A Mexican television reporter has become the center of a controversy and alleged harassment complaint against the National Football League team The New York Jets.
The reporter, Ines Sainz, is a former Miss Spain who now works for TV Azteca. She attended a Jets practice on Sept. 11, at which time she announced via her Twitter account that she had obtained an interview with Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided Sept 17 that the Jets were indeed “unprofessional” when Sainz was present Sept 11, the New York Daily News reported. While “the Jets were not penalized by the league,” the Jets and all NFL teams will undergo training for proper workplace conduct. The decision followed interviews with 17 people “who were present [Sept 11] when the incident occurred.”
Despite her role there as a professional journalist, the team’s behavior led to a complaint being filed against the Jets by the Association for Women in Sports Media, ESPN reported. Sainz claims the players made “catcalls inside the locker room” at her and that during practice, footballs were intentionally overthrown near her.
“According to an account in the New York Post, Jets defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman purposely overthrew footballs to players during a drill for defensive backs so that the passes would land near Sainz on the sideline,” ESPN noted.
ESPN reported that “members of the Jets public-relations staff were present and did not discourage the behavior.”
While her outfit choices have been debated online, Sainz has stated that “in no moment did I feel offended.” She was wearing tight jeans, a white shirt and heels, and posted a picture of her outfit on Twitter to counter claims she was dressed inappropriately. A translate of her Twitter posting reads: “Some media claim that was improperly dressed for the Jets! Was exactly like that!”
In an interview posted with Joy Behar posted on CNN, Sainz said she doesn’t think that how she dresses should be the focus of the controversy and that she was dressed in her “style.” She added that she tried to not listen to anything being said in the locker room and that she just focused on getting the interview with Sanchez.
Further, CNN reported that Sainz thought the footballs being thrown at her were a joke. “To be quite honest, it didn’t bother me… I took it as a joke, and none of the footballs actually hit me,” she is quoted as saying in an interview with her network, TV Azteca. “‘It was definitely a joking tone, very amicable,’ Sainz said, regarding the tone Sanchez had with her. ‘I wasn’t offended.'”
She also is reported to have said that “she didn’t hear everything said about her – and apparently several other members of the media took the interactions much more seriously. She added perhaps they heard something she hadn’t.” But, in a New York Daily News report in the late afternoon of Sept. 13, Sainz is quoted as saying that the football players’ behavior in the locker room was “grotesque.”
Sainz said she “was surprised” to be called by the NFL about the Jets incident. When she was told that there was “a pretty powerful accusation of harassment,” Sainz said she became aware that the incident was a big deal. She said on NBC’s “Today Show” that she wouldn’t have reported the incident herself, but that has later heard what was said about her in the locker room were sexual comments and that the “environment” was “uncomfortable.”
She added that she wanted the NFL to determine if the case amounts to sexual harassment based on the league’s investigation. Sainz, a reporter for at least eight years, also said she doesn’t intend to change how she dresses because of the controversy.
Representatives for the Jets have addressed the issue publicly. Woody Johnson, owner of the Jets, said that the team would look into the claims and interviewed players this past week, ESPN reported. And the team’s members and coaches will take part in an “educational session” with the Association for Women in Sports Media soon, NFL Fanhouse reported.
“Right now, we’re working with the league and we’re doing all the fact finding, checking the facts, doing the interviews,” Johnson said, noting that team players will be interviewed starting Sept. 14. ESPN further reported that Johnson spoke with Sainz and gave her an “open apology.”
“I called her the minute I found out about it, and I finally spoke to her later on in the day,” Johnson said. “We take this very, very seriously, as you can imagine. We want all of our reporters, female or male, to be comfortable wherever they are, on the sideline, in the locker room or at a game. We have to make the working environment professional, representing the New York Jets well….I apologized to her — if anything happened, what happened, kind of an open apology.”
iMediaEthics has written to the Association for Women in Sports Media and will update with any response. We have also written to the Facebook account for Ines Sianz and will update with any response.