On March 9, 1979, then-Commissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn instructed MLB teams to give access to locker rooms to female reporters. Kuhn’s edict was in response to a 1978 court ruling that found MLB guilty of discriminating against female reporters. The case stemmed from an incident during the 1977 World Series in which Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke was denied access to the New York Yankees clubhouse for post-game interviews because she was a woman. In 1978, the district court decided that Ludtke’s fourteenth amendment right was violated as well as “her fundamental right to pursue her profession.”
The court did not specify how MLB was to provide equal access to reporters for locker room interviews. The Yankees’ solution was to declare that all reporters would be given 10 minutes to interview players after a game, but then would have to leave for 30 minutes to allow the players to shower. MLB soon realized such a solution was not optimal.
In March 1979, Kuhn announced that each club could set their own policy for locker room access. Later, Ludtke pointed out that such a policy did not provide equal, consistent access, making it difficult for women as they reported on different clubs. She was quoted as saying, “Baseball has succeeded brilliantly in making equal access appear as a moral and not a political problem, and as sexy, but not the sexist issue that it is. I, and others like me, were presented as women who wanted nothing more than to wander aimlessly around a locker room, to stare endlessly at naked athletes and to invade the privacy of individuals whose privacy had already been disrupted for years by our male colleagues.”
While the issue was decided in the courts, there is evidence that the struggle for equal access continues.