be used as an excuse for misbehavior towards women.

Most of my female colleagues, veteran sports reporters who have worked long and hard to establish their reputations and careers and to open doors for other women pursuing careers in sports broadcasting and sports journalism, will have a story or two or three, of being mistreated at one time or another, whether in the locker room, on the sidelines or somewhere along the way as they were doing business. These women put up with not only harassment such as catcalls and other child-like antics but they also had to fight for the opportunity to even go into the locker rooms to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts to get the interviews.

But I will guarantee you one thing – and this does not take away from my original statement that any form of harassment should not be tolerated – but every ‘serious’ female sports reporter that I know and have worked with, when working, dressed professionally. When I was covering every team in New York and going into locker rooms, I would not have even thought of wearing anything too sexy or provocative in fear of encouraging taunts and comments from the players!

Yes, this sports reporter from Mexico who is the subject of the NFL investigation with the Jets based on their behavior towards her, is an attractive woman. But do you have to dress provocatively with tight fitting jeans and a top covering the team practice? And then wear a tight black dress as if you are going to a nightclub while covering the game? Poor judgment! Call me old-fashioned, but professionals, whether male or female, should dress appropriately. Again, I am not condoning harassment toward a person even if he or she is dressed inappropriately but this sports reporter could be probably even more effective and taken more seriously as a ‘reporter’ if she wore a suit or at least something a bit more professional. I’m not saying they would have treated her any differently, and that is an issue female sports reporters have been struggling with for years, but she would have represented the professional female sports reporter more appropriately. After-all, we have all worked for years to earn the ‘right’ kind of respect and acceptance in the sports world. Save the skin tight outfits for your day off.

  • Ann

    Please send me blog link…would like to take a look…

  • Ann

    Hi Patricia:
    Thanks so much for your comments. I do understand the difference between entertainment and sports reporting. However, I maintain that the focus should be on ‘the story’ and/or the interview subject, not the reporter. However, this reporter knows exactly what she is doing and how to get ratings…

  • Patricia Hannigan

    Hi Ann –

    I too am a female sports writer… of sorts.

    Actually I have a rather popular independent golf blog and my golf book was released by Abrams in April. I feel that the Ines Sainz incident was simply one more example of traditional media bumping up against “Infotainment”.

    The story was somewhat misconstrued by the fact that the initial reports indicated that Ines Sainz was offended by the way she was treated by the NY Jets… and people have continued to believe that… writing things like “she shouldn’t complain if she wears such outfits”. However as commentor Chrissy Deffendall points out, Ines was not the one who complained.

    She did tweet from the scene that she was “uncomfortable” ..but later specified that she was actually uncomfortable with the reactions of some fellow journalists, not with the players.

    Ines Sainz is (from what I’ve learned) a non-practicing attorney, who directs and hosts “Deportips”, a sports/entertainment show she produces with her husband. It’s a kind of pop-culture sports show and she’s been doing it for several years… apparently in much the same type of clothing she wore to the Jets practice on Saturday… she’s also been very successful at it. (At least as successful as some of our more ‘serious’ journalists have)

    Ms. Sainz has interviewed the biggest stars in a wide variety of sports… always in the flirty, fluffy manner of a sports/entertainment feature piece. I’m quite sure she often gets a similar type of reception from other athletes as the one she got from the Jets, and I’m quite sure she expects it and is fine with it. I DON’T think it was as “demeaning” as some are making it sound and IT’S PART OF THE KIND OF ENTERTAINMENT SHE PRODUCES.

    The event on Saturday was a “media day”, I’d venture to guess she rarely does media days and doesn’t often find herself in a group situation side-by-side with other journalists. This, to my mind, was where the problems started.

    I’m convinced the all of the hesitancy/discomfort Ines felt was from the other journalists… and the fact that she saw them (men & women) getting upset. Hence the hesitancy on her part…

    I’m thinking that from now on she’ll simply avoid “media day” type events. Particularly if they take place in the US where the culture is arguably more conservative …and definitely more litigious… than elsewhere.

    As I’ve said (I wrote about this on my blog early it the week) ultimately this seems to me to be the perfect example of traditional journalism bumping up against entertainment journalism.

    The thing is though, entertainment journalism is often getting higher ratings (and more page views) than serious news these days, thus making it equally, if not more valuable to the sports teams, athletes, agents and sponsors then the traditional networks and publications. So what to do?

    The organizations that award media credentials are the ones who have the final word on who attends various events and what kind of standards (dress/behavior) are acceptable. It seems to me that it’s going to fall to them to be a bit more specific about what’s acceptable and not. In addition, the players should probably receive some additional training on how to handle themselves with journalists in light of the way the sports reporting profession is changing

  • Genny

    Well said. As a professional woman I completely agree.

  • Chrissy Deffendall

    Um, ya’ll? Ines was not the one who complained. Several sources, including USAToday have quoted her as saying she did not feel harassed or unsafe.

  • common sense

    when ever has it been acceptable for a women to be in a place with dozens of naked showering men, whether its for a job or not. It’s a locker room! When have male reporters ever waited inside of a female changing room for an interview?

    • Craig

      Re: the post from “common sense,” that’s the problem I have with this whole hubbub. Fortunately, women have recently gained close-to-equal-rights with men under the law. But in our culture, there are hundreds of situations where, whenever it’s convenient, women don’t want to be treated the same as men, and we revert back to the old patronizing ways.

      Among the most obvious examples are: 1) Palin benefitting greatly from her looks and fairly unique status as a young conservative female icon, and then crying sexism when people talk about her looks or outfits. Yet everyone talks about Obama’s looks, his fit body, and Bill Clinton’s weight and looks were a constant topic during his years in office).

      2) We have a pervasive culture of hooking up in college and single life in America, and yet as soon as a woman has a pang of regret, it’s back to the 50’s and the guy must have been unilaterally taking it to that level. I’ve even had a conservative girl I had just started dating initiate sex with me (which took me by surprise, bc we’d only kissed before then), and the next day, acted like I had been the aggressive one, and made a big deal of saying I “had to slow down.” I guess it was her way of dealing with guilt, but it freaked me out, bc I think anything even bordering on unwanted sexual advances is despicable. Any wonder guys are skeptical when we hear about a situation like the Roethelisberger accusation (which was dropped)?

      I’m for equality of the sexes…full-time.

  • doc

    This has been a tough year for female sports reporters who want to be taken seriously–what with the Renee Gork and Ines Sainz incidents. I applaud this commentator for taking a stand for professionalism.

  • Ann

    Appreciate your comments…Thanks for contributing. -Ann

  • tml

    Ann, my sentiments exactly (and I’m a female sports fan, who also works in a heavily male-dominated field). Unfortunately situations like this does a disservice to all women, instead of promoting equality, and give mixed messages as to what is or isn’t appropriate. While the players should not have behaved as they did, Ms Sainz should also not have complained as if she was blameless. There appears to be some evidence from photos she herself provided that she particularly enjoys promoting her sexuality, rather than her own work. And if indeed Mexican TV is known for scantily clad women, as another comment says, then it should also be noted that what we consider to be not-so-gentlemanly behavior is also more tolerated in that culture, so Ms Sainz should not have been surprised either. Either she does or doesn’t accept a given cultural environment, which is the closest thing to ‘rules of what is or isn’t appropriate’. In sum, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    • jgla

      Mexican TV is known for scantily clad women????
      USA CULTURE IS KNOWN for scantily clad women
      do not be hypocritical

  • Jody

    As a female sports photographer, this story also caught my attention. I agree that everyone on the sidelines (male or female) should be dressed appropriately for the job at hand. However, who is to say Ms. Sainz wasn’t dressed appropriately? Mexican and European television is known for its scantily clad news anchors and show hosts. Perhaps by Mexican television standards, Ms. Sainz was dressed conservatively, or was dressed as directed by her employer. But regardless of the clothes anyone wears, no one deserves to be harassed for any reason.

    • doc

      She was not in Mexico.

  • ADT

    I am sure you will get skewered for your opinion on this, but as a female, I completely agree. It is not at all the belief that she “asked for it”. I just believe too that if you want to be respected you should dress for the part. Women do have enough of a hard time succeeding and being taken more seriously than just a piece of meat. If you dress like a piece of meat, don’t be so surprised if you are treated like one. Men are just that primal.

  • michael roth

    and featuring scantily clad cheerleaders on your website is not exploitation of women? C’mon!

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