By Ann Killion
September 14, 2010

Every few years, like clockwork, some overpaid athletes act like boorish frat boys and my job becomes a subject of debate.

It happened again last weekend, when a female reporter from Mexico's TV Azteca came to the New York Jets facility to do a story on Mark Sanchez. Ines Sainz was reportedly subjected to inappropriate behavior, leading to an NFL investigation and an apologetic phone call from Jets owner Woody Johnson.

Naturally, the Internet and airwaves once again lit up over the topic of women reporters having access to a professional locker room, with blustering moralists spouting misinformation and outrage over something that happens without incident every day around the country.

The latest to weigh in with inane comments was Clinton Portis, who went on his Washington, D.C., radio station to announce that a female reporter is "going to want somebody," when they go into an NFL locker room, proving that professional athletes mistakenly think they are the center of the universe. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello had to interrupt his day to say that Portis' remarks "are clearly inappropriate, offensive and have no place in the NFL." Aiello said the NFL would be speaking with Portis.

Time for some media training, perhaps?

Here's a little refresher on the subject:

• The NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL all designate the locker room as a work environment. While one of the Jets players reportedly yelled at Sainz, "This is our locker room," the reality is that the locker room is a workplace where many people -- including me and other women -- do our jobs. We're not given an alternative option.

The rooms are open to the media at designated times. There is no ambush or surprise or shock element. For as long as any of the New York Jets players have been alive, NFL locker rooms have been open to members of the media to conduct interviews.

• Men are, indeed, allowed in women's locker rooms. Driving into work on Monday I heard a nationally syndicated radio commentator lamenting the fact that he couldn't go in women's locker rooms. Apparently he's never attempted to cover women's sports -- sadly, not too surprising. But as this particular radio talker works for a network that covers both the WNBA and the women's NCAA basketball tournament -- and also employs several high profile women sports reporters -- you'd think he might have checked his facts.

The WNBA -- the playoffs are going on right now -- 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.

But the "men in women's locker rooms" argument is a red herring. There is simply no female equivalent to professional men's sports. There is no billion-dollar female sports league that fuels millions of jobs, the way the men's professional leagues do.

The NFL is a slickly packaged media entity. The Sanchez story that Sainz was doing is exactly the kind of story the globe-conquering NFL covets.

And the Jets -- those Hard Knocks media darlings, who spent all of a training camp with HBO cameras following their every move -- should be totally aware that their locker room is as much a media stage as it is a place to change their clothes.

• The reporter did not ask for this behavior. Predictably, Sainz is being blamed. Her online photos and credentials are being scrutinized. I don't know Sainz (though I do have a general idea of how women are presented on TV Azteca), but having been in her same situation, I understand why she is trying to downplay the incident. The reality is she came to work last Saturday wearing a pair of jeans and a white blouse.

Are we done now? Set the clock. In a few more years, on a slow news day, we'll probably be talking about this again.

Meanwhile, the Jets might want to try making headlines by winning football games instead of acting like morons.

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