Major League Baseball and its partner association of sportswriters have become the first major sport to issue dress guidelines for the media working games. It applies to camera people and technicians as well as press box reporters, some of whom, it's true, could use a wardrobe upgrade. ("We might have more leverage...if we dress a little less like the guy who comes to clean the pool," says one commenter at SportsJournalists.com.) But it does seem as if the new rules are aimed less at newspaper men who dress like slobs, and more at blogger-slobs and, especially, women whose looks attract attention. The code talks about visible undergarments and midriffs, torn jeans and the height of skirts and shorts.
From press box veteran Jane McManus at ESPN:
Among the guidelines: All shorts and skirts should be no more than 3-4 inches above the knee; no tank tops, team logos or flip-flops; and reporters should dress in business casual. This was done in conjunction with some members of the media, and was ostensibly gender neutral. In fact, Susan Slusser, vice president of the Baseball Writers Association of America and one of the members of the committee that crafted the guidelines, called the process "absolutely gender nonspecific."
It is no doubt true that many male sports reporters look like extras from "Weekend at Bernie's," but that's not the reason for this policy.
This policy is about women....
If these rules came to the NFL, every woman in the room would have to get dressed with a ruler in hand to measure skirt length, and each conscientious female reporter would be a little bit insecure about the ramifications of a bra strap peeking out of her shirt.
Guys who cover baseball were joking about this in a few reports and via social media, because they know it will never apply to them. No one would dream of measuring their shorts, no matter how frayed. The only time clothing has been an issue in press boxes has been when women are scrutinized.
Charles P. Pierce agrees in a post at Grantland, writing:
I don't care how many female reporters MLB consulted before instituting this new policy. It's still a sex-discrimination suit waiting to happen. Who, precisely, is going to determine what an "excessively short skirt" is? Some assistant media coordinator who dresses like an assistant golf pro from Arizona? Are they going to do what the nuns used to do and make female reporters kneel down and measure the distance between the hemline and the floor with a ruler? Are we all now supposed to "make room for the Holy Ghost" when we sit together at dinner?
Slusser says at SportsJournalists.com, "They are all common-sense requests... Nothing is onerous or insulting about this...I seriously doubt that anyone, ever, will have a credential lifted or be expelled from an event for inappropriate attire, unless they're really R-rated or barefoot or something absolutely nuts."
LA Observed file photo: Heidi Androl, then at Fox Sports West, with NHL player Michael Handzus in the L.A. Kings dressing room.