March 1, 2012
Melissa Ludtke in an undated photo. (Stan Grossfeld/Courtesy Melissa Ludtke)

Melissa Ludtke in an undated photo. (Stan Grossfeld/Courtesy Melissa Ludtke)

In News History: Female Reporters in the Men’s Locker Room

35 years ago, as the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers played for the World Series championship title, history was being made off the field.

Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke, seeking the same access to players for interviews as male reporters, was barred by the baseball commissioner from entering the teams’ locker rooms. The exclusion caused her to miss key quotes and her deadline.

Among professional sports organizations, baseball stood nearly alone in allowing female reporters in team locker rooms. Since 1975, the National Hockey League had equal-access rules in place. The National Basketball Association also gave women equal access. At least one professional football team allowed women in the locker room.

Ludtke, a lifelong baseball lover, sued Major League Baseball so she and other female sports reporters could do their jobs.

"My yellow press pass for the World Series said in bold letters that I could be admitted," she said.

In 1978, the court declared it illegal — and a violation of the 14th Amendment — to bar a female reporter from a male athlete’s locker room. Constance Baker Motley, a black female judge, made the ruling. At that time, fewer than 30 women covered sports.

Soon after winning the suit, Ludtke left Sports Illustrated for CBS News. In 1980, she joined Time magazine as a general assignment reporter and later wrote a book about single motherhood. She currently is editor of Nieman Reports, a journalism quarterly published by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Ludtke’s story, along with her press pass from the 1977 World Series, is featured in an exhibit on women and the news in the News Corporation News History Gallery.

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