“It was discrimination at its fullest, really,” says award-winning sports editor Teri Thompson
This story is part of “Ceiling Smashers,” a series in which successful women across industries tell Moneyish how they broke down professional barriers.
Teri Thompson once had to fight for the right to do her job.
One of the first woman sportswriters in the country spent her early career barred from men’s locker rooms and clubhouses, all because of her extra X chromosome. “It was discrimination at its fullest, really,” Thompson told Moneyish. “You’re denied the same access that your male counterparts have, and you have to find a way to get your story; make your story better.”
Even after Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke successfully sued the New York Yankees in 1978 for the right to access men’s locker rooms, Thompson said, things “didn’t really start to change until probably the mid-’80s.” “Even though we were allowed, it would be really abhorrent behavior from some of the players … critics would say, ‘Oh, you just want to go in there to look at naked men,’” she added. “I don’t know any woman who wants to conduct an interview with a naked man. But that argument actually was taken seriously — so it never became easy.”
Thompson, who grew up in 1960s and ’70s Arkansas and always wanted to be a writer, cut her teeth at the Arkansas Democrat, the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, Denver’s Rocky Mountain News and the alt-weekly Westword. (She settled an equal pay claim with the Rocky Mountain News in the late ’80s, but declined to speak about it in detail, citing a nondisclosure agreement.) Thompson earned a law-school fellowship, graduated in 1995 from Cardozo Law School and headed in 1997 to the New York Daily News. After a brief turn at ESPN, she would return to lead the Daily News’ award-winning sports investigative team, which broke major stories on performance-enhancing drugs and sex abuse by coaches. Thompson served as the paper’s first female managing editor for sports, leaving the tabloid in 2015.
“We broke some of the biggest scandalous stories involving sports that ever have been reported in this country,” said Thompson, who’s currently nearing completion of her fourth book. Her stint at the Daily News was “a super, super time for women there,” she added, as Martin Dunn, the paper’s editor-in-chief from 2003 to 2010, was “very open to giving women chances.” “He was super supportive, and we had several women on the masthead at that time,” she said.
As for her early days of pushing for equal access, Thompson says the fight isn’t over. Though “obviously things are much better and improved in that area,” she points to the three female reporters shut out of an NFL locker room in 2015. “I think what’s going on now with women in the workplace, with sexual harassment, people are starting to see that women are truly discriminated against, particularly in the workplace,” she said. “Awareness, support, education — all those things help.”
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