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Don't tell me I don't belong here
The Chicago Bears’ rookie locker room is not so bad. There’s no shortage of deodorant cans or fruity moisturizers and hair gel. It’s not that smelly. It doesn’t completely freak you out about coming away with a staph infection because your hair brush slipped out of your hand and onto the carpeted floor. It’s also empty of players and therefore minus bad vibes from the factions who hate the very idea of your kind in their space.
The rookies cleared out to make room for our sit down interviews in advance of Sunday's Dallas-Chicago game with Bears Coach Lovie Smith, six-time Pro Bowler Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, who’s earned an impressive five consecutive Pro Bowl berths.
But as it happened, I’d spend less time talking about Urlacher and Briggs’ notable performances against the Lions in the season opener than I intended. I got an email around 2 a.m. Thursday that forwarded an unfortunate video clip which took me aback and ticked me off. In it Briggs hesitated for nary a second before unleashing.
“Women don’t belong in the locker room.”
Briggs had everybody’s attention by lunchtime with that comment, which seemed to be on a loop.
“It’s the first time I have ever said anything like that. It’s more of a thought, but the locker room is our realm,” he said to me during our one-on-one interview.
Briggs later asked why I was so angry about his position. Apparently my tone was more harsh than I realized.
But angry, I was not. Annoyed? Plenty.
What are we supposed to do, wait in the hall like the bad old days, I ask him. No answer, from a player who was just five years old when the NFL mandated equal access for women in 1985.
Let me just say that NFL locker rooms, like most locker rooms, are gross and should be avoided by non-essential personnel at all costs. But that’s the germ-phobic side of me talking. The reporter side gets fired up when someone wants us kicked out all together. There are stories to tell and sound bites to gather for articles and television stories highlighting THEM.
Briggs vacillates on why women should be barred, however. In one breath it’s unfair because men aren’t allowed in women’s locker rooms. Then it flips to “it’s awkward enough for us in there. It’s a place we shower, we’re walking around naked.” He’s right, it’s awkward alright, but necessary for the practical matter of having a non-gender specific job to do.
But to know NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has our back helps soothe my one last nerve on this topic, which by now should be old news. Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams reminding them that women have the legal right to be in an NFL locker room and that they should be treated with respect. It came after the Jets were investigated for harassing a female reporter.
Briggs looks as me curiously; “What memo?” Shocker.
As Urlacher, who I subjected to about a half dozen questions on the issue, leaves our sit-down he laughs at me on the way out the door.
“You’re never in the locker room anyway,” he says. He’s right too, thanks to privileges afforded me by working for a network that carries games, players are commonly brought to us. But that doesn’t always happen and then it’s off to the locker room we go.
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