Don Cherry recently made comments on an edition of “Coach’s Corner” stating that women have no place in a men’s dressing room. His comments were in reaction to a controversy involving Duncan Keith and a female reporter. Cherry’s comments created quite a stir that made for some pretty heated water cooler discussions across the nation on Monday. The real question is, do you agree with Don or is he completely off-base here?
I personally agree completely with Don Cherry on this one, but I would take it a step further. I don’t think it’s just female reporters that have no business in an athletic dressing room, I think reporters in general, both male and female, have no business in the dressing room. To me, the dressing room is a sacred place for athletes. It’s their safe haven. It’s the one place you can go where it’s just you and your teammates and you don’t have to worry about all the outside pressures of the real world.
Most dressing room doors actually are emblazoned with signs that say, “Team Personnel Only”. It’s a private area for members of the team. It’s an area where strategy is discussed, secrets are shared, and generally a place where players can relax and let their guards down. We used to have a saying on teams that I played for when we were in the dressing room to help reaffirm the fact that you were on sacred ground. “Whatever is said here, stays here when you leave here.”
So why should the media be allowed in the dressing room? What purpose does a dressing room setting have for conducting an interview? My feeling is that reporters should conduct interviews in either a media room, which most arenas now have, or in the hallway outside the dressing room. To me, that is perfectly acceptable and more appropriate.
An argument against that might be that reporters have deadlines and players take too long to get treated for injuries, shower up and emerge. No problem. My rebuttal to this is to have a team staff member emerge after the game, pool the reporters for names of players they wish to speak to and bring the requested players out for interviews. This way you still meet your deadlines and player privacy is not infringed upon.
I always felt as a player that it was odd why reporters were allowed in the dressing room. I’ve been there when a female reporter comes in and the guys are naked, making cat calls. I don’t care if she says it doesn’t embarrass or bother her, it’s just inappropriate and completely avoidable. And it’s not just females. I never wanted male reporters to be in there while I was getting in and out of the shower or stretching on the floor in my underwear. It’s just not a place or time to conduct a professional interview.
Even if you have 20 players and 10 reporters in a dressing room and 29 people are comfortable with the situation, all it takes is one person to feel uncomfortable and you now have an inappropriate situation. It’s like Don Cherry said, “Would anyone be comfortable with a male reporter conducting an interview in a female dressing room after a game with naked women going in and out of the shower?” I don’t think many would say that this is an appropriate situation, so why is it any different when it’s reversed?
Over the years, teammates and I have had conversations about how we dislike when the media is in the dressing room. It’s a general consensus among athletes. The dressing room is for players and team personnel. It’s a place where you can talk about what is bothering you at home or who is hooking up with who. You can air out your differences and sometimes there are even in-house squabbles that need to be hashed out and reconciled. It’s a place to just be yourself and at peace. Once a media member enters that room, everything changes. It’s not a safe haven anymore and anything and everything said or heard becomes public.
Reporters and others may not know this, but players actually make fun of them. They have nicknames for the reporters who come into the dressing room to conduct interviews after the game. They call them “Birdwatchers” and “Crotch Sniffers” and place bets on what time they will come in to do interviews, many predicting it will be when everyone is getting in and out of the shower. I’ve been on teams where players dare each other to give interviews without a towel on just to make a joke of the whole situation. If everything was kosher, then why would this type of behaviour be going on?
As mentioned earlier, I really see no real necessity for the dressing room to be the venue to conduct interviews. I don’t see what a media room or corridor lacks that a dressing room provides. Conducting an interview in a dressing room is like following someone into the bathroom to interview them on the toilet. There really is no difference. Players deserve the right to their privacy and sanctity.