Let Them Wear Towels: How Far Have We Really Come?

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Never mind the All-Star Game, tonight on ESPN gives Let Them Wear Towels. Over at ESPNW, Robin Herman asks How Far Have We Really Come?

After I "broke the locker room barrier" in 1975, the fan mail receded and the hate mail started. I was "a whore," a "prostitute," a "women's libber!" Perhaps readers had previously assumed I was male. But the tumult that greeted me when I strode into the locker room after the 1975 NHL All-Star Game in Montreal — to get postgame quotes alongside all the male reporters — resulted in national headlines. A woman had dared join a men's profession and had breached the male athletes' exclusive lair. My action, and those of my female colleagues who opened the clubhouse doors in major league baseball, basketball and football to gain the same access as their male counterparts, became a Rorschach test amid the social tumult of the times; traditional values and practices were being challenged by the civil rights movement, the women's liberation movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement. Did it look right? A womanstanding in there talking to male athletes?

I left sports writing many years and several careers ago. Now I am merely a sports viewer. The times have changed, and a female byline or broadcaster is no longer an anomaly. The Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM), a group that formed 25 years ago, has close to 600 members who cover all kinds of sports, from NASCAR to international soccer to NCAA basketball to the major pro leagues. Since the 1980s, Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL have had policies in place making postgame locker room access universal for accredited reporters, male and female. And when those policies are occasionally questioned, AWSM is there to file a complaint — as it did in April when Don Cherry, the longtime color commentator for CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada," said that women don't belong in men's locker rooms. The NHL quickly reaffirmed its open-access policy.

Fine. Progress.

But instead of being happy, I am irked. I am impatient.