NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL chastised the New York Jets on Friday for unprofessional conduct but found no evidence that a female television reporter was “bumped, touched, brushed against or otherwise subjected to any physical contact” by any member of the team or coaching staff.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said while the “conduct of the Jets clearly should have been better” team owner Woody Johnson and his staff acted promptly to correct the situation that arose last weekend when TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz said she felt uncomfortable in the team’s locker room.
Goodell said that, as a result of the incident, the league will implement a training program for all 32 teams on proper conduct in the workplace and that the program would be underwritten by Johnson, who personally apologized to Sainz.
The NFL came to its conclusion after interviewing 17 people who were present — including Sainz — when she visited practice on assignment for her Mexican TV network.
In a letter to Johnson, Goodell said that while “there seems little doubt that passes were thrown in Sainz’s direction at last Saturday’s practice, it is also clear that she was never bumped, touched, brushed against, or otherwise subjected to any physical contact by any player or coach.
“Sainz herself was unequivocal in saying both that no physical contact occurred, and that no player or other Jets staff member made any comment or gesture that could be construed as threatening, demeaning or offensive,” he said.
Sainz said on her Twitter account last Saturday that she felt “very uncomfortable!” in the Jets’ locker room, where a few players made catcalls as she waited with two male co-workers to interview quarterback Mark Sanchez, who is of Mexican descent.
“Of course you feel it when you are being stared at and when you are being spoken of in a certain way,” Sainz told The Associated Press. “I opted to ignore it … I tried to not even pay attention.”
She tweeted in Spanish on Saturday night that she tried “not to look anywhere!!”
Goodell said Sainz explained that her postings on Twitter while in the locker room reflected her “general lack of comfort in that setting, and were not related to any specific act, comment or gesture directed to her by any member of the Jets organization.”
He said she also told the NFL she had not seen or heard any catcalls, sexually explicit or offensive comments or gestures directed at her, “and did not believe she was subjected to any improper conduct.”
Goodell’s letter said Sainz “did not believe that the activity in the locker room interfered with her ability to do her job (namely, obtaining an interview with Sanchez), and did not identify any member of the Jets organization who did anything that was in her view improper. That being noted, Sainz did state that the locker room environment ‘could have been better.”‘
The letter said other reporters in the locker room described the atmosphere as “juvenile, immature, high school,” but “not over the top.”
“Others agreed that the atmosphere was not hostile, that no obscene or lewd comments or gestures were made and that nobody had physical contact with Sainz, that Sainz did not appear concerned, disturbed or troubled by what was going on around her, and that nobody had difficulty doing his or her job.”
However, the letter also said the atmosphere in the locker room was described as “unprofessional, uncomfortable, and disappointing.”
The new training program will also be given to NFL rookies next year to help them deal professionally with news media and others in the workplace. The training program and related set guidelines for reporters, will be developed by the NFL in consultation with the Association for Women in Sports Media.
“Any debate over whether women reporters belong in the locker room was settled long ago, and this incident offers no occasion to reopen that antiquated discussion,” Goodell said.
Johnson said the team had “learned from what happened last Saturday, and have reaffirmed our commitment to treat all members of the media with professionalism and respect.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)