Female Sportswriters and Sexual Harassment; Crude Sexist Behavior by Athletes Goes Far beyond That of Office Executives, According to West Coast Sports Editor

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Female sportswriters and sexual harassment

Sportswriter Tracy Dodds and her female colleagues can empathize with Professor Anita Hill's charges of sexual harassment against Justice Clarence Thomas but they also are wondering what all the fuss is about.

"I can't believe the country is all agog over this," Dodds said in a recent speech. "We've been putting up with this for years."

In fact, she went on, women sportswriters have been putting up with a great deal more from big-time athletes.

Dodds, assistant sports editor of the Orange County Register and president of the 400-member national Association of Women in Sports Media, alleged that sexual harassment has included a player masturbating in front of a reporter, another who spit on a writer's leg, and a third who, stark naked, "presented his pride and joy to the woman and said, |Do you know what this is?'"

The journalist, however, was equal to the occasion, Dodds recounted, replying to the athlete, "It looks like a penis, only smaller."

Then, Dodds went on, there was the time when she walked into a locker room and found eight naked players sitting around a table eating lasagna.

"I felt like throwing up," she said.

On the road with sports teams, female reporters can expect nuisance calls in their hotel rooms in the middle of the night from players, she added.

Dodds, a pioneer woman sportswriter who has been covering the field for nearly 20 years for several newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Houston Post and Milwaukee Journal, told the Pacific Coast Press Club in Long Beach: "To this day, when I have to go into a locker room, my stomach is in knots. I am saying, |Please God, don't let there be a scene. Don't have someone standing naked over me.'"

Dodds, whose assignments have included the Olympics, NCAA Final Four, the Rose Bowl and other leading college bowl games, the Houston Astros, major title fights and the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, said sexual harassment occurs less frequently today than when she broke in with the Milwaukee Journal while just out of college in 1973, "but it can still happen anytime."

The case of former Boston Herald writer Lisa Olson, who blew the whistle on harassment by New England Patriots' players last year, is only one example, Dodds contended, while noting that Olson was so shattered by her experience that she moved to Australia to escape the turmoil her complaint had caused.

"An overwhelming number of female sportswriters do not go public with their sexual harassment," Dodds asserted.

"When you report it you are a strident bitch," she explained. "So you roll with it, make a joke of it. You don't whine away because they [athletes] are trying you, challenging you, attempting to intimidate you."

Dodds added that keeping quiet about sexual harassment extends to male sports editors, which may not be a good idea.

She said some sports editors are indifferent to such complaints but a growing number want to know about such incidents and are willing to support the writer. …