On Saturday night, iconic CBC hockey commentator Don Cherry went on a rant about female reporters entering locker rooms. His comments were in response to a controversial locker room exchange between the Chicago Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith and reporter Karen Thomson of a Vancouver-area radio station. To be fair, Keith himself does not have a problem with women in the locker room, he just had a confrontation with an individual reporter who happened to be a woman.
During a back-and-forth with partner Ron MacLean, who disagreed with Cherry’s view that women reporters don’t belong in NHL locker rooms, Cherry asked rhetorically, “Why aren’t men in women [sic] dressing rooms?”
In the comment section of every article about Cherry’s comments, and in the comment sections of dozens of articles related to previous similar controversies in other sports, at least one person griped about this supposed double standard. Even sportswriters who took exception to Cherry’s comments took it as a given that male reporters aren’t allowed in women’s locker rooms.
But this double standard doesn’t actually exist. Male reporters are in women’s locker rooms all the time.
A few years back, in the wake of the controversy surrounding the treatment of TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz by some members of the New York Jets, Ann Killion of Sports Illustrated addressed this persistent myth.
The WNBA . . . has the same rules as the NBA. Open locker rooms at designated times. In the NCAA tournament, the same rules govern both men and women’s locker rooms — they’re both open at specific times. During the regular season, NCAA institutions can make their own rules about locker room availability, but during the tournament the NCAA has a uniform policy. When Stanford played UConn in last April’s championship, if you wanted to see how devastated Jayne Appel was after her terrible shooting night, you needed to be in the locker room. I was there. So were my male colleagues.
Dan Lauletta, who currently covers soccer, tennis, and golf, but who covered the WNBA earlier in his career, told me (via soccer writer Meg Linehan) that he was allowed into WNBA team locker rooms at designated times and that “It was never an issue.”
Not every women’s team or league allows men into the locker room. But for those who don’t, it’s not a matter of barring men, it’s the result of a media policy that doesn’t include locker room access for any reporters, including women.
The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the new top-tier league that began play this month, has no league-wide policy on reporters in locker rooms. Its operations manual says only that each team’s “media relations staff will coordinate with the head Coach to determine any post-game locker room media access.” Lauletta is not aware of any NWSL team that allows reporters (whether male or female) in the locker room. In case you’re wondering, Major League soccer allows media in locker rooms, despite objections from Toronto FC. The English Premier League does not.
Most top female athletes in the United States play sports where locker room access isn’t really a thing. For instance, the United States Tennis Association bars all media, regardless of sex, from the men’s and women’s locker rooms at the U.S. Open. Locker room interviews have also never been a part of Olympic coverage.
That might explain why the double standard myth is so ubiquitous. The casual sports fan just doesn’t see shots of reporters in women’s locker rooms. ESPN runs WNBA scores, and SportsCenter shows the occasional in-game highlight. But the Worldwide Leader rarely even runs clips from a post-game press conference, let alone ones from locker room interviews.
So the situation in women’s sports is similar to the situation in men’s sports. Some teams, leagues, tournaments, and organizations allow reporters into the locker room, and some don’t. But no one in women’s sports has a policy of allowing women, but not men, to report from the locker room.
Frankly, no major sports team or league—regardless of whether its players are men or women—is going to get away with inviting some reporters, but not others, into the locker room based on each reporter’s number of x chromosomes.
If you feel strongly that female reporters shouldn’t be in men’s locker rooms and/or that male reporters shouldn’t be in women’s locker rooms (and, unless you are a player or coach with a team that is big enough that credentialed members of the press are eager for post-game soundbites, I’m not sure why you’d care), your best bet would be to join Jason Whitlock and advocate for keeping all media—men and women—out of the locker room.