Clubhouse can be a daunting place for female journalists
Take 2's Megan Stewart explores the topic of women journalists in the clubhouse and covering an all-male team and sport in this two-part series. Part II will appear on the Take 2 blog Thursday. With photos by Evie Carpenter.
When I was granted the opportunity to report on the Mariners for spring training I didn't realize that the experience would involve going into the clubhouse before and after practice.
The clubhouse is another word for the locker room.
I avoided going in for the first week of spring training at all costs. I wouldn't even walk through it to get to the fields, walking around the building instead. Then came the day that my editor gave me a story that needed an interview with a player.
He threw out the phrase I had been dreading.
"I think you can catch him in the locker room."
Women have been allowed to go into mens professional sports locker rooms since the 1980s and controversy surrounding the concept has been present ever since.
Angie Mentink, a sportscaster for Root Sports and anchor for the Northwest Sports Report, recalls a particular instance in which a player made a suggestive and inappropriate comment when she asked for an interview.
"And I was like 'OK, well how about this now; since you just said something really stupid how about you do the interview with me or I go to your organization and tell them what you just said to me.,'" Mentink said. "He did the interview."
ROOT Sports' Angie Mentink (left) and Take 2's Megan Stewart Monday in Peoria. (Photo by Evie Carpenter)
Mentink said women have to deal with people who have the idea that women are in the locker room for their own agenda, and not for sports reporting. But she said ultimately women did not win the right to enter the locker room, male reporters won the right to be able to stay in it.
Mentink said there was a time when women sports reporters had to stand outside the locker room and wait for the players to come out to interview them, but they still had the same deadlines as the men who could go inside and seek out the player they needed.
This posed a problem for gender equality in the workplace.
Then comes the argument that women should not be sports reporters. Mentink played professional baseball herself in the 1990s for the Colorado Silver Bullets and she said reporting on the game made sense as a career for her. Most male reporters have not played the sport professionally.
Mentink said its all about maintaining a professional image with the players and coaches.
"For the most part, I think its important that you try to make it as normal as possible," Mentink said. "Focus on being really professional and being really above board. You're naturally just going to stand out."
Infielder Kyle Seager, 24, said he received conduct training when he entered the league.
"Its something that they told me was going to happen, that they'd be there and everything but it really hasn't been as weird as I thought it would be," Seager said.
Seager represents a generation of players that have always dealt with women having access to the locker room. He said the players are given enough time to shower and get dressed when no one is allowed inside and most take advantage of that opportunity.
Kyle Seager said new players are given conduct training when joining professional baseball.
"I haven't personally experienced anything where it was awkward," Seager said. "All the reporters that I've dealt with have been real good and real understanding."
When I walked in to the locker room for the first time, I was terrified. I didn't just have professional baseball players' eyes on me, I also had those of the veteran reporters. I wanted to be taken seriously.
Read Part II of Stewart's take Thursday.