A few weeks ago, almost no one could tell you who Ines Sainz was.
Nonetheless, the sports reporter has caused quite a media storm in recent weeks. Sainz, a Mexican reporter for TV Azteca, reportedly accused members of the New York Jets organization of sexual harassment, after an incident at training camp on September 11. According to reports, while Sainz was attempting to interview QB Mark Sanchez, members of the Jets – player personnel and coaching staff – were giving her unwanted catcalls, leaving her “dying of embarrassment.” Footballs were also thrown her way, reportedly, so players would have an excuse to go over to her. Jets owner Woody Johnson apologized to Sainz shortly thereafter.
After the report came out, the resulting firestorm had everyone talking. From women (reporters or otherwise) in men’s locker rooms, to the relationship between female media and male athletes, to the professionalism (or lack thereof) of Sainz, herself, the topics that sprouted from the incident dealt with a wide array of issues. Washington Redskins RB Clinton Portis recently apologized for statements he made about female reporters.
Many who weighed in on the issue were quick to judge Sainz, going as far as blaming her for causing the incident in the first place. After all, she was dressed in provocative clothing, and had a penchant, as well as a reputation, for taking advantage of her own sexuality. Fox NFL analyst Brian Baldinger was recently quoted, saying “if you come into the NFL dressed the way that she is dressed you are just asking for it. I don’t know how you can justify any of the actions. Boys will be boys I guess.”
It seems to me that this story has drawn a proverbial line in the sand, in terms of what female sports reporters are and are not “allowed to do” – at least, by society’s standards. It has also sounded a call to arms, in protecting what I would consider a “sacred boy’s club” mentality of many (but not all) male athletes. Above all, it’s a story that further perpetuates masculine normative dominance.
First of all, ever since the story came out, many football players, experts and female reporters have thrown in their two cents about the idea of “professional journalism” and sport. The fact is, some journalists were hesitant to take Sainz’s side on the matter. In fact, Jemele Hill, a respected female sports journalist working for ESPN, questioned whether to take up the cause behind a so-called sports reporter like Sainz, given her history with American sporting events.
Now, while I respect Hill and her opinions, I personally have to disagree. The bottom line is that Sainz is a sports reporter, and a fellow part of the media. Now, I doubt that Sainz is on the same level as a Jemele Hill or a Christine Brennan or an Erin Andrews, in terms of “professional sports reporting.” And, yes, it seems like Sainz achieved her success through her … physical assets.
They don’t want to be lumped in with reporters like Sainz; reporters that are more known for their good looks than for their journalistic substance. That’s understandable. But, practically shunning her for that is backwards, to me. Sainz got to where she was by playing the rules of a game she didn’t create; a game that can’t get enough of hot females in sports. It’s no secret that part of why Erin Andrews, Michelle Beadle and Rachel Nichols of ESPN are popular is because they are attractive. Don’t get it twisted: I’m NOT saying that’s the only reason they’re employed, and I’m definitely not taking anything away from their journalistic respectability. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, it doesn’t hurt that they’re hot. Ines Sainz is a part of playing the same game – but that doesn’t mean she should be respected any less, let alone, treated like second-class. Ultimately, it’s the issue, and not the person who brings up the issue, that should be scrutinized.
Which brings me to my second point: many have either insinuated or said outright (I’m looking at you, Baldinger) that Sainz got what she deserved, because she was asking for it. They point to the way she was dressed and her behavior – either prior to or during the time of the incident – as reasons for saying she brought it on herself. I can’t agree with this at all: statements like that put the sole responsibility on Sainz, not only blaming the victim, but vilifying her. I don’t care how Sainz was dressed or how she may have been acting, or even her prior reputation as a sports reporter. If there is a woman in a professional sports team’s locker room, no matter how professionally (or unprofessionally) dressed she is, it doesn’t mean she’s trolling for trophy husbands, or that she’s a groupie or something; it doesn’t even mean she’s looking for attention. She’s there to do her job – and that’s sports reporting.
This brings me to my final point. While the Jets have been deemed to have conducted themselves unprofessionally, it seems to me like a slap on the wrist. The fact remains that the Jets players are equally at fault, if not more so, in this incident. However, quotes from people like Clinton Portis and Brian Baldinger echo an unwritten creed of a sporting brotherhood – protecting the “sanctity of the boy’s club,” if you will. In essence, athletes with high levels of testosterone and a mindset steeped in manhood shouldn’t be blamed for their conduct regarding beautiful women like Sainz. After all, it’s just “boys being boys”, right?
The point is, the old saying of “boys will be boys” doesn’t, and honestly shouldn’t, fly anymore. Apparently, as a society, we have come to accept this behavior as the norm. Male athletes are almost expected to act immature around hot women in sports settings. However, I have never understood this attitude. Granted, I was never an athlete, and would never claim to be, but I simply don’t get why most people allow this attitude to go on; an attitude stating that male athletes can’t act like gentlemen in front of attractive women. Hell, forget “gentlemen”; I’ll take respectable. Why do people accept this? Ultimately, the whole “boys will be boys” argument cannot be an excuse: the Jets players should have some accountability – not as professionals, and not as athletes, but as human beings – to treat a fellow human being with a level of respect.
In the end, debates were had about the issue, and apologies were dealt. It put the name “Ines Sainz” in the limelight of sports media. I just hope it stands as a catalyst for more debate on the relationship between women and male professional sport, rather than as a pretty face that caused turmoil for the Jets in 2010.