Portis voices ugliness in NFL culture

Clinton Portis apologized for remarks he made about female reporters on a radio talk show.
(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

That Clinton Portis(notes) of the Washington Redskins has spent nine seasons in the NFL and still assumes that female reporters are eager to look at the players’ “packages” speaks to an ignorance and an arrogance that still, sadly, permeates the league.

While the call for action will fall to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell – the league has already deemed Portis’ remarks as “clearly inappropriate” and “offensive” – it extends beyond that.

Portis’ fellow players – the majority of whom don’t share his opinions and treat female reporters with the professionalism they deserve – need to step up and start policing the locker room themselves. Ugly stereotyping is best dealt with at the peer level, not with sensitivity training or some other public relations ploy.

Portis took to the WJFK-FM airwaves in the D.C. area on Tuesday and was asked about an allegation that some members of the New York Jets had harassed a female reporter from a Mexican television station. He promptly unloaded this bit of disgust:

“You know man, I think you put women reporters in the locker room, in positions to see guys walking around naked, and you sit in the locker room with 53 guys, and all of the sudden you see a nice woman in the locker room, I think men are going to tend to turn and look and want to say something to that woman.

“For the woman, I think they make it so much that you can’t interact and you can’t be involved with athletes, you can’t talk to these guys, you can’t interact with these guys.

“And I mean, you put a woman and you give her a choice of 53 athletes, somebody got to be appealing to her. You know, somebody got to spark her interest, or she’s gonna want somebody. I don’t know what kind of woman won’t, if you get to go and look at 53 men’s packages.

“And you’re just sitting here, saying ‘Oh, none of this is attractive to me.’ I know you’re doing a job, but at the same time, the same way I’m going cut my eye if I see somebody worth talking to, I’m sure they do the same thing.”

Portis has since issued a statement of apology, but the damage is done and the insight into his thinking is clear. It’s like any other public figure who unleashes a blatant stereotypical attack only to find remorse when the fallout hits.

Portis is a clown. This was ignorant. This was pathetic. This was insulting, both to the many professional women covering the league and Portis’ peers, most of who are far more enlightened and compassionate than him.

Those are the guys, the silent majority of the locker room, that need to stand up, say enough is enough and prove they can offer leadership on something more than third-and-one.

Female reporters have an extremely difficult job under the best of circumstances. With misogynists like Portis running amok, it’s all but impossible. Through no fault of their own, their jobs just got more difficult this week.

You can argue the best solution is to close the locker room to all reporters or provide a period for interviews before (or after) players shower and change. That’s fine, although there may be a better way. Until the access changes though, this is what female reporters have to work under.

Virtually every female reporter I know acts and dresses in a conservative and appropriate manner while on the job. They just want to write their stories, break the news or film their broadcast reports.

They are mothers and wives and daughters and serious professionals. They are educated, intelligent and dutiful. They are workers trying to hold onto a paycheck in challenging times for their industry. This is modern America, where talent and hard work need to be respected. The days of the Sterling Cooper secretarial pool are, mercifully, gone.

Portis isn’t going to listen to me or anyone else in the media. He isn’t going to listen to Goodell or whatever program the league puts him through. Neither are all the other players who think like him and just weren’t dumb enough to say it on live radio.

Those guys are going to listen to other players, the ones who understand the challenges of women in the workforce, the ones who don’t see females in just a sexual manner.

Unfortunately that’s what we never see out of the NFL. The Jets’ controversy has produced little condemnation by league players and coaches. Jets coach Rex Ryan was asked directly about it Monday night and offered a pathetically empty comment that spoke plenty about the complicity of the locker-room culture.

“No. 1, we never want anyone around our team to be uncomfortable,” Ryan said. “And you know we’re cooperating with the NFL. And we’ll get down to it.”

That’s it? Yes, that was it.

Ryan expressed anger and dismay at turnovers, penalties, missed tackles and third-down conversion rates that caused his team to lose to the Baltimore Ravens. He promised those issues would be dealt with immediately and effectively. The harassment charges got lip service. He couldn’t have looked less interested in discussing it. No matter what you think about the details of the charges, such behavior is always intolerable.

It was a teaching moment and Rex Ryan failed. You can be sure his players were watching.

That’s why this isn’t a problem Goodell can solve. It’s only changing from within. It’s how it occurred (and continues to) in offices and schools and factories across the country. The NFL locker room is long past due.

It’s time the classier players and coaches of the league stop allowing themselves to be dragged into the mud by the morons.

Clinton Portis, too much a meathead to comprehend anything, thinks all those reporters just want to check out his package and then decide if he’s worth getting with.

He clearly knows nothing about women. Here’s hoping one of his teammates starts teaching him about how to be a man.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Sep 14, 2010