Strip Joints Should Be a No-No
by Glenn Dickey
Jan 11, 2006

THE ROLE OF women/girls in sports has changed dramatically in the last three decades but many of the attitudes of men/boys have not.

The latest example is the revelation that Stanford recruits were entertained by athletes already at the school who took them to strip clubs in 2003. The entertainment worked, not incidentally; of the 28 recruits who visited on the two weekends in question, 20 of them eventually came to Stanford.

The only surprise is that this happened with Stanford players. When a much more serious scandal erupted in Colorado in 2004, when recruits were reportedly enticed by sex and alcohol, it wasn’t a shocker because Colorado has long had a reputation as a “party school.” (That led the NCAA to tighten recruiting rules to eliminate both that type of thing and the strip club jaunt that Stanford players had.)

Stanford, with its high academic profile, doesn’t seem a likely spot for the strip joint episode. Former coach Buddy Teevens, now coaching at Dartmouth, claimed that he knew nothing of it. I tend to believe him because he doesn’t seem to be the type of man who would condone that, but he certainly should have been more aware of what his athletes were doing. It’s just another indication of how out of touch Teevens was.

In one sense, it’s a sign of progress that this was a shocking story. In my youth this would have been just a story that brought chuckles in the male-dominated sports society. “Boys will be boys.”

At that time, there was a clear delineation of the sexes in sports. Boys/men were the athletes, girls/women the cheerleaders/pompon girls. A girl who was even the slightest bit athletic was referred to as a “tomboy” by parents who fervently hoped she’d grow out of that stage.

Even when you heard of a girl or woman athlete who excelled, it was an aberration. For promotional purposes, Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli signed a high school girl player, Denise Long, for halftime exhibitions in the ‘60s. Long had played Iowa high school basketball, but the girls’ game at the time was a half-court affair. Long played on the offensive end and she was a very good shooter. But none of us who saw her thought of her as a basketball player in the same way that we thought of Rick Barry.

In the ‘70s, a women’s movement in sports, spearheaded by Billie Jean King, started to change that, pushing for more sports for women and girls. Title IX was enacted, providing for roughly equal male and female athletic participation in colleges. The number of girls participating in sports multiplied several times.

Now, you see signs of those changes everywhere, including at Cal, which has a woman athletic director, Sandy Barbour – and she’s not the first in her field. Women’s tennis has been a thriving entity since Billie Jean’s day. Women’s golf has gotten a huge publicity shot with Michelle Wie, though some observers think Paula Creamer may be the better player. College women’s basketball is thriving in some areas, including Stanford. The NBA has a women’s component. Women sportswriters are no longer a novelty. The Chronicle has three – Nancy Gay, Susan Slusser and Janny Hu – who are the best beat writers in the department.

And yet, the old male attitude still persists. The slang version of a woman’s genitals is still the ultimate insult among males. Women are still seen as playthings for recruits; there are still women in the cheerleader/pompon roles on pro football sidelines.

THERE WAS another episode in the news this week: Penn State coach Joe Paterno was admonished by a NOW chapter president for his comments in the wake of the suspension of a Florida State player because of a sexual assault charge.

Paterno was expressing his concern for the player, which was understandable, but as he did so, he made a reference to a cute girl knocking on a player’s door, which summoned memories of the centuries-old male defense: She was asking for it.

Paterno is very well respected within his profession, not just for his coaching accomplishments but for his emphasis on education for his athletes. I'm certain he didn’t intend his comments to be taken that way, but I also suspect that he has attitudes ingrained from childhood of which he is not even aware.

While I was still at The Chronicle, the paper’s management held seminars on sexual harassment. I didn’t feel I needed to take one because I worked at home, not in the office, but it was required for all employes, and after I sat in on one, I was glad I had. It was a learning experience, because I heard of experiences of women in offices that shocked me, and how they felt about them. I had last worked in an office in 1971, so I was a bit out of touch, and I am married to a strong-willed woman who has educated me about women’s feelings since our marriage in 1967. Perhaps Paterno needs a similar education.

This is hardly the worst example in sports. On a regular basis, we are hit by stories of athletes assaulting women sexually or beating them up. These stories seemed to escalate in the mid-‘80s, perhaps because male athletes started to use steroids, which led to the infamous ‘roids rage, or maybe because the cases were just better reported.

Whatever the reasons, they are an unfortunate product of the prevailing attitude in male sports: Women are still playthings. Stanford has been perhaps the national leader in integrating women’s sports into its overall program, and yet, its football players could still lead this trolling of strip clubs. That’s very disheartening.

THERE ARE also encouraging signs. Another story today told how former 49er tight end Brent Jones follows the soccer careers of his daughters closely. Former 49er offensive tackle Bubba Paris does the same with his daughters, basketball stars as freshmen at Oklahoma. I’ve known many other men over the years whose attitude towards female participation in sports changed dramatically when they had daughters.

We need more examples like that. We also need coaches on all levels who will tell their players that women should be respected. Perhaps then athletes will finally stop abusing women, and our whole society will be the better for it.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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