Sunday, June 24, 2007

We band of press people

It strikes me as funny that anyone would compare locker room access for sports reporters to paparazzi stalking players/celebrities at home and while they're out in their lives as private citizens. Locker room access is the league-mandated interview point for the press. It's policy for most professional teams. Players are always free to refuse to comment.

None of the Crew players I spoke to, (Grabavoy, Moreno, Hendrickson), acted inappropriately, but what surprised me in addition to what Marcos Gonzalez did, and I'm not sure it was related, was the way others on the team reacted, especially when I called out to EZ for an interview. They acted like I'd propositioned him, or something. Now, I'm willing to figure that was teasing EZ more than me, but it was still strange, and completely unnecessary. "Settle down, boys," said Ezra, ever the gentleman.

The two incidents added up badly and left me feeling lousy. Luis tried to cheer me up by taking me for a post-deadline Denny's dinner. Damian Calhoun of the OC Register joined us and apologized (he was there when Gonzalez was getting upset at me) for not comprehending what was happening.

Today, Rob Ziegler, my TopDrawerSoccer editor, called to make sure I was fine and to clarify the events, since he was one of the outlets I was on duty for at the time. He blogged about the whole thing as well.

Reporting is usually you and the computer, not so much in the way of coworkers. I have editors I work with who I've never met. But it's nice to know that colleagues care and wish you well.

(Minor aside, I think Rob misunderstood when I told him that I knew Hendrickson as always being good for a quote when he was here in LA. I didn't actually mean with the Galaxy - I didn't cover the Galaxy back then - but with Chivas USA. Hendrickson was with the Red'nWhite their first year in the league, and even when they lost badly, Hendrickson was willing to talk to reporters about the situation. EZ is class.)

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity...what exactly does "league mandated" mean (i.e. what is the exact languaged used in the mandate)? Are teams required to give locker room access? Can they close the locker room to all reporters if they want to?

Personally I think it would be a little silly if the team couldn't close access if they wanted to. They shouldn't have to deal with that if they don't want to. If they are indeed allowed to close access to everyone, then I don't see what you're complaining about. He didn't feel comfortable, so he asked you to leave, and you didn't. Had a male reporter refused to leave, I'd be equally as puzzled. I just have a hard to believing the league actually REQUIRES interviews...

A.C. said...

Wait, you seriously believe it's fine for a player to order out a reporter who wasn't even talking to him, simply because the player felt uncomfortable with the gender of the reporter?

How am I supposed to get interviews and make deadline? We're on the clock after games. I can't wait outside hoping the players I want to talk to will eventually show up. Why should I be disadvantaged compared to other reporters who happen to be male?

The other scenario you've presented is entirely different. Closing off the entire locker room treats every reporter equally. However, I've never heard of any team doing this, and I'm not sure it would be allowed.

The league rules are as follows: the locker room is open for media access ten minutes after the final whistle. (sometimes teams bend this slightly, going a little longer) Interviews are at the discretion of individual players and coaches. So the league doesn't require interviews, but it requires the access to for reporters to get them. Marcos is well within his rights to refuse to talk to me (though my whole point was that I never asked him for an interview), but not so much when wanting me out of the locker room entirely.

Spencer said...

Here's the original 1978 court decision overturning the policy excluding accredited female journalists: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/communications/ludtke.html

For those not interested in reading it, the most important fact is that the Yankees (and likely the Crew) rent the stadium from the city. Because it is public property and because the city did nothing to step in "pursuant to the lease provision requiring the Yankees to comply with all local, state, and federal laws, to stop the Yankees' discriminatory conduct." This constitutes state action which violates the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection and due process.

Anonymous said...

I don't particularly feel that the league, the team, or Marcos has any responsibility to let reporters do their job. They might have an interest in allowing media coverage because it generates publicity for the league/team, etc, but ultimately it's really not their responsibility.

It's the team's locker room, and to suggest that reporters -- male or female -- should have a right to be there is just wrong. It might be customary in this country, but it is by no means a right.

In other words, in my opinion, Marcos had more of a right to ask you to leave than you did to stay. Like I said (and you conveniently ignored), I would have been equally disturbed had a male reporter refused to leave when asked. What I was trying to establish with the scenario where a team might close lockeroom access altogether is that a team should have the right to restrict access if they want to. Apparently perhaps they're not allowed to do so, and if that's the case then maybe Marcos was wrong (although how can he be expected to know exactly what the rules are about media) but that's why I asked what exactly the rules are.

What I would like to ask is this? Are male reporters allowed in female lockerooms after their matches? Well OK maybe they are (not sure since I'm not a reporter), but who would really be outraged if a female player asked a male reporter to leave?

A.C. said...

No reporters of any gender were allowed in the locker rooms of the WUSA. They always did mixed zones after games, so equal access to everyone was granted that way.

As noted, the locker rooms belong to the stadium owners - and to a certain degree, the State, since the Home Depot center is on Cal State Dominguez Hills property. It does not belong to any team that plays there.

The team does have a responsibility to follow league rules.

Dave said...

Anonymous, give it up, dude. You're just wrong about this.

This wasn't Marcos's house. It was a locker room. He can't discriminate by asking one person to leave just based on their gender. Not allowed in this country.

Teams can delay the opening of the locker room - while the coach yells at them. :) But that locker room is open to the media. Which includes men and women. That's how we do it here.

jdh said...

It seems to me that the request from MG was reasonable and politely stated. Certainly the 1978 district court decision in NY has no binding value in other districts.

Should MLS change it's policy? Yes, I think so. The mixed zone works well in soccer around the world and seemed to work ok for the WUSA. I imagine that MLS didn't analyze the merits of one policy vs another but simply copied its policy from the NFL in an attemp to be more "Major League".

If this blows up into some sort of teaching moment, I hope it's not Gonzalez who receives all the grief. IMO media people are clueless as to why they are held in such low regard. Here's a hint: self righteous complaining when other people want privacy doesn't win much sympathy.

Another question: are referee's subject to the same league policy as players? Last night Michael Kennedy interjected himself into the contest to an unusual degree. Two PKs, a dubious red card, completely different standards from one half to the other as to what was a foul. Why wasn't he interviewed?

Anonymous said...

Should Gonzalez let reporters do their job? Sure, but it's not as if his act was pre-meditated. He was unexpectedly approached by a stranger of the opposite sex while getting out of the shower.

Give the guy a chance to learn American culture before smearing him as an "asshole." You guys are a disgrace.

A.C. said...

One pool reporter goes to interview the refs if the request is made to media officials. I'm on the pool reporter list, so it could be me at some point, but I haven't been asked to do this yet.

I don't know how often to emphasize the fact that I left Marcos alone as soon as I got even a hint that he might be uncomfortable. Marcos wanted to deny me interview access to every Crew player in the locker room. Interviewing players is my job. I wasn't following them home and imposing on their privacy.

It's really hard to believe that after a year and a half in the league, Gonzalez wasn't aware that some league reporters are female. If he didn't know this, then that needs to be addressed by the league.

Anonymous said...

Evidently AC didn't leave him alone to a satisfactory extent. She was still in the room, and personally I don't think it's totally unreasonable that he might be uncomfortable with that.

And Dave, first of all, for the third time, I would have the same reaction if a male reporter had refused to leave. MY VIEW HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GENDER. I JUST DON'T THINK REPORTERS OF EITHER GENDER HAVE A "RIGHT" TO LOCKER ROOM ACCESS. That clear enough for you?

And secondly, yes you can actually ask someone to leave on the basis of gender. Think public restrooms. And what is a lockeroom if not a glorified public restroom? If I walked into a women's bathroom and refused to leave, I'm pretty sure I'd be the one getting arrested.

Maybe MLS needs a mixed zone policy. Otherwise I can absolutely see this being an increasingly common problem, especially with more and more foreign players coming to MLS.

A.C. said...

A locker room is not a public restroom. It's basically a big closet. Reporters don't have access to the showers or toilets.

For that matter, Marcos could have changed in either area.

My point is that the male reporters were not asked to leave. I was singled out on the basis of gender, and yet you overlook that to say that any reason for a player to want a reporter gone is fine. You may not believe that any reporter should be in the locker room, but the fact is, they all were there. I'm a reporter, too. Why should I be told to leave?

Justin said...

To start: I agree Marcos shouldn't have touched you and you had, based on league policy, a "right" to be there. But I guess I don't understand the need to continually put down Marcos, calling him an asshole, etc. I understand this crossed professional boundaries for you, but it apparently crossed some cultural/personal boundaries for Marcos.

You're asking for understanding on Marcos' part but where's your understanding for his upbringing, his culture?

It seems to me the solution is for MLS to move toward the same access that's granted for International contests and WNT games.

A.C. said...

I never called Marcos any name. That's not my style.

Other players from South America or other Latino countries have come into the league and I've tried to make it a point to interview them, because there aren't that many bi-lingual reporters in the league, and I want these players voices to be heard. They're some of the best interviews in the league. I've talked to Christian Gomez, Aitor Karanka, Jafet Soto, Juan Pablo Garcia, Carlos Ruiz, Maykel Galindo, Jose Cancela and Matias Donnet in locker rooms. They've all been great.

L.B. said...

I called Marcos an asshole.

Anyone who has a problem with that can take it up with me.

Any player who puts his hands on a reporter in the locker room is an asshole in my opinion.

A.C. said...

That said, as soon as it looked even a little like Marcos didn't want to talk, I walked away from him. I respect that some players are from different cultural backgrounds and may not feel like doing an interview. I do draw the line at respecting someone's cultural sensitivity, though, when it prevents me from doing my job. I had a right to interview players who were willing.

saroccer said...

Justin,

Andrea never called him an asshole (as far as I can see). She also noticed that he looked uncomfortable and didn't approach him. I think that shows respect for his culture.

He wanted her to leave the locker room entirely, even though she was talking to someone else. That is unfair since she had press credentials and did not act inappropriately (such as asking for an autograph).

These are professional athletes and dealing with the media is part of their job. I am sure there are plenty of times when a professional athlete does not want to talk to the media or even see them. They still should act professionally and either refuse all interviews or respond.

Andrea did not show up in his house, his bathroom or take pictures to send to a tabloid.

She is a journalist and acted accordingly. He is a professional athlete and should've acted as one.

Anonymous said...

"Any player who puts his hands on a reporter in the locker room is an asshole in my opinion."

Luis, I don't know your background, but I do know a lot of adult Latin American immigrants, and one of the things I've been told over and over again is how awkward it is for them to adapt to a culture where you don't touch other people.

If you guys want to criticize the league or the Crew for failing to prevent this situation, that's one thing, but these repeated, one-sided, personal attacks on Gonzalez are beyond the pale. Perhaps he behaved inappropriately, but you guys aren't behaving like journalists.

A.C. said...

Luis is entitled to his opinion of someone's actions, and his job doesn't take away that right. This is an open forum for discussion on the topic, and so far, Marcos has a lot of support, so I don't see the one-sidedness you're claiming.

Justin said...

I'm not necessarily defending Marcos' actions. I agree he shouldn't have touched Andrea and acted unprofessionally.

I expected someone questioning someone else's professionalism to refrain from calling that person an asshole. Seems to lose the point, don't you think?

Anyway, I apologize for my misunderstanding that it wasn't Andrea who called him an asshole. And I hope this leads to some changes within MLS.

Further, I think bringing this issue up in a public forum is a great way to generate discussion on the issue — as it's obviously still an issue.

L.B. said...

I agree. I like having open discussions like this.

I may have been quick to let my professional guard down and call Marcos a name but I stand by my initial anger and frustration over the entire incident.

Hops said...

Has this ever been an issue before? He's been in the league a year and a half. How long have you been covering it? It seems odd that a player suddenly has a huge problem with a female reporter. I guess being on the Crew he isn't used to anyone bothering to pay attention to them :-)

Anonymous said...

Re: lockerooms not being analogous to public restrooms and that Gonzo should've gone somewhere else to change.

So players should be forced to go somewhere else to change to satisfy the media? That just doesn't seem fair.

And I still think comparing a lockeroom to a public restroom is valid. Arguing that the toilets/showers are in a seperate room is just semantics. Both have naked men, and unclothed people is typically where society has drawn the line as far as rights to equal access. For example, a female reporter would not be justfied in filing suit if a male subject went into a public restroom and did not allow her to follow him into the restroom while at the same time allowing a male reporter to do just that. Would the female reporter have been treated differently in that case? Sure. But would that be unfair? I don't think so. I know a NYS court ruled that female reporters must have equal access to lockerooms, but that ruling does not have any bearing in LA, nor does it necessarily make it the correct decision.

Bottom line, I still haven't found anyone who has said male reporters should be allowed in female lockerooms. If you really want equality, then you should be pushing for the implementation of a mixed zone (or whatever it was) in all lockeroom scenarios.

Personally, I think this event should serve to open the league's eyes to a potential problem. Perhaps they will (and I think they should) reconsider their policy in the future.

David L said...

I think the whole thing is pretty shameful, especially on Marcos' part. I understand that he was uncomfortable having a woman in the locker room, but he acted in a totally inappropriate way. I agree with Luis - he does seem like an asshole - and we can't let cultural differences justify poor judgement and bad behavior.

Without wanting to escalate the scale of the incident (I hope, like AC, that this is totally isolated), this also exhibits a failure on the part of the Crew to prevent some of what happened. Where was their PR person during this whole event? What about teammates?

While Andrea has said on a number of occasions that she was just doing her job, we overlook the fact that Marcos has a job as well - and it doesn't just run for 90 minutes. He has to attend team functions, make appearances in the community, talk to management, and interact with the press - even if it is just declining interviews (which he has a right to, though the team might not be too thrilled if he always does that). That is most definitely part of his job description, and he has to accept that fact. If he doesn't, he can join a new team.

Perhaps a team could ask a single reporter to leave based on previous stories (if they're prone to inaccurate stories, for example), but asking a reporter to leave based solely on her gender is inexcusable descrimination. It's fine (perhaps unavoidable?) that he has a problem with it, but there were about a million different, better ways to go about dealing with his issue.

Justin said...

David L., why can't we justify poor judgment on cultural differences? Are we really self righteous enough to believe everyone everywhere should be as enlightened about gender issues as we are in the state.

From most accounts close to the Crew, this is was likely Marcos' first time having a women in a locker room. Andrea is, unfortunately, one of the few female soccer reporters in the country. And Marcos has only made the trip to LA twice since being with the Crew and it appears from limited research that Andrea did not cover either game (correct me if I'm wrong, Andrea).

Again, Marcos should not have touched her. But for us Americans to 100 percent expect — and not understand or allow grace for — foreign players to adopt our cultural standards is just as insensitive (in my eyes).

Anonymous said...

"So players should be forced to go somewhere else to change to satisfy the media? That just doesn't seem fair."

Note to you, sir: the media doesn't care. The player should only go change somewhere else if HE feels uncomfortable being in a state of partial undress around clothed members of the Fourth Estate or of the opposite gender.

If you've been in the media for more than a few weeks, you're no longer affected by having to talk to athletes who are partially clothed or totally unclothed. It's just the way it is. This isn't Plymouth circa 1640.

"Personally I think it would be a little silly if the team couldn't close access if they wanted to."

Take it up with the league. It's a league mandate. Locker rooms are open. Players don't have to talk. They don't have to get dressed. They can even make themselves unavailable by going into one of the off-limits areas (usually the training room, the coaches' offices, the shower) IF they feel the need to.

But not on our account. We don't really care what you do. Only that you let us do our jobs. Because that's the ONLY reason we're there.

Anonymous said...

Having read all this it is perfectly clear that we have one set of rules for women and another set for men.

Female athletes get privacy to shower and change and male athletes do not. The policies are clearly different and based entirely on gender (Women get a 20 minute closed locker room time period in the WNBA for example) For reporters, both male and female, to re-define equality like this maybe underlines why the media has become more despised over the years.

Its always been about female reporters access to male athletes. No one comments, sues, complains or even acknowledges the completely different attitudes towards access in female locker rooms. It seems to trend with modern feminism. When women are discriminated, change the rules/law, but when its men, sorry, thats just the way it is. Jane Chastains comment remains as accurate today as it ever did.

'I was never in favor of women going into men’s locker rooms… You still will not find any men demanding access… to the females’ dressing rooms. They have not allowed male reporters in there. And yet on the other side, in the male locker room, everyone is afraid to say no… I think it shows that men have more respect for women than sometimes women do for men… It makes me embarrassed for my sex, quite frankly.'

Amazing how we do so much trampling of mens rights in order to benefit women, but nobody raises an eyebrow when its men being discriminated. Reporters should stop spewing equality when policies are based on gender. Take it up with the Leagues? Why, thats what everyone did when women were discriminated against.

Why the silence now that it is men?

Speaks volumes.

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