CultureFriday 03.11.22

How a Locker Room Lawsuit Brought Gender Equality to Sports Journalism

In honor of International Women’s Day, LZ and Will look back to a historic 1977 lawsuit, when Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke sued Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for denying female reporters access to the Yankees and Dodgers locker rooms during the World Series.

The following year, a federal court in New York ruled in favor of Ludtke, saying Kuhn’s edict had violated Ludtke’s fundamental right to pursue a career under the equal protection and due process clauses guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Forty-three years ago this week, just before the start of the 1979 season, Kuhn ordered all 26 MLB teams to allow equal access to all reporters, regardless of gender. Before long, all major sports leagues followed suit, and almost immediately, women began taking a much more prominent role in sports journalism. There was resistance from teams and players along the way, but Ludtke’s lawsuit changed the coverage of sports forever.

The Long Game