Over the weekend, Don Cherry re-opened the debate over whether female reporters should be allowed in male locker rooms. How nice of him. The issue, after all, was settled 35 years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled women had the right to conduct post-game interviews in locker rooms.
Despite the court ruling, boorish behaviour among professional athletes continued. In 1990, Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson successfully sued the New England Patriots, claiming several players sexually harassed her. In the ensuing years, Olson has been subjected to hate mail and harassment by idiotic fans because she dared take a stand.
That same year, Jack Morris told reporter Jennifer Frye: “The only time I talk to a woman when I’m naked is when she’s on top of me or I’m on top of her.” Morris won 254 games, a pair of World Series, yet that pig-headed remark stands as one of his defining moments in baseball.
Don Cherry has a right to his opinion, but he doesn’t have the right to make up his own facts. The way Cherry described it, players are uncomfortable with women in the locker room, that their privacy is somehow being compromised.
Perhaps when Cherry was last involved in the NHL as a coach, some 35 years ago, that was true. This entire ordeal is made all the more comical when you consider the Boston Bruins, coached by Cherry, was the first NHL club to allow a female reporter into the dressing room in 1978. Cherry, in many ways, is a trailblazer (if you can believe it) and it makes you wonder why he hasn’t adapted with the times on this issue and so many others.
Nowadays, dressing rooms are closed to the media for 10 minutes following a game. This gives coaches a chance to address their teams, but it also affords players the chance to get undressed in privacy and head to a separate area of the locker room where they shower, shave, comb their hair and get dressed into their street clothes.
Players have the option to be fully dressed when they face the media. However, they don’t always feel the need to. Some players have no problem talking to reporters in various states of undress. Common sense dictates that they “cover up.” Many interviews are done with a towel around the waste. Female reporters have no issue with this and players are OK with it. Why? Because the dressing room is a workplace – reporters of both genders and their to do their job in a professional and timely manner.
It isn’t just female reporters who are allowed access to the dressing room. I’ve been in many dressing rooms where women of all ages are guests of players or coaches. And you know what? I’ve never given it a moment’s thought that perhaps women shouldn’t be there. And while there are no female athletic therapists at the NHL level, there are some in the minor pro and junior ranks. It’s only a matter of time before an NHL team hires a woman as an athletic therapist because she is the most qualified person for the job.
The year is 2013. So much has changed in the world of sports. Locker rooms are no longer the exclusive domain of jocks. It is a workplace for the most qualified journalists in the sporting world. A good number of them happen to be women.
Don Cherry and his loyal subjects need to deal with it.