A barrier-breaking generation gives context to contemporary female life.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Baseball, Locker Rooms and Equal Protection

Thirty-four years ago today, Federal Judge Constance Baker Motley ruled that female sports reporters were to be allowed equal access to Yankee Stadium's locker rooms. The plaintiff was Melissa Ludtke, a young journalist (and friend of mine) then at Sports Illustrated who had been barred from the Yankees and Dodgers locker rooms during the 1977 World Series. The lead defendant was Major League Baseball's Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

 Yankee Stadium was a city-owned facility. Motley cited the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause. Case closed.  But not really...

The ruling was hardly the end of the story for women reporters who still had to contend with other teams and sports, yet it was exceedingly high profile and served notice to all leagues (and symbolically to any all-male institution) that the time had come; women would be treated as the professionals they were or the law would have something to say about it.
As Melissa explained to me today via FB: "Technically only Yankee Stadium was affected by Motley's ruling, and Major League Baseball appealed that decision. In early October, we were back in Motley's district courtroom twice, once for a hearing amending her ruling and then Kuhn's lawyers refused to agree that Motley's order be extended to the city of Philadelphia to allow equal access there during the playoffs. But on January 3, 1979, Kuhn attorney's notified the Second Circuit's Court of Appeals that Major League Baseball would not pursue further its appeal of Motley's decision. When the baseball season opened in 1979, equal access was the rule with all of the league's teams."

Others of us had been in NBA and NHL locker rooms since 1975 (Newsday's Jane Gross was the pioneer covering basketball; The Daily News' Lawrie Mifflin and myself at The New York Times were the intrepid female duo covering ice hockey).

But Ludtke vs. Kuhn and Yankee Stadium sent the loudest message to date. Yet here we are 34 years later with another closed room still to contend with. My question: When is the NFL going to put a woman in the anchor booth?? We could all die waiting....

NFL Referees Built That

With the regular refs locked out by NFL management and with college replacements on the field, the whole weekend saw football games that looked more like hockey or rugby rumbles. The uncalled late hits alone were terrifying. Several fistfights broke out. The refs were confused or hesitant or equally overeager in calling infractions. The men in stripes couldn't control the game, and the players knew it.

The Monday night Seattle-Green Bay game-ending call topped it all.  After the Seattle quarterback's Hail Mary pass was unmistakably intercepted, Seahawks' Golden Tate and Green Bay's Jennings landed on the turf and wrestled for what seemed like an hour as the officials tried to clear the pack. One ref signaled touchdown; the other signaled no touchdown. The replay, shown immediately by ESPN to millions, testified to an interception (and to earlier offensive pass interference by Seattle -- no NFL pro ref would have missed that). But then came the announcement that, after review, the ruling on the field would stand. Seattle ended up "winning" the game 14-12. Read the NFL's exegesis of the call.

We've all had enough -- the press, the players, the fans in the stand, the fans at home. We have not been watching NFL ball the past 3 weeks. This is clear and needs no replay.

The owners are willing to pay tens of millions to a single player but won't cough up a little change for the guys who actually run the game on the field (NFL refs make between $25,000 and $70,000 tops) nor guarantee their paltry pensions (let them eat 401Ks). Prevalent attitude this election year...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Michelle O at DNC: Don't Slam the Door of Opportunity Behind You

Michelle Obama at the DNC last night had some great messages about equity, education, health care and the true meaning of success, while also telling the story of Barack and her own modest beginnings, the debt owed to govt student loan programs and their continuing focus on providing a good upbringing and better world for their girls and, by extension, all of the next generation.

photo AP
And without saying the word "Romney" she managed by implication to undercut the Republican candidate's economic policies, his character and his moral values.


"Barack.. believes that when you work hard and done well and
walk through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it
shut behind you."

"Because for Barack, success isn't about how much money you make.  It is
about the difference you make in people's lives."

"And he believes that women are more than capable of making
our own choices about our bodies and our health care."